Tomas Clancy reviews Domaine Papagiannakos Assyrtiko, Attiki, Greece 2018 and Dauvergne-Ranvier, AC St. Joseph 2017
Domaine Papagiannakos Assyrtiko, Attiki, Greece 2018
Pricing : €23.95
Available : Off Licences nationwide
This wine does not just shout about its eastern Mediterranean origins it bellows out its claim to be the long forgotten echo of the entire global wine culture.
This wine is from the vineyards of Attiki, fought over by the Macedonians, Spartans and most successfully the local Athenians.
This is a wine from the birthplace of western wine culture the interior plains of southern Greece overlooked by the great city of Athens.
The god Dionysus, the god of wine and good living is said to have dwelled here and there are as you might expect plenty of very gorgeous and moody temples to Dionysus surrounding the entire wine region.
The Papagiannakos winery was found around 1909 but the family and the vineyards predate this by several centuries, but in its present form then it is a relatively recent creation. This is all the more so as the winery was rebuilt in the last decade or so and is now one of Greece’s most advanced and subtle.
The wine here is made from the iconic Greek white grape, Assyrtiko which often makes wines not dissimilar in profile to Sauvignon Blanc, but with a little less acidity and more of a mineral mouthfeel.
Wine lovers with an open heart who appreciate steel tank raised, unoaked Chablis and less aggressive Sauvignon Blanc could come to love this wine. It is just a shame that 50 years into the biggest wine revival the world has seen, Greece is still trying to gain a foothold in the wine world’s imagination.
With such a history, such staggeringly beautiful wine regions and with low price ranges even for the very best such as this example, it is hard to really understand how poorly Greek wine performs. This wine which plays in the Premiere Cru Chablis range but at a fraction of its best prices is an example of how brilliant Greek wines can be and should be sought out by anyone fed up with seeing their favourite Sauvignon Blanc and Chablis push into the late twenties and early thirty-euro prices.
Although Greece is also recovering well economically, we might just add that supporting small ambitious wineries like this also has a tinge of European Union solidarity to it as well, they we can heartily endorse, this Greek ode to peaches, Sauvignon Blanc zest and sultry light spice to allure the basking, hedonistic god Dionysus.
Dauvergne-Ranvier, AC St. Joseph 2017
Pricing : €25
Available : Independent off licences
The mighty river Rhone travels almost 1000km from its birthplace high in the Swiss Alps to its exit into the Mediterranean sea around the city of Marseilles in a vast marshy delta called the Bouches du Rhone. Along its winding path it has carved out the valley slopes and vast river basins that are today the source of some of the world’s greatest wines.
Part of the reason for this is that the slopes happily all offer lengthy access to the sultry southern European sun and also to the complex layers of minerals and rocks that the Rhone carved out from the Alps and brought down stream and well as the seams of complex sub soils and rocks that it carved out in France itself.
This is what makes the Rhone Wine region one of the most diverse and complex with deep dark red wines of huge spice like Chateauneuf Du Pape and Gigondas in the southern Mediterranean part of the Rhone Valley and cool piercing white wines and august, firm reds in the northern portion south of the gourmet capital of France, Lyon.
From a wine lovers point of view the wines from the south are open hearted, easy to love and with the general exception of Chateauneuf Du Pape and its near neighbours very well priced. The hike in prices around Chateauneuf Du Pape being partly attributed to the presence of a brace of Popes during the middle ages setting up the Papacy in Chateauneuf du Pape instead of Rome. The high regard and high prices for these wines persist 1000 years later.
In the northern half of the Rhone things are very different, the city of Lyon was super wealthy from the arrival of the Romans 2000 years ago and remains a rich trade capital for France. It is home to a vast army of Michelin starred restaurants and wealthy clientele.
The wines of Hermitage, Cote Rotie and Condrieu the three closest and important appellations in the Rhone to Lyon are amongst the most expensive on the planet.
The great quest for wine lovers is to find the nearest appellation using the same grapes on similar soils as these and find the bargain way to experience a whiff of their greatness. The two appellations to look out for are Crozes-Hermitage and this wine’s home, Saint Joseph. Crozes-Hermitage wines tend to be very tight, compact wines that need long periods of time and some luck to mature into interesting wines.
Saint Joseph however is a little further south and many of the vineyards are on high steep slopes. The vineyards are scattered and remote and until the late 1960s were sold generically. Happily classified at St Joseph from the 1970s the wines made from Syrah in its black olive, dark savoury fruits and light daubs of tar or aniseed as here became widely available at a fair price.
This delicious echo of long sultry, dusty southern French summers with hints of heather and light spice is a source of warmth and hope in our cold winter days and with such rich fruit and ambitious winemaking fairly priced too. A great Sunday lunch wine for colder days ahead.