Xinomavro is without a doubt one of the most fascinating and noblest Greek grape varieties. Its flavour profile is unique and well made wines can age for decades. It is no secret that I am a big admirer of Xinomavro. It is my personal opinion that this variety has the full potential to place the red wines of Greece on the international map. For more in depth info, check out this article I wrote for Palate Press earlier this year.
One of the best-known producers is the Kir Yianni estate. Yiannis Boutaris, who decided to leave the family business of the giant Boutari winery, officially founded it in 1997. Today his son Stellios heads the Kir Yianni estate.
Yesterday a remarkable tasting event took place. Konstantinos Lazarakis MW is the president of WSPC, who represent the UK Wine & Spirit Education Trust in Greece. He recently introduced a new course that for the first time ever explores the world of Greek wine, namely the Hestia Certificate Advanced. This course is currently undergoing a pilot program, and it is planned to be available to international students within the next 18 months. In order to further enhance the studies, Konstantinos has introduced vertical tastings from some of the finest Greek wineries. In a scoop, he managed to gain the support of the Kir Yianni estate for the very first of these events.
Ramnista is produced from 100% Xinomavro. The vineyards are divided into 33 plots of different microclimate. The viticultural practises are tailor made for each plot. Stellios Boutari has in the past showcased a number of vintages from this wine abroad, but never before were 10 different vintages shown anywhere. Before we tasted the wines, Stellios gave a very educational and solid presentation of the estate, the vineyards, viticultural practises, different clones, training techniques etc. This was one of the best presentations from a winery I have encountered.
Stellios Boutaris and Konstantinos Lazarakis presented the tasting. To have not one, but two such distinct and knowledgeable wine personalities at hand was certainly an added bonus. The wines were served in 3 flights to represent the journey the estate has thus far taken. Younger vintages were served first. Below are my personal notes on the wines. The overall theme is perhaps more important, and I made a few observations:
All wines showed extremely well. I found the vintage variations fascinating; this was a true showcase that wine is a living organism. Not only do changes occur over time, also each vintage has its very own character. The overall quality was very consistent throughout. I found all wines full of elegance, freshness, texture and aromatics. The alcohol levels ranged from 13% to 14.5%, but not a single wine showed the alcohol – the alcohol was always beautiful balanced by the acidity. I found this to be quite remarkable. These were all wines I would have no problem drinking a bottle of. There are so many heavy wines made today that impress at the first sip and then become so overpowering that one can barely finish a glass. These wines were at the complete opposite; you take a sip and can’t wait to take the next.
Flight 1: 2003 to 2007, a period where a lot of technical progress has been made
Ramnista 2007, 14.5% alcohol: Dense black cherry, nearly opaque with purple tinges. Aromas of dark fruits, earthy, very open and powerful. Rich on the palate with good acidity to match the alcohol, firm tannins, a lot of explosive fruit, long finish with an aftertaste of raspberries. A fine wine that will reward cellaring. 17+/20
Ramnista 2006, 13.5% alcohol: Medium deep ruby with violet tinges. Aromas of cherries and raspberries, also black berries, elegant. Full bodied on the palate, tannins still a tad aggressive, countered by good acidity. Lots of red fruit, finishes solid with spicy aftertaste, but clearly shorter than the 07. 16/20
Ramnista 2005, 14.5% alcohol: Medium deep red cherry with slightly orange tinges. On the nose amazing amounts of fresh red fruits, multi-layered, very elegant indeed, a classic Xinomavro. Medium bodied with a beautiful extraction of red fruits, nearly jam-like with a refreshing acidity and mellow tannins. Gorgeous finish with a long aftertaste. A totally balanced wine on all levels. 18/20
Ramnista 2004, 13.5% alcohol: Medium deep but bright ruby, no maturity on rim. Much more vegetal aromas, black olives, mushrooms, currently a little closed. Medium bodied with firm tannins and a matching acidity. Mouth-filling on the palate, yet smooth. Red berries are very noticeable, finishes solid. Benchmark Xinomavro. 16+/20
Ramnista 2003, 13.5% alcohol: Much lighter brick/garnet colour with orange tinges. Aromas are very vegetal with tomatoes, black truffle and olive-paste. Medium bodied, quite earthy and vegetal, medium acidity, soft tannins, fruit not very pronounced, finishes ok. 16-/20
Flight 2: 1999 to 2001, the time when Michalis Boutaris (Stellios’ brother) took over as winemaker after graduating from UC Davies.
Ramnista 2001, 14% alcohol, served from a 3-liter bottle: Medium deep raspberry colour, rim lightens up but shows few signs of maturity. Shy aromas of red fruits with hints of tomatoes, mushroom and truffle, also some layers of earthiness underneath. Medium bodied, quite silky on the palate, smooth tannins, balanced acidity, the fruit really takes off after a few seconds. Good finish with an interesting slightly bitter component. 16+/20
Ramnista 2000, 13.5% alcohol: Medium deep matured brick colour. More pronounced on the nose than the 01 with a beautiful combination of fruit and vegetal aromas. Good structure on the palate, tannins are still gripping, solid matching acidity. The fruit really coats all of the palate; the finish is long and rewarding. 17+/20
Xinomavro Single Vineyard Selection 1999, 13.6 % alcohol, served from a 3-litre bottle: Fairly light brick colour with orange tinges, mature colour. This is more fruit driven on the nose than both the 01 and 00, lots of raspberry-jam. Fairly full-bodied on the palate, but slightly bitter tannins. Fruits are making there way through though, and the finish has a good length. 16+/20
Flight 3: 1997 to 1999, when Angelos Iatridis (now owner of Alpha Estate) was the winemaker, the early years
Ramnista 1999, 13% alcohol: Light to medium brick/garnet with orange tinges. Open nose of ripe red fruits, coupled with tealeaves and truffle. Medium bodied, the vegetal character is in charge on the palate, olives, mushroom, truffle; the fruit still manages to come through. Tannins are soft but noticeable, a solid finish. I prefer this to the single vineyard selection. 17-/20
Ramnista 1998, 13% alcohol: Medium brick/garnet core with an orange/brownish rim. Very open and forthcoming aromas of raspberries, stewed prunes and layers of vegetal aromas underneath. Best nose of the night. Pure extracted fruits on the palate, tannins still noticeable, very good acidity. This is a gem! Explosive finish, very long with lots of aftertaste. Wine of the night for me, brilliance in a bottle. The wine still has years and years ahead. 18+/20
Ramnista 1997, 13.5% alcohol: Darker coloured with less maturity than the 98. Another very open and pronounced nose, this has much more olive-paste and mushroom aromas, at the same time, there is a high level of primary fruit. A very complex and impressive nose. On the palate though, the fruit is dominant, but there is clearly a very complex earthy component. The tannins are still gripping, yet perfectly integrated. This is a touch wilder than the 98, but also extremely fascinating. Tough call to decide between 07 and 98, both are very different, yet share the same perfection. 18+/20
The Kir Yianni Estate is just 13 years old – the achievements made are nothing but spectacular. I am sure that the best is yet to come. The estate always holds back of up to 15% of its production for cellaring. All wines are available at the winery, and many back vintages can be purchased in a variety of bottle formats. The prices charged are ludicrously low. In what other country can one buy wines like the stunning Ramnista 2005 for 10 Euros +VAT/bottle? A magnum of the great Ramnista 1998 costs 50 Euros + VAT, we are talking about some of the finest Xinomavro wines of the country! I for one know what I will be putting in my cellar. Imagine what prices you would have to pay to purchase a mature Barolo from of the best Italian producers. As a consumer and wine lover I am delighted that such bargains exist. As a wine professional, I am simply shocked by the lack of respect these wines currently receive. I bet that we will all look back in disbelieve in a few years time.