by Markus Stolz

Innovation
based on tradition

byMarkus Stolz
March 14, 2013, 3 Comments

Winemakers in Greece continue to push the industry forward. A new wave of pioneers successfully propels the quality of Greek wines ever higher. These pioneers share a common trait, their innovation is based on tradition.

Greece has a rich winemaking history and is blessed by a treasure chest of indigenous grape varieties. Many of these have been revived during the last years. Winemakers are literally going back to their roots.

At Domaine Nerantzi, which is located close to the border with Bulgaria, the oak used for barrel ageing is Balkan. Domaine Karanika uses the ancient Xinomavro variety to produce the only Greek sparkling Xinomavro wine made by the methode champenoise. These are just two out of many examples where innovation and tradition go hand in hand.

Retsina is certainly an integral part of Greece’s heritage, wine with resin has been produced for more than 2500 years. Only a handful of winemakers have been brave enough to attempt and produce a more refined, elegant and modern style of this wine. The Tetramythos winery can now be added to the names of these visionaries.

The resin is collected from pine trees that grow in the vineyard. The grape variety is Roditis, the vines are 24 years old.  The single vineyard site is located at an altitude of 650 metres (2130 feet). And now it is getting interesting: Only wild yeasts are used for the fermentation, no sulphur is added. 40% is fermented in clay jars (amphora), the remainder in stainless steel tanks. The fermentation last for more than two months, with skins (sur lie). It finishes somewhat earlier in the clay jars due to the higher oxygen presence. The wine was bottled last month, at which point a very small sulphur addition took place. This was just one third of the limit allowed for organic wines.  This is the first time that a minimal intervention Retsina wine has been created in Greece.

Notes: Delicate aromas of flowers and lemon with mineral notes, only a hint of resin. Medium bodied with a crispy acidity, smooth and elegant, the mid palate dominated by citrus fruit. The resin is beautifully integrated and does not dominate at all; it is most present on the excellent finish. A very intriguing wine indeed, the alcohol level is 13%. This will pair great with Greek mezedes, a number of grilled fish dishes, and also slightly spicy cuisine.

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  1. George HadjimatheouMarch 15, 2013, 1:14 pm

    Thanks for this informative and interesting piece. It is a pity
    the case of Greek wines has not been advanced much in the
    UK. Philip Goodband (MW) presenting material on UK Drinks Market for WSET Diploma course thinks that the long names of indigenous grape varieties is a problem. I wonder. What do you think?

  2. MarkusMarch 15, 2013, 1:32 pm

    George, I do not believe that the long names are a real problem. The world has learned how to pronounce Gruener Veltliner, after all.

  3. MAMarch 15, 2013, 6:38 pm

    I will second George regarding the varietals names, however while important I think that it is mainly issues with branding and distribution that a large number of Greek winemakers fail miserably.

    Also, despite the difficult to pronounce indigenous grape varietals, in a world flooded with Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Pinot Noir etc etc I expect Greek winemakers to turn it into a competitive advantage and reconsider whether the market “needs” yet another label of the popular varietals.

    Sure factors such as micro-climate and soil etc differ from country to country, as do the wine-making techniques but given the great growth of the new world producers I expect them to diversify and differentiate if they wish to remain competitive.

    A last note about the modern retsina attempts. I hope they are not shooting their own leg here. I am very curious how this would sell abroad given the reputation and the profound consumer snobbery for retsina, for a good reason if you ask me.

    Greetings.