Great Greeks – Sigalas Mavrotagano


Assyrtiko, Malagousia, Agiorgitiko and Mavrotagano. New names to remember. New terroirs to learn. The Greek wine scene is expanding and the quality has never been higher. There’s a resemblance with the Portuguese table wines a decade or two ago; be proud of your heritage but don’t look back. Modern methods, skillful and trained people are needed. That’s the path to walk. But never, never forget about Assyrtiko, Malagousia or any of the other great domestic varieties the country offers. Say hello to Greek wines. They’re here to stay!

Wines combining pure drinking pleasure with an intellectual twist. That’s Greece for me. I can’t wait to savor yet a Christos Kokkalis wine, a Tetramythos, a Sigalas or a sweet Muscat from Ktima Hatzigeorgiou. Although two years ago I can still feel the taste of the fabulous 2002 Hatzigeorgiou Muscat. Floral purity at its best!

Black lava, volcanic ash and pumice. Aah, it’s like music for Wine Virtuosity. The soil of Santorini. I’ve never been to Santorini but after tasting some outstanding Assyrtiko wines the last year I feel the rise of yet a destination I simply can’t resist. Me and volcanic  islands you know.

What I didn’t know of – actually there’s quite a lot I don’t have a clue about – were the existance of Mavrotagano. Close to extinction one or two decades ago but now reorganized and replanted by the wine growers of Santorini. Well, if it were on the verge of extinction there must be a reason for that you think and probably you’re right. Maybe it was the tiny yields the grape produces,  the robust tannin structure or that it was associated with red sweet wines? Paris Sigalas however didn’t doubt; Mavrotagano had to be resurrected!

Domain Sigalas is probably the only Santorini winery enjoying some international fame, mostly due to the Assyrtiko. How’s the Mavrotagano then?

First encounter; the 2008. With tiny yields down at 18 to 25 hl, mostly fifty years old vines and 18 months on new oak barrels it has certainly awakened my interest. Decanted for some hours. Dark color. Not impenetrable but dark, yes. First sniff. Oh boy, looking forward following this one for the rest of the evening. Such a fascinating nose. Reminiscent of Aglianico. Or is it Nebbiolo? Hey, wasn’t that a Chateauneuf-du-Pape passing by?

Getting acquainted with a new wine or region means using previous tasting references before knowing its style and terroir. The bouquet is dense with spicy scents, tobacco, lavender and violets, dark cherries, oozing rocks and some toasted oak. Is that honey I sense? Like Syrah it seems the Mavrotagano eats oak barrels for breakfast!

Tasting. Wooh, some tannins there! First, I’m almost chocked of the tannins before I come to my senses and discover how well structured they are. Fine harmony with the restrained fruit, mineral notes and acidity. Quite concentrated style but never heavy. Tobacco, cinnamon, vanilla and dark cherries. Dried fruits. Pure. Intense and long finish.

Some kept in the fridge and retasted a week later. Just kept on…

There’s around 6,000 of the Sigalas 2008 Mavrotagano. Not impossible to find but probably needs some detective work. So, bring out the Sherlock in you and find some. You will, to say the least, be pleasantly surprised.

2008 Sigalas Mavrotagano, Santorini, 90-91 p

PS. A lot of great Greeks awaiting postings.

PS.2. There’s still a lot of Sicilians as well…

  • Werner

    I have little excperience with greek wines, but I remember trying a white wine a few years ago (Argyros Assyrtiko I think?) that had recieved great reviews, but really disapointed me. However, it would be unbelievably unfair to juge a countrys wine industry based on one poor excperience, so I promise to give it another go!

    • NiklasJorgensen

      Hi Werner,

      So much are happening on the Greek wine scene currently and it is most exciting to follow! The Assyrtiko style can be a bit tough to appreciate if you’re not prepared. With food it is outstanding (although I like a glass on its own). If the weather permits I will have a 2009 Assyrtiko comparing this weekend, Hatzidakis vs Sigalas.

      Anyhow, there will be some Greek wines reviewed here the coming weeks! And some Sicilians ;-)

      Don’t forget to have a glass of Madeira!




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