Wednesday, 31 May 2017

The Rustic Elegance of the Wines of Greece: Part 1 : Santorini

Assyrtiko.  Xinomavro. Moschofilero.   Not the easiest of grape names to pronounce.  Papagiannakos, Thymiopoulos, Hatzidakis. The names of Greek wine producers are not much better.  The unfamiliarity of the wines or producers of Greece should not be a reason to shy away from them.  Greek wines are of exceptional quality and value. They are the best examples of rustic elegance that you can find when it comes to wine. They are bursting with flavour, balanced by exceptional acidity and satisfying minerality. They are powerful, and pure yet at the same time delicate. For those who are unfamiliar with Greek wine, it is difficult to compare its style to anything else; they’re in a class of their own.  The only way to gain an understanding of their profile is to take the leap and go try them for yourself.  There is no better place to start than Santorini.

 It’s a wonder anything grows there at all. The winds are fierce, the sun is scorching, and the soils poor.  If you can even call it soil. Given its dry climate, the land is made up of sand, pumice, and rock.  There is little rain that falls in the long, dry growing season and not much plant life can survive in conditions such as these; but grape vines do, and the wines from Santorini are better off for it.

In this photo, you can see the 'bird nest' shaped baskets that are used to grow grapes, protecting them from the harsh environment and scorching sun and high winds.  



Founded in 1997 by Haridimos and Konstantina Hatzidakis, the estate has 10 ha of  their own vineyards that are roughly 300 m above sea-level, and are farmed organically.   The remainder of grapes they receive for their wine are from growers who also apply organic farming.  This ensures that the best quality of grapes are used to make their wine.

Domaine Hatzidakis Assyrtiko Cuvée. 15 2012   
SAQ:  11901189  $38.75* ( 2015 vintage)
The assyrtiko grapes for this cuvee were left to have skin contact for about 12 hours, followed by a fermentation with natural yeasts at 18°C.  The wine was then left on lees for 8 months in stainless steel tanks, then bottled unfiltered. 

Medium gold in color, this wine has enticing aromas of citrus, red delicious apple, pear and walnuts. The ample palate has concentrated citrus and apple fruit, golden raisin and slight saline notes.  There is amazing acidity with a long and complex finish.  Drink now or within the next 2-3 years.  This tasting note is from the 2012 vintage, SAQ currently holds 2015.

Food Pairing: Bakes artichokes stuffed with feta and herbs.


Soon after Yiannis Argyros took over running the family estate winery in 1975, he increased vineyard size to 65 acres and updated the estate.  Down to earth and endearing, his wines are as fun and approachable as he is. Argyros Estate has some of the oldest vines in Santorini, most being around 150 years old.  These old vines yield very little, and that is reflected in their extremely concentrated and complex wines. 

Estate Argyros Assyrtiko 2015
SAQ: 12889556  $28.15

Pale lemon in colour, the nose displays citrus fruit with nuances of the sea.  The palate is clean, crisp and precise.  It cuts right through to citrus with mouth-watering saline notes that mesh nicely with the bright acidity.  There is almost the impression of tannin here, despite it being a white wine.  Excellent structure and balance.  Drink now or within the next 2-3 

Food Pairing: Grilled white fish with asparagus and citrus aioli. 


Argyros Assyrtiko Oak Fermented 2015
SAQ: 12338800 $32.00

Pale lemon in colour, there are aromas of citrus with saline, floral, and savoury notes.  The broad palate is loaded with citrus, green apple, and steely minerality.  The bright acidity leads to a long and refreshing salty finish. Clean flavours, a really fantastic wine! Drink now or within the next 2-3 years.

Food Pairing: Asparagus with egg, crispy bacon and parmesean.


The excitement I have for these wines is hard to hide, and the ones I have suggested above are just a few of my favourites.  Next week, I will be taking you through Northern Greece and the Péleponèse.  Happy tasting!

Wednesday, 10 May 2017

Domaine Josmeyer: Wines of terroir, precision and purity.

Trusting one’s palate and thoughts about wine can sometimes be a bit of a challenge.  Having taken my fair share of wine courses, it has been drilled into my head to note fruit clusters, acidity, sugar, alcohol, body, finish and the list goes on…..all within a sip or two. At some point along the way, as a wine professional, I have put more effort into the technical side of things, rather than taking the time to simply ask myself whether or not I enjoy what I am drinking.

At a recent dinner with Symbiose Vins and Isabelle Meyer, winemaker of Domaine Josmeyer in Alsace, I received a gentle reminder of how important it is to just let a wine BE.  Feel for a connection with the wine, and believe in the instinct and ability of my own palate.  And like most things in life, once we start believing in something, trusting our own instincts and heart, THAT is when we truly start to see it, taste it and things start to happen. According to Isabelle, this philosophy is central to Biodynamic winemaking.

Domaine Josmeyer wasn’t always a biodynamic winery.  It was only after returning from her stage with Noël Pinguet at Domaine Huet in Vouvray, a winery focused on bio-d, that Isabelle was inspired to set out and change her family’s winery approach from ‘conventional’ to more sustainable and organic methods. In pursuit of this endeavor, she had the support from her father, Jean Meyer, on the condition that all the wines remain dry styles.  Today, Isabelle and her sister Céline run the estate.  

The goal of the winery is not to create biodynamic wines, but rather to express terroir in their wines, which happen to be made according to biodynamic principles.  It is more than just a philosophy for them, it is a way of life. Every single member of their team believes strongly in these methods. “You have to believe. Making wine in such a based on intuition and experience that starts at the very beginning, with each step....even after the wine is bottled.”  At Josmeyer, they must first have a vision of where they want to go, of what the end result should be. At the same time, they are acting as guides, listening to the vines and grapes throughout the viti/vinicultural life cycle.  

Isabelle and the team feel that every aspect of the winery is interconnected, and that includes the cellars. She draws on the vats, speaks to them, and to the wine.  It becomes more than just wine making, it’s about creating something meaningful, the result being much more than fermented grape juice. 

 Artistically gifted, the sisters commission label artwork from local  Alsatian artists, including Isabelle herself who has frequently contributed her art.  The hope is that the characteristics or personality of that wine are expressed on the label itself.  This presents an opportunity for people to appreciate and understand the relationship between the visual aspect and the taste. The labels are as captivating and beautiful as the wines themselves, reflecting their most important qualities.

With this in mind, it can be said that the wines of Josmeyer are expressive in more ways than one. They exude terroir, precision and purity. They are wonderfully easy to drink and very approachable, but also display impressive depth and complexity.   The wines are amazing all on their own, but are also gastronomic wines to be enjoyed with food. 

Domaine Josmeyer is well known for its wine quality and there is no doubt that Céline, Isabelle, and the rest of the team will continue to work in the family’s vision and style.  There is a method to their so -called madness. One that is perhaps difficult for some to comprehend: to have trust and faith in things that are bigger than ourselves. A true belief that allows all aspects of the winery to be held accountable; where each aspect of the vineyard and cellar work together as an integrated system with the goal of creating pure, expressive wines that reflect not only the essence of the varieties themselves but also the beautiful terroir.

A very special thank you to Frédéric Gauthier and Symbiose for the invite with Isabelle and company.  

Alsace Dream A.K.A The Stork   Photo: Domaine Josmeyer

Made specifically with the Quebec market in mind, this is a blend of Pinot Blanc, Pinot Auxerrois, Riesling and Pinot Gris. It is quite special in the sense that this wine is aged on lees from their Grand Cru series. Depending on the vintage, residual sugar is around 2g/l and roughly 12% alcohol.  The nose offers generous aromas of citrus and pear .  The medium bodied palate is round and ample with a fierce acidity creating a fine balance with the concentrated granny smith apple and pear fruit.  Delicate wet stone and subtle saline notes linger on the excellent, dry finish.  

Food Pairing:  Black cod filet with lemon and herb butter

Le Kottabe Riesling 2014  
Photo: Domaine Josmeyer

The grapes for this wine are sourced from 35-year-old vines positioned between Wintzenheim and Turckheim, where the soil is predominantly sand, stone, and silt.  The wine has 5g of residual sugar and roughly 7.2 g/l of acidity. 

Pale gold in colour, this wine is all about citrus, apricot and abundant floral notes.  The wine has a very crisp acidity, cutting straight through to citrus flavours, yet has a round mouth feel.  The finish is clean, with abundant citrus fruit flavours and a salinity that keeps you going back for more. Delicious and extremely easy to drink. 

Food Pairing : Grilled Lobster with a bit of lime, ginger and coriander. 

 Riesling Grand Cru Hengst Samain 2008

Made only in exceptional vintages, the grapes for this wine are sourced from a special parcel of limestone in Hengst.  This is a powerful wine, giving beautiful notes of apricot, golden raisins, pear and nuances of petrol.  It is medium bodied, and has excellent concentrated pear and apricot fruit. The slight sweetness is extremely balanced by the clean, bright acidity, creamy fruit flavours, with a dimension of minerality. This Grand Cru Riesling is pure with a very long,   enjoyable finish.  Photo: Domsine Josmeyer

Food Pairing: Salmon tartar