by Markus Stolz

Freshness,
texture, aromatics

byMarkus Stolz
November 2, 2010, 20 Comments

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.

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  1. buonsangueNovember 2, 2010, 7:46 pm

    Fabulous report, Markus! I, too, am a huge fan of Ramnista and, although I have never had such a great opportunity to witness so many vintages assembled in one place, I am fortunate to have tasted seven of these different vintages, including the truly fabulous 1997. It seems that our tastes are pretty much aligned on the respective vintages, the one exception being the 2005 which, at least at this moment, I favour slightly less than you appear to (I find the “near jamminess” of which you so aptly speak, if not exactly overpowering, a little jarring at present, but the vintage clearly has an enormous potential, and I have every reason to believe the “jamminess” might well transform into something rich and strange). As for your conclusion, I think about that a lot and, from a somewhat selfish perspective, that is precisely what worries me: pricewise, many of these unique and reasonably priced beauties from Greece might gradually soar far beyond the reach of a churchmouse like me, once more people start to realise what’s been staring them in the face … Other than that :-), a fantastic, supremely articulate, passionately written report: thanks for the great read!

  2. elloinosNovember 2, 2010, 7:59 pm

    Tvrtko, thank you so much for your kind words and for sharing your own thoughts. As to the 2005 – I believe it is only a question of personal preference, I do indeed like the “jamminess”, but that is just my palate. A gradual increase in prices of these wines would not be a bad thing though, as they are currently very undervalued for the sheer pleasure they give. I find it strange that people happily pay top Euros/Dollars for so many wines of other wineproducing countries, but moan that Greek wines are expensive. Of course there are enough wines from Greece where the higher price tags do not stay in relation to the quality, but in this case it seems to be the other way around :)

  3. buonsangueNovember 2, 2010, 8:36 pm

    Don’t get me wrong – I was myself just selfishly bemoaning the possibility that at some point I will no longer be able to afford even the modest amounts that I buy every year. Greece is one of the few remaining places where I can still buy multiples (6, 12, whatever…) of wines I love and wines I believe to be world-class in the sense of both absolute quality and uniqueness. But if the price of Thalassitis, just to name a random example, at some point rose to, say, EUR 20 as opposed to cca EUR 12, which is what I have been paying for it, the price hike would be fully justified in terms of quality: ancient vines, probably a lot of ungrafted rootstock material, unique and remarkable terroir, striking personality and sense of place of finished wine, blah blah; it isjust that I might be able to buy less of it than I have come to convince myself I need, he he. But that’s not what we’re discussing here, so please excuse this selfish aside. As for people still moaning, I guess that is true generally speaking, but somehow whenever I serve people a Greek wine that I like, they taste it, they can’t believe how “good” and “different” it is, and, more often than not, think I am lying through my teeth about the price just so I could pass myself off as this great bargain-hunter…. So, yes. If anything, I’d be tempted to lay it on even thicker than you: most top-notch Greek wines are atrociously underpriced in comparative terms. As for the higher pricetags not quite in relation to quality, I have occasionally come across some producers’ wines that struck me as perhaps a bit “cultish”, but, as an outsider, I am under the impression that reason, a sense of measure, good taste, and something that for lack of a better term I will call a degree of loyalty “classical/traditional values” still very much prevail over attempts at “cultishness” and mere fads (this very impression is actually at the very core of my fondness of Greece as a wine country). Despite the fact that I’ve probably been drinking some of the best Greece has to offer, I think I need no more than the fingers of one hand to count the times I paid over EUR 25 for a bottle of Greek wine… (Sorry for the endless rambling, just seizing a rare opportunity to freely discuss one of my favourite subjects with an apparently willing victim :). I am afraid Pegasos, Karyda, Foundis and Dalamara are not exactly household names where I’m currently based…)

  4. elloinosNovember 2, 2010, 9:39 pm

    Tvrtko, I think I feel very similar indeed. I count myself extremely lucky being able to purchase fascinating high quality wines at modest prices, the Thalassitis is a great example. Indeed, Greece is one of the few places left where one is able to do so. I also nearly always receive “surprised” feedback once people actually taste good quality Greek wines, and then they do not view the prices being too high. But the difficulty a year ago was for me to get them interested enough do taste. Luckily things are changing. In regards to a 25 Euro price tag: I have stated often before that you cover 90+ percent of the finest Greek wines up to this price tag. There are few, if any other wine producing countries that boast the same. There are not many Greek wines that can compete in quality at the entry price level, but most certainly many that do in the premium range. Adding to this, the medium price range also becomes more and more competetive. Greek wines do not need to hide at all!

  5. Christina KroNovember 3, 2010, 12:20 am

    Markus once again thank you for a great article! Made me feel that I should take another trip to northern Greece for yet some more fine Xinomavro very soon! :-) I have tasted a few of the Ramnista vintages, but definately not as far back as 1997. You do understand that I’m jealous… If my memory serves me right, I will agree with you on the 2005 vintage, which I also thought was excellent (my apologies to Tvrtko…). But I will agree with both you and Tvrkto on something: I always try to bring as gifts and/or serve my foreign friends Greek wines (of all kinds that I like) and it is amazing how surprised they usually are when they “realise” that they are actually good and could compare with many other “fine” wines from much more established countries. People are out there and willing to taste and buy good quality wines, especially when these are reasonably priced. Talking about prices, let’s leave them where they are until I visit Kyr Yiannis, OK? :-)
    And btw, Tvrtko, and I think Markus will agree with me, Karydas, Foundis and Dalamaras are not exactly household names in Greece either!

  6. Kostas KatsoulierisNovember 3, 2010, 12:49 am

    Nice report of the tasting. I heard about it tonight at the WSET. Were it not for work committments I would have gone. I will never forget first trying the 1997 vintage at a tasting of Kyr Yianni wines at the Oinofiloi wine club, it’s what revealed to me the potential and majesty of Xinomavro. I look forward to more vertical tastings at the WSPC. As for the price of most Xinomavros I agree they are priced very competitively when compared to other top international wines. Indeed they are a bargain when compared to some so called “premium” Nemeas, “halo” wines and special selection cult wines which do not justify (at least in my mind) their price tag. Carry on the great work Markus!

  7. elloinosNovember 3, 2010, 8:48 am

    Christina, thanks for backing me up on the 05 ;) I have to visit the region again too. You are spot on that the growers you mention are not exactly household names in Greece. Some of the wines are even hard to find in wine shops, and are certainly not available in supermarkets. I would so love being able to easily buy Dalamaras whenever I want…

  8. elloinosNovember 3, 2010, 8:53 am

    Kosta, hope to see you at the next vertical tasting! Yes, I also find Xinomavro to be better priced then some Nemeas, and certainly in comparison to international wines. The special selection cult wines you mention would not stand a chance in the export markets. I think this is more of a weird way trying to lift up the status of the estate within Greece.

  9. buonsangueNovember 3, 2010, 12:04 pm

    @Christina: no need to apologise or lend support :-). Just to make sure there’s no misunderstanding: my impression is the 2005 Ramnista is an excellent wine with lots of potential, of which I am lucky to own a couple of bottles, and will hopefully be able to chart at least a part of its development. The comment I made about it should not be read in isolation but only in relation to some other vintages (eg., 2006, 2004, 2001) , which to my mind (or palate) generally have a somewhat lower level of extraction and fruit concentration, meaning that, generally speaking, they tend to drink a little more “elegantly” and a little more “weightlessly” on the young side. Hence, more of a stylistic point really, rather than a value judgement.
    @Markus: a bit of hilarious trivia. I once bought a bottle (that’s all they had) of what appears to be Dalamaras’ Franc de pieds with a home-printed half-handwritten label… in Caves Auge’, of all places! Only time I’ve ever set eyes on that wine, or even seen it mentioned. Strange.

  10. Viviane Bauquet Farre / Food & StyleNovember 3, 2010, 4:20 pm

    Markus! What a fantastic article. You have no idea how I wish I could have been there. I was able to get the Ramnista 2006 in NY. I think it is a fabulous wine, but now I’m really looking forward to tasting other vintages. Hopefully the 2007 will make it across the pond very soon. Kudos!

  11. elloinosNovember 3, 2010, 4:29 pm

    Viviane, it really was a treat, and highly educational. Glad Ramnista is available in NY, and the 07 is not to be missed. Maybe you will still be able to find the 05?

  12. Viviane Bauquet Farre / Food & StyleNovember 3, 2010, 4:41 pm

    I will try very hard to find as many vintages as I can of the Ramnista. I have a bottle of 2006 in my cellar right now and will save it to taste along with whatever other vintages I can find. Hopefully I can do my own little vertical tasting! It’s really amazing to have your notes though and this article to refer back to. Really, a fantastic job done!

  13. Christina KroNovember 3, 2010, 4:55 pm

    @Markus: I’m looking forward to the next vertical tasting, if you get my grip…!!
    @Tvrkto: Hey, you know I like to tease you… But I’m glad you take my comments seriously!! :-)

  14. elloinosNovember 3, 2010, 4:56 pm

    I am really glad that my posting inspires you – that is the beauty of communicating with a great audience! Thank you, looking forward to your thoughts on some of the vintages at a later point in time ;)

  15. Ioannis GalanakisJanuary 28, 2011, 12:08 pm

    I’m coming back to this older post because I recently found a few bottles of Ramnista ’97 & ’95 at a local wine shop. Read your review on the ’97 vintage, found it very informative. Any heads-up for the ’95 vintage? Is a price of 25€ fair? Thanks in advance for your reply!

  16. elloinosJanuary 28, 2011, 2:36 pm

    Ioanni, I have not had the 95, but it was a good vintage in the area. A 25 € price tag is more than fair, I am very surprised that this is offered so low. If the wine was properly stored, I have no doubt that you will be in for a treat. Go and get it!

  17. Ioannis GalanakisJanuary 28, 2011, 4:00 pm

    Unfortunately they didn’t gave me enough (or trustful) info on the storage condition all those years. I think I’ll just try one and if it’s any good, then I’ll grab the rest of them. Thanks again!

  18. […] Wer gern mehr über die Rebsorte Xinomavro und das Weingut Kir Yianni lesen möchte, empehle ich die ausführliche Beschreibung einer Weinverkostung verschiedener Jahrgänge des Ramnistas auf dem exzellenten Weinblog Elloinos. […]

  19. RingwormNovember 15, 2011, 12:38 pm

    Good post. I love to read quality content so I am happy to find many good infos here in the post, writing is simply great, thank you for the post.

  1. […] Wer gern mehr über die Rebsorte Xinomavro und das Weingut Kir Yianni lesen möchte, empehle ich die ausführliche Beschreibung einer Weinverkostung verschiedener Jahrgänge des Ramnistas auf dem exzellenten Weinblog Elloinos. […]