Tsantali belongs to the great wine dynasties of Greece. The family began making wine and distilling Ouzo and Tsipouro in 1890. Today, they produce 65 different wine labels, export 50% of the total production and turnover into 55 countries, and have an annual production output of around 12.3 million L bottled wine and 2.4 million L distillates. The company employs 290 people, owns 5 wineries, and works in 14 vineyards in as many viticultural zones, supporting 29000 farmers’ families. Currently 411.5 hectares of vineyards belong to Tsantali and another 570 hectares are co-operating vineyards. In addition, partners in Nemea, Mantineia (Peloponnese) and Crete provide them with wine. Tsantali also has commercial agreements with the cooperatives in Santorini and Amyndeo for the distribution and marketing of their wines in Greece and abroad.
The majority of the wines are mass-produced. While they are mostly sound, many fail to excite and the quality is capped. However, they do belong to the bread and butter business of the company, and secure the income of the many growers who sell grapes or wine to Tsantali.
What fascinates me is when such a giant manages to offer a much more serious quality in one of the high volume wines, combine this with a further complementary range of high end products, to then exploit this successfully in the export markets.
Tsantali is credited for rejuvenating the whole Rapsani appellation, which is located at the foot of Greece’s famous Mount Olympus. They moved into the region in 1991, at a time when the community was plagued by extremely serious financial problems. Tsantali realised not only the potential of the Rapsani terroir: The area is rich in history – after all Mount Olympus was the home of the twelve Greek Olympian gods of the ancient Greek world and Rapsani wines were the nectar of the gods. The appellation laws for red wines demand equal parts of three indigenous grape varieties, Xinomavro, Krassato, and Stavroto. The unique combination of these facts allow for great storytelling!
The Tsantali Rapsani line consists of three labels. The vineyards cover a total of 100 hectares of the southern slopes of Mount Olympus. The soil is dominated by sand and clayey loam, the harvest typically takes place at the end of September.
Rapsani 2009, 13% alcohol: Aged for 6 months in 300 L French oak casks (50% new oak), spends another 6 months in bottle. Nearly 700000 bottles are made annually. Aromas of red fruits, spicy and earthy. Succulent, this has soft tannins, a refreshing acidity, and is gentle and harmonious. Not overly complex, but nicely structured, very enjoyable and a great introduction to Rapsani at this price point, it retails between 5 and 7 Euros in Europe.
Rapsani Reserve, 2008, 13.5% alcohol: Aged for 12 months in 225 L French oak barrels with a minimum further ageing period of 12 months in the bottle. Annual production amounts to 60000 bottles. Aromas of plums, cherries, more pronounced spices, also mild toastiness. Medium bodied with layers of fruit, the tannins are more gripping, again a very good level of acidity. The wine is elegant, yet concentrated, solid on the mid-palate with a long finish. The fruit lingers around for some time. Quite a graceful wine, it retails between 9 and 13 Euros in Europe.
Rapsani Grand Reserve 2007, 13.5% alcohol: Aged for at least 18 months in 300 L new French oak barrels, followed by a minimum of 18 months in bottle. The total minimum ageing period is 4 years. Most of the selected vineyards are located at an altitude of 600 to 800 metres (2000 to 2600 feet); the vines are around 30 years old. About 20000 bottles are produced annually. Lots of concentrated ripe cherry aromas, very earthy and spicy with a hint of sweetness. Fuller bodied with bright acidity and dominant tannins that are well integrated. Explosive fruit, complex and balanced, very expressive on the mid-palate, even more pronounced on the finish. This is a lush, dark wine with great finesse; it has more weight than the Reserve. It retails between 16 and 19 Euros in Europe.
I wish that these wines were also marketed in special 3 bottle mixed cases; it has been a real pleasure tasting them side by side. These are serious wines that do excite.