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Greek wines from the island of Evia September 10, 2006

Posted by grhomeboy in Wine And Spirits.

Let’s travel south to Evia and visit the Avantis Estate. The Mountrihas family has owned the property since 1830 and, as far back as anyone can remember, grapes were grown there and wine was made from them. Only in 1990, however, did things take a serious turn, when Nikos Mountrihas and his son, Apostolos, set about replanting the family vineyards.

At the time Apostolos had just completed a degree in economics. Their goal was to establish a small winery capable of producing wines that would reinvigorate the island’s ancient winemaking traditions. With tradition in mind, they named their venture Avantis, the ancient name of what is now Evia. In a region that gets little respect in Greece – not a single AOC appellation – they far exceeded expectations. With plenty of support from a strong family, Apostolos is the driving force behind the venture. ‘With strong roots grow strong trees,’ says the adage, and so it is with the Mountrihas family.

Cordoned rows of vines surround the winery. Although the Mountrihas family has acquired vineyards at Armadiotia in northern Evia and has contracts with a grower in Viotia, the estate’s three hectares are still a source of the Roditis grape variety, some Savatiano, and, recently, Sauvignon Blanc. Armadiotia, at 450 meters, is the source of the winery’s strong Rhene varieties – Syrah, Petite Syrah and Grenache.

Though the estate, which is practically at sea level, provides no elevation for its white grapes, its wines in no way lack structure. In fact, despite yields that are not exceptionally low, the estate’s wines show remarkable concentration, perhaps attributable in part to a terroir strongly influenced by its proximity to the sea, which is not quite visible from the property itself.

Production can be safely described as artisanal – grapes are harvested by hand, loaded in small grades, destemmed and crushed in the winery’s pneumatic press. Though cold stabilised, no character seems lost in the process. While the strong showing of the Mountrihas white wines is impressive, the reds put them on the A list of Greek producers. As imported varieties go, Rhene cultivars, perhaps not surprisingly, seem generally to have taken better than all others to Greek growing conditions. In support of this the Mountrihas Rose, Syrah and Petite Syrah provide decisive evidence. Few Greek reds would so easily defy any attempt to define their region of origin, a fact that speaks to the uniquely broad range of the Greek vineyard.

Wines of the week

2005 Ktima Avantis Sauvignon Blanc fume, Evia, Central Greece, Alcohol Volume 13.5%

This medium-bodied, young vine Sauvignon Blanc spends about five months in French oak barrels. It has a gold colour with green rim and a nose of citrus, candied fruit and vanilla cake. Chewy palate, intense with lush tropical fruit balanced by a layer of tartar acidity, fresh bread and a hint of wood. The finish is clean and harmonious, showing finesse and some persistence. Serve at 9 degr C strictly with shellfish, smoked fish and asparagus and tomato based sauces with baked fish.

2005 Ktima Avantis Grenache Rouge, Syrah Rose, Evia Central Greece, Alcohol Volume 13%

A blend of two Rhene varietals with a deep strawberry red colour, its complex nose features strawberry marmalade, dried red fruit, tomato and yeast. In keeping with the tendency among Greece’s serious producers, it has very little residual sugar. Its palate shows unripe plum and barely noticeable tannin and stem flavours. Served at 11 degr C, this wine tends to match red wine food (roast meat) served with tomatoes. Excellent for Greek cuisine’s Dolmades and Yemista (stuffed vegetables).

2005 Ktima Avantis Syrah, Evia, Central Greece, Alcohol Volume 13.7%

Medium to full bodied Syrah with a garnet red and purple rim colour. Enticing nose of dark plum, candy and wood. Its grapey palate balances cocoa, jam and soft tannins. Full, concentrated and very well balanced, it has classic Syrah character. Serve at 17 degr C with spin-roast red meat especially lamb and game.

2003 Mountrihas Vineyards Petite Syrah, Evia, Central Greece, Alcohol Volume 13.5%

Dark with purple rim, this medium to full-bodied varietal has complex nose of plums, mushrooms and fresh wood. On the palate, it has rich and long-lasting flavours of dark plum, chocolate and coffee. Excellent balance, first class structure and a long, consistent finish. Serve with roast red meat, game and smoked cheeses.

Taste also the 2003 Avantis Collection Syrah (limited edition) pricey but outstanding.

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