Great Greeks – Amazing Assyrtiko


Wine Virtuosity is all about my passion for wine. Yet I can’t help but going a bit off-topic and feel a bit alarmed, almost scared, when it comes to media’s witch-hunt for the poor Greeks at the moment. The persecution-like reporting lacks, in most cases, an understanding for what the little citizen are about to face for many years. People who didn’t have much before will have even less now. Selfishness is showing its ugly face and I have not much to spare politicians in other EU countries that inflames the Greek situation – only for their own domestically good. What happened with the core idea of EU – together we’re strong?

But you can help! You can support the Greek wine industry and make sure all the passionate producers aren’t, due to the current crisis and lack of funds, giving up on their ambition, hope and motivation in order to take the wines of Greece to a new level.  Greece is a lot like Portugal. Lots of indigenous grapes and a careful use of the more internationally recognized ones. The country’s winemakers have understood the potential of this goldmine and are now producing personal and character filled wines on Agiorgitiko, Assyrtiko, Malagousia, Robola and Xinomavro to mention a few. Modern approach, indigenous grapes. Welcome to 2011.

If there’s one grape the uninitiated is familiar with, or at least have heard about, it’s Assyrtiko. For me who has a weak spot for volcanic wines, it was also one of the first close encounters with Greek wines. Sigalas on Santorini led the way and I was fascinated by the character; chalky, citrus and smoke. Didn’t really remind me of anything else, not even other volcanic white wines as the Carricante grape of Etna. But most of all I discovered how great it went with grilled fish, especially salt water fishes. Just put some olive oil and sea salt on the fish, don’t ruin it in a marinade hiding the taste, and grill it. Serve….Assyrtiko!

Time to check if Sigalas Assyrtiko can be challenged! Time for a wine battle. Combatant? Hatzidakis. First glass poured is the 2009 Sigalas Assyrtiko from Santorini and the second glass is the 2009 Hatzidakis Assyrtiko from Santorini. The 2009 Sigalas is Assyrtiko only while the Hatzidakis is 90 per cent and the remaining ten is five each of Aidani and Athiri. Old and ungrafted vines, low yields and a grape that for ages has been cultivated on the island of Santorini, adapting to the unique conditions. Sounds quite cool, huh?

Tasting notes

2009 Sigalas Assyrtiko (90-91 p)

I really liked the 2008 but there’s no doubt, 2009 is a step up in quality! Straw color. Big nose of lemon peel, smoke, iodine, red apples and wet humus. So fascinating. On the palate it has a mineral driven, firm bone dry structure. The smoky notes are there but the apple turns green. Lemon peel again and a chalky note. Harmony. Long clean and quite intense finish. Still young. Will probably evolve with some cellaring. A lot of wine here for the price.

2009 Hatzidakis Assyrtiko (89-90 p)

Light yellow color. Different from the Sigalas although there’s a common denominator. More fruit oriented on the nose with scents of salted almonds, green apples, smoke, wet rocks and citrus. On the palate a lovely balance between fruit and acidity. So refreshing. Again, almonds, green apples, lime peel, slightly chalky and smoky notes and a long clean finish. Not as restrained as the Sigalas and probably not having the same ageing potential. Still, a most individual style of wine.

Hatzidakis wine-searched here, Sigalas here.

Want to read more about Santorini? Click here.