Story and photos by Manos Angelakis
A new generation of winemakers have taken over Greek winemaking, and a good percentage of them is women. According to my thinking, women make better wines, especially when dealing with indigenous grapes, because I believe they have a more sensitive palate than men. So I welcome their participation in Greek winemaking.
I and a few other wine writers had lunch in Manhattan with Sosanna Katsikosta of Acheon Winery to taste her more recent creations; 4 wines created with indigenous grapes; a few of these grapes have been cultivated in the Achaia and Patras areas since time immemorial.
Sosanna has been French trained and further sharpened her craft at Château Margaux (which is still owned and managed by the daughter of Andreas Mentzelopoulos; Andreas befriended me when I lived in France) and Château Latour Martillac.
There was 1 red wine made of 100% Mavrodaphne (Black Laurel) grapes which has been used in Greece to make sweet sacramental wines; 1 white from a more recent cultivar called Sideritis (meaning made of iron) because the grapes have a very tough skin; a single vineyard wine called Icon R – Skin Contact which is 100% Roditis Fox and, finally Fairytale, a demi-sec wine that Sosanna described as an “orange colored” wine, a deep rosé colored libation.
The vineyards are located on mountainous slopes and are mostly trained “en vaso” i.e. bush trained to withstand the winds that whip the mountainside.
The wine I enjoyed most was the 100% Sideritis, a lovely, aromatic wine that curiously started as an off-dry wine with the first gulp but when I had it with the first appetizer it seemed to dry up and tasted much drier with the food. To me it tasted almost like a quite dry Riesling from one of the storied vineyards of the Mosel valley. It is a very late ripening grape variety, sensitive to diseases and is relatively resistant to drought. Citrus fruits, white flowers and spicy notes reminiscent of white pepper are characteristics of this wine. It is vinified in “Amphorae” a recent development in the wine industry where the fermentation and ageing take place in clay or stone jars, the ancient way of winemaking, instead of in oak barrels. Amphorae have an advantage over oak because a) they do not give off an oak taste to the wine, that a number of serious wine drinkers are finally starting to object to and b) allow more liquid to evaporate faster, thus concentrating the wine giving it more of the taste of the grape the winemaker vinifies.
I would have liked this wine even more if it had retained a little more sweetness, the way the first gulp tasted. Be that as it may, it was pretty good and paired very well with the octopus dish that was the first appetizer. Most wine drinkers would love it with fish and seafood.
My second favorite was the Laura Nobile, made from 100% Mavrodaphne grapes. It is a very deep red wine, very dry, with the characteristic taste that I remember since childhood when I was given communion. The vineyards the grapes come from are in Northern Peloponnese near Patras city and the Mavrodaphne grapes have been vinified in the area since the early 18 century. It cut through the fat of the steak topped by a patty of compound butter it was served with. Beautiful.
Iron R – Skin Contact, was really remarkable for someone that has tasted many wines from all over the world. It comes from a single vineyard; is a dark amber colored wine that is not just a quirky, esoteric outlier meant to appeal to sommeliers. As I mentioned above, it is made from one of the most beloved Greek varietals Roditis Fox, a variety that produces some of the best but much maligned retsina wine. It is dry, not particularly aromatic and will pair well with meze – the small plate version of tapas, very popular in Greece while drinking. It is worth tasting it. I hope it gains wider appeal here in the US because it is a very nice wine when accompanying good food.
Finally Fairytale, a demi-sec orange colored wine made from 90% Muscat white grapes and 10% Mavrodaphne. Muscat and it’s different clones, Moscato d’Alessandria, Muscat Ottonel, Moscato Giallo a widely planted variety through Northwestern Italy, Muškat žuti from Croatia and Moscato d’Asti planted in the Asti region of Piemonte, is a very popular wine grape along the Mediterranean coasts that has adapted very well to the climatic and soil conditions of the areas it grows. It produces highly aromatic, perfumed sweet wines and very few winemakers vinify it as close to dryness as in this case. Excellent as an aperitif, it will titillate your palate.
There are a number of other Greek female winemakers, but I will have to admit that Sosanna’s wines were extremely impressive.
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