Discoveries from Greece, Italy and Bulgaria
Institute of Directors, 116 Pall Mall, London, SW1Y 5ED
This is an annual tasting hosted by Decanter magazine which focuses on Southern Europe and Mediterranean wines. The objective is to heighten awareness and increase knowledge of the Protected Denomination of Origen (PDO) and Protected Geographical Indication (PGI) wines produced in Southern European wine regions. It was held at the London headquarters of the Institute of Directors (IoD) on Tuesday 2nd February 2016.
The IoD is located in a beautiful Georgian building in the heart of St. James. It provides business services for its members and is also an elegant and convivial venue for corporate functions.
The tasting was held in the Nash Room located at the top of the grand staircase, above which hangs a beautiful 15-foot, hand-made Regency chandelier presented to the IoD by George IV to commemorate the Battle of Waterloo.
In this article, I am focusing on two wineries from Greece; one from Crete, the other from Nemea Peloponnese, and four wineries from Italy; all from Emilia-Romagna - considered to be the heart of good food and wine in Italy.
Let’s start with Greece:
Domaine Skouras was founded in 1986 in Pyrgela, Argos by George Skouras. Two years later, Skouras became the first winemaker to blend Greek varietal St. George (Agiorgitiko) with Cabernet Sauvignon under the Megas Oenos label. In 2004, they re-located to a stunning modern winery in Malandreni, surrounded by rolling hills and mountains. I have tasted wines from Domaine Skouras previously and they are one of the most prominent producers in Greece today. Annual production is around 800,000 bottles.
UK importer: Eclectic Wines
Classification: PGI Peloponnese / 100% Moscofilero / 12% abv
The nose on this wine was extremely aromatic with lemons, roses, parma violets and white flowers. The palate was dry, with ripe citrus and stone fruits and a just a hint of Edam cheese. Medium bodied, with a medium (+) finish.
Grand Cuvée 2011
Classification: PDO Nemea / 100% Agiorgitiko / 13.5% abv
This wine was extremely smooth, elegant and full bodied, with complementing acidity and alcohol and very soft ripe tannins.
Megas Oenos 2012
Classification: PGI Peloponnese / 80% Agiorgitiko & 20% Cabernet Sauvignon / 14% abv
The nose was bursting with ripe black and red fruit, which followed through onto the palate. This was a full bodied red with silky smooth tannins, hints of dark chocolate and a very long finish.
Mediterra Winery was founded in 1973 in the village of Kounavi, Heraklion, Crete. In 2008, a large injection of funds enabled them to acquire new tanks, machinery and equipment and create a new wine cellar and visitors centre. It is now one of the country’s top wine producers and has achieved recognition for excellent quality and good value for money. Demetris Contominas is the owner and Giorgos Stratakis is the winemaker. Annual production is around 3,000,000 bottles.
UK importer: The Greek Delicatessen
Mavrodaphne of Patras
Classification: PDO Patras / 100% Mavrodaphne of Patras / 15% abv
For anyone unfamiliar with this wine, in my opinion, Mavrodaphne of Patras is an extremely under-rated sweet red wine which represents excellent value for money. This example had a deep ruby red colour together with aromas and flavours of ripe soft red fruits, good levels of acidity, a medium (+) body and a medium (+) finish.
Moving onto Italy:
Mossi 1558 was founded in 1558 in Albareto by Jo. Francesco Mossi. It was handed down through 14 generations of the family until the Profumo family bought it in June 2014. I met the new owners, Marco and Silvia, whose aim is to continue producing wines typical to the Piacenza region, whilst at the same time, introducing new techniques. Claudio Colombi is the winemaker and annual production is around 700,000 bottles.
Contro Tempo Spumante Martinotti 2014
Classification: PDO Ortrugo dei Colli Piacentini / 100% Ortrugo / 11.5% abv
This was a youthful, dry and gently sparkling white with high levels of acidity, a good concentration of pears and citrus and a touch of minerality. It was aged 6 months on the lees.
Classification: PDO Ortrugo dei Colli Piacentini / 100% Ortrugo / 11.5% abv
A dry white version of the above, this had similar levels of acidity but was slightly more aromatic, with aromas and flavours of green melons and ripe lemons.
Gutturnio Classico Superiore 2013
Classification: PDO Gutturnio / 60% Barbera & 40% Croatina / 13% abv
Marco described this as a “perfect lunch wine”; it was light, young and fruity, with balancing acidity and alcohol.
Classification: Table wine / 25% Barbera, 25% Croatina, 25% Pinot Noir & 25% Cabernet Sauvignon / 13.5% abv
This was the cream of the crop; an extremely elegant full bodied red with soft ripe tannins, packed full of red cherries and raspberries, with balancing acidity and a very long finish. Each grape is aged separately prior to blending, then aged for a year in barrel prior to bottling, plus a further year in bottle before release.
Tenuta Santa Cecilia Croara
This small estate was founded in 2007 and is located in the Gessi Bolognesi e dell’Abbadessa park in Croara, close to Bologna. It is owned by Nicoletta Madrigali, whom I met at the tasting. Organic since inception, their white DOCG Pignoletto wines are produced in three styles; Frizzante, Spumante Brut and Superiore, and focus is very much on purity of fruit. The winemaker is Enzo Mattarei and annual production is only around 15,000 bottles. I also met Francesco Brenta, who is based at their London office.
Pignoletto Frizzante 2014
Classification: Organic PDO Collio Bolognesi / 100% Pignoletto / 12% abv
This gently sparkling dry white was youthful, light and refreshing, with good levels of acidity, green apples, ripe lemons and a touch of minerality.
Pignoletto Spumante Brut 2014
Classification: Organic PDO Colli Bolognesi / 95% Pignoletto & 5% Riesling Italico / 12% abv
This wine was richer, more full bodied, and more fully sparkling than the Frizzante, yet still retained the youthful fruitiness of the first wine.
Pignoletto Superiore 2014
Classification: Organic PDO Colli Bolognesi / 100% Pignoletto / 13.5% abv
This was a still dry white with high levels of acidity, a medium (+) body and fresh citrus aromas and flavours. It had a slightly longer finish than the previous wines, a hint of minerality and touch of vanilla.
Classification: Organic PDO Colli Bolognesi / 100% Merlot / 13% abv
Deep ruby in colour, this wine was plummy and earthy with soft ripe tannins and a long finish.
This small winery was founded in 1991 and is run by 3rd generation family members, Fausto and Fabio Altariva. I met Fabio at the tasting. Since taking the reins, Fausto and Fabio have focused on producing high quality wines for private individuals rather than selling in bulk. All of their Lambrusco wines are 100% Grasparossa and made by the Charmat method. Their intention is to continue to further improve the quality of the products which they offer. Annual production is around 60,000 bottles.
UK importer: The Italian Wine Women
Classification: PGI Emilia / 100% Pignoletto dell’Emilia / 12% abv
From the hills of Modena and made by the Charmat method, this sparkling white was light, dry and refreshing with a good concentration of zesty citrus fruits and high levels of acidity.
Classification: PDO Lambrusco Grasparossa di Castelvetro / 100% Lambrusco Grasparossa di Castelvetro / 12% abv
This wine had aromas of strawberries, black cherries and just a hint of beetroot, plus a good concentration of wild blackberries on the palate. It was somewhat rustic and earthy in style, with a long lingering finish.
Classification: PDO Lambrusco Grasparossa di Castelvetro / 100% Lambrusco Grasparossa di Castelvetro / 11.5% abv
Pure wild strawberries dominated the nose of this wine which followed through on the palate, where they were joined by rich ripe black cherries. This wine had more than a hint of boiled sweets about it (in a good way), matching levels of acidity and a medium (+) finish.
Classification: PDO Lambrusco Grasparossa di Castelvetro / 100% Lambrusco Grasparossa di Castelvetro / 10.5% abv
This was described as a “sparkling sweet red”, however, I would class this as more off-dry. It was gently sparkling, extremely fruity – both black and red fruits – with balanced acidity and alcohol.
Casali Viticultori was founded in 1900 by Giuseppe Casali in Scandiano. It was acquired by the Galaverni and Zoboli families in 1999; Signor Boni joined in 2004 and Giovanni Sidoli came onboard in 2009. The winery now produces more than 20 different wines and the winemaker is Fabio Pizzi. Annual production is around 700,000 bottles.
Albore, Frizzante Secco 2014
Classification: Colli di Scandiano e di Canossa PDO / 100% Spergola / 11% abv
This was a very youthful, refreshing and gently sparkling, light bodied white with aromas and flavours of green apples, pears and ripe lemons.
Ca’Besina, Pas Dosé, Spumante 2009
Classification: Colli di Scandiano e di Canossa PDO / 100% Spergola / 13% abv
This wine was aged on the lees for 8 months and was quite complex and full-bodied with some toasty, yeasty aromas and ripe tropical fruit.
Classification: PGI Emilia / Lambrusco (blend of 4 varieties) / 11% abv
Deep purple in colour, this wine had good levels of acidity and an excellent concentration of ripe red berries, soft ripe tannins and a medium (+) length.
Campo delle More, Frizzante Dolce 2014
Classification: Colli di Scandiano e di Canossa PDO / 100% Malbo Gentile / 6% abv
This was another deep purple, gently sparkling red, with a hint of sweetness and excellent levels of acidity which kept it fresh. It had a good concentration of blueberries, wild blackberries and a medium body.
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