The Tannat grape is native to south west France where it traditionally produces wines described as ‘rustic’, Madiran probably being the most well-known. It has also received plaudits in Uruguay which seems to produce a softer, fruitier style of wine then France. This wine, however, came from the far north of Greece, hard by the Macedonian border. Utopia 2011, made by Alpha Estate, is 100% Tannat and weighs in at 14% ABV.
The pronounced colour left a ruby stain on the glass when the wine was swirled. Some pigment there then. There was a delightful fresh nose, slightly menthol and blackcurrant, with an underlying smokey and vanilla perfume suggesting barrel- ageing. So far so good.
Richard had the palate description spot on – “hollow” – which was a disappointment after the pleasures of the smell. It was lacking richness and depth and could be described as ordinary red wine. The smell was better then the taste. This seems to have matured quickly, quite the opposite to its French equivalent which is, to be kind, rather austere for at least ten years.
[Richard: whenever I’m in Birmingham I try to call in to the Greek shop just outside New Street station. An interesting selection of wine and food and where this bottle was purchased, for around £10. As Geoff says you don’t expect to see Tannat in Greece and this made me want to try it. Alpha wines are always good quality and this is well made, with an enticing nose but the taste is acceptable without being special. An interesting experiment but I think Greek wines are better made with native grapes. Off to Crete shortly and hoping to try a few.]
We have sung the praises of Santorini’s Assyrtiko grape a few times on these pages; as a direct result, the wine has now quite a following in the UK! It was with great interest, therefore, that I learned that Majestic (rather belatedly for a specialist wine merchant) had started to stock the grape, proclaiming on their web-site “This is our first venture in to Greek wine in 10 years and we think we have found a corker. Bone dry and extremely fresh ….. ” Let’s test the claim, shall we?
Voila Assyrtiko 2016 is not from Santorini, but Crete; it weighs in at 13.5%. Very, very pale, slightly petillant with medium legs is how it appeared. The nose was clean with a lemon sherbet smell i.e. lemons with a slight sweetness.
On the palate, it had a weighty texture, rich in taste (someone said, like an Albarino) but it was slightly off-dry, with a taste of pears. A simple wine, a bit vacant in the back palate, pretty good value but rather cloying in the mouth after a while. Being rather unkind, I ventured it was ‘a flat Prosecco’. This wine has not the dryness of a Santorini Assyrtiko nor certainly the power and elegance. However, I can suggest that it is made for a market that likes this very slightly off-dry style. It would be good with seafood but, on its own, not for me.
Majestic, – “bone dry”? – no. Susy Atkins (Telegraph) – “salt – tinged”? – no. It’s neither – trust us.
[Richard: of the many bottles of Assyrtiko we’ve tried (not all blogged), this was easily the worst – or to be more charitable, the least interesting. It would have been difficult to identify the grape blind unlike, say, the Assyrtiko produced by Gaia. The comments by MWW and Atkins make me wonder if they were tasting a different wine.]
No, Richard and I are not financed by the Greek wine industry but here is yet another interesting wine from the Peloponnese – Nemea Reserve 2011 from Semeli Wines, north of the town of Nemea. It is made from the Agiorgitiko grape, Greece’s most widely planted red variety, but better grown at higher (cooler) altitudes where the resultant acidity gives some structure. It’s the only variety allowed in the Nemea appellation.
So much for the background. What did it (blind) taste like?
The colour was a consistent block of black/red and it showed its viscosity and weight in the obvious tears. The smell, faintly menthol, was of plums, damsons and liquorice which later changed to cherry as it sat in the glass. This was an attractive nose which promised much. The palate was tannic structured, polished and rich but with a lean finish, so much so I ventured a traditional Rioja for its origin. There was an alluring spiciness to it; we both admired it even though it was a little on the short side.
There was a caveat, however. After about 30 minutes opened and sitting in the glass, it lost its sophistication and became distinctly raw, with the tannins barging their way to the forefront. Whether this was its age or an underlying lack of quality it is difficult to say but we would have liked it to maintain those lovely deep fruit tones of the initial tasting.
So, overall, good but not brilliant, initially wonderful but then declined. (There goes the sponsors’ money.)
[Richard: or maybe not since the raw taste had passed when I tried the wine an hour later. The wine was back to its previous state with the characteristics Geoff describes. Very drinkable over an evening with a homemade pizza bianco. I picked up the wine at Rhodes Airport Duty Free for €12.]
I tasted this wine blind – a very interesting experience indeed. The wine is Malagousia Single Vineyard 2013, bought from Highbury Vintners but I couldn’t find it on their current web site. As with other Greek wines I have tried, it produced a ‘wow’ factor with its unusual combination of textures and flavours, especially when tasted blind.
Appearance: pronounced lemon yellow, green tinge. Oily texture apparent in glass.
Nose: Obviously smoky, spicy (tried unsuccessfully to identify), hint of lemon. First thoughts, Chardonnay and then Semillon.
Palate: Rich, nutty, long dry finish, refreshing. Too big for Chardonnay so plumped for mature Semillon.
Overall: Lovely wine, interesting, complex – high quality.
The grape variety Malagousia was ‘rescued’ from extinction by Gerovassiliou, the maker of this wine in Epanomi in Macedonia. The wine won a Decanter regional award, and, after tasting this wine, I can understand why. I am searching for a supplier and have found Vincognito stock it. It’s a really good wine, probably even better on day 2.
(Subsequently established that the wine is stocked by Vin Cognito, an online retailer who stock a very interesting range of wines. It’s worth a visit to their web-site if only to marvel at the descriptions!)