Gaia Wines is a remarkable wine estate. They have succeeded in becoming one of the true icons in not just one, but two of the finest wine regions in Greece: Nemea in the Peloponnese is home to the Agiorgitiko grape, and the island of Santorini is famous for its Assyrtiko wines.
Last week I had the chance to attend a wine tasting featuring their wines. The event was hosted by the Winebank Pavlidis and took place in the south of Athens, by the sea. Thanks go out to Kostas Katsoulieris, who alerted me to attend the tasting. Kostas is an active commentator on this blog, and I was looking forward to finally meet him in real life.
I arrived a little late, as the traffic was really bad, but made it just in time for the first wine to be poured. The first thing that hit me was that the location was packed. I guess that at least 40 people were attending. The owner of Gaia Wines, Yiannis Paraskevopoulos, presented a superb range of his wines. He talked about every wine in great detail, covering the work in the vineyards and the winery, giving very useful information about the vines, soil structure, harvest time, etc. This was no marketing talk; instead it was one of the most educational conversations I have ever encountered at a wine tasting. There were many questions from the crowd and a high level of engagement. I reported last year that the wine culture in Greece is changing. By now it becomes more evident than ever that consumers are eager to educate themselves about fine wines, and I have little doubt that this will have a positive and lasting impact on the Greek wine industry.
Santorini wines tasted, all 100% Assyrtiko:
Thalassitis 2009: A great vintage for Santorini – lots of ripe Citrus aromas, this is a serious wine with a lovely kick from the acidity, bone dry with a salty and very long finish.
Wild Ferment 2008: Only the natural wild yeasts are used for the fermentation. Half the wine is matured for 4 months in 80% new oak barrels. Dense and rich aromas of citrus, minerals and pan-fried butter. Full bodied with great level of acidity, very round, its structure reminds me of a great Montrachet. Very long finish. AVIN3193961754611
Thalassitis 2008: Lots of mineral, lemon and butter aromas, full-bodied, extremely dry, this screams for food, one can nearly taste the salt from the sea, very long.
Nemea wines tasted, apart from Gaia S all 100% Agiorgitiko:
Agiorgitiko 2008: Aged in old barrels, the wine has intense cherry aromas, supple and elegant on the palate with soft tannins.
Gaia S 2007: A blend of 70% Agiorgitiko and 30% Syrah, it shows intense spicy cherry aromas, bundled with an earthy character. Meaty on the palate, elegant with a well integrated tannin structure and a very long finish.
Gaia Estate 2006: Aged for 14 months in 60% new barrels. Nose of ripe black cherries and dark chocolate, powerful palate, concentrated dark fruit, smooth and balanced, finishes long.
Gaia Estate 2004: More spicy than the 2006 vintage, morello cherries, vanilla and roasted almonds, very powerful on the palate, tannins are quite evident, no shortage of acidity, full with a very long finish.
Gaia Estate 2000: Some maturity on rim, aromas of cherry jam, tea and roasted almonds. On the palate it is very feminine and soft in style, yet full of life. The tannins are soft and fully integrated, the finish silky. Perfect to drink now, a great example that well made Agiorgitiko has ageing potential.
Anatolikos 2001: A sweet wine from sun dried grapes, aged in 5-year old barrels. Nose of sweet cherries, prunes and honey, almost port-like. It is fairly full-bodied on the palate, yet elegant with an almost rich sweetness.
The icing of the cake for me came in the form of a Gaia Estate Magnum 2004, signed by Yiannis Paraskevopoulos. Every participant of the tasting event wrote his or her name on a piece of paper and a random winner was picked. The stars must have aligned for me that evening, as my name was pulled out. This treasure now has a special place in my wine cellar.