Tuesday, June 09, 2015

MENU's Aegean Odyssey. Day 17: Mykine wines

Our last days in Greece, where we tasted some wines in Nemea, the area which, we were told, is exciting major wine writers worldwide. Wine has been grown in this area dating back to at least the 5th Century BC. Modern winemaking started just 50 years ago. It is probably Greece's most important red wine appellation. Agiorgitiko is Nemea's native grape variety, and is named for the small St George's Church found within the boundaries of the appellation: agiorgitiko translates as 'St George's grape'. And yes, they do have the dragon legend
We started where, apparently, it all started, at Papaioannou wines. Modern Greek wines that is. Most of the wine we had been drinking from the carafes at La Petite Planete came from here. Thanasis Papaioannou is one of the first producers who understood and promoted the idea that the wine must maintain its unique characteristics. On this 57 hectare vineyard of organically grown grapes, his son George, a chemist, produces wine from Agiorgitiko, Cabernet Sauvignon, Roditis, Assyrtiko, Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, Syrah, Merlot, Touriga, Roussanne, Sauvignon Blanc,& Petit Verdot
Some of the wines they sell
And more, they have a large US market
Their prices in Euros per bottle and per case
There was a lot of wine on offer for tasting
We tried to limit our tasting to wines made with grapes we were unfamiliar with and their best selection. The St George won a Gold Concours Mondiale medal in 2008 and we scored it very highly. It is full of perfect cassis in layers with soft chalky tannins and wood
The wines were initially quite uncomplicated, the whites had a lot of pinking and some good aromas, but some are rather astringent on the palate. But we do not know how long the bottles had been open. The 2005 Petit Verdot, in oak for 2 years, has a bruléed savoury nose and there is a nice development of good fruit with long after flavours
The 2014 Assyrtiko had elegance and an interesting nose, a full mouth of smooth layers of fruit. It reminded Lynne of a Semillon Chardonnay blend. A food wine
It's a small but familiar looking wine cellar
We were delighted to meet Thanasis Papaioannou, introduced to us by Vassiliki of La Petite Planete. His son now runs the business, but he is still involved
A fine wine logo
Just down the road is Palivou Estate Winery. This is the one people are talking about, and rightly so. It is owned by winemaker George Palivos and his wife Aggeliki Palivou
Their sign
We were welcomed by 25 year old winemaker daughter Evangelia Palivou who trained at Burgundy in France. The estate consists of more than 300 stremmas (area equal to 1000 sq meters) planted mostly with Agiorgitiko (St George), but also with Rodites, Malagousia, Chardonnay, Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon and Syrah
She showed us some of the vineyards and explained that they have very varied terroir and climates, as the vineyards start in the valley and then climb up the hill.
Also olives
and very high vineyards
The ground is very stony and dry
In the 300 barrel cellar, they use French and American oak
Dionysos
Nice wall murals
A selection of their wines
The tasting room, where we tasted through the available wines. We were very impressed with the quality and depth of these wines. Memos, a white wine made from 70% Roditis and 30% Moschofidero, has a floral muscat nose and is crisp, limey and slightly spritzy, long and fresh. They blend Chardonnay with Malagouzia in the Stone Hills white; it's an easy drinking delicate wine with a lees character, with minerality and pineapple. We were very impressed with their Viognier; peaches and apricots with a whiff of smoke, very elegant and delicate with white peaches and jasmine on the palate
Their current wine list. The Vissino rosé has a blue tinge, it's like meaty cherries on the nose, and a sweet cherry aid with good acids, delicate and nuanced on the palate. Their best seller Anemos Red, made entirely from St George, is dark as Claret, full of elegant cassis violets and on the palate cherries, raspberries and other berries. It’s soft with no faults and a long finish so you can see why it is so popular. From then on, the reds just got better and better, more sophisticated, longer lasting and interesting. The top wine is Palivou Nemea Nohma G. Palivos and is a blend of wine made in 2007 & 8. Only 700 bottles are made from 60% St George, 23% Cabernet and 17% Syrah. Black garnet with red edges. Expensive wood, blackberries, cassis, vanilla and violets give it elegant and expensive notes. On the palate cassis with hot spice and weighty acidity to make it last
It was a really good tasting for which we were very grateful. Evangelia's English is perfect and she understood that we wanted to know more about the wine, the estate and the area than most people would. We came away with three bottles of their wine to taste back home
Time for a late lunch in another taverna. You can see the photographer
The faded menu. We had toasties
A view of the high street in Mycenae
And for supper, to round off another good meal and a great last day, a lovely dessert. And then an early night, because the next day would be all about moving on towards the airport and then the flight home
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© John & Lynne Ford, Adamastor & Bacchus 2015
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