In September, South Sales Director, Daniel O’Keefe, took a trip to Macedonia and Northern Greece to visit a selection of our exciting esoteric producers from the heart of the Mediterranean.
Joining Daniel on the trip was Roger and Sue Jones, owners of The Harrow at Little Bedwyn, a 1 Michelin Star Restaurant in the Wiltshire countryside. Roger and Sue have been loyal partners of Hallgarten’s for about 16 years and we have become a central part of their restaurant . Over the years Roger has been highly influential, not only as a chef but also as a prominent wine writer and judge for Decanter, The Buyer and The Caterer.
On the first day of our trip we met Thras at the Gerovassiliou restaurant which was house in the stunning winery. We started our tasting of the range mid-afternoon while as we had lunch due to Vangelis and Thras being tied up in the winery during the busy harvest period.
The Sauvignon Blanc was quite a hit and the new vintage of the Chardonnay showed amazing levels of complexity, especially when it opened up. The big hit here though was the freshness and viniousness of the Avaton and the Estate Red.
After the tasting we were taken to a fabulous and lively fish restaurant in a suburb of Thessaloniki, where the local seafood cuisine was almost as good as the wines we had previously tasted and later met with Vangelis’ wife, and the team from the restaurant.
The second day took us to Ktima Biblia Chora, established in 1998, the privately owned vineyard lies on the cool climate slopes of Mount Pangeon, at Kokkinochori near Kavala, Here we were guided around the estate by the excellent Annagret Stamos who works as a chemist in the area. She provided us with a fascinating tour and insight in to the unique climate that dominates the area.
Following this tasting, we went to a lovely, quintessentially Greek taverna near the beach with Annagret and tasted some older vintages.
Visiting the Alpha Estate was truly an eye-opener! Located in Amyndeon, North West Greece. It is the brainchild of two visionaries, second generation vine grower Makis Mavridis and Bordeaux trained wine maker Angelos Iatrides. An immaculate Estate that almost feels as if it is high up in the Andes.
To kick off the day, Kostas gave us a really comprehensive tour of the vineyards and an insight into the incredible investment they have made into infrastructure – underground irrigation in the vineyard and horizontal rotating vinifiers in the winery. Kostas gave a very clear explanation of the processes that were specific to Alpha and an exemplary rationale as to why Alpha are promoting Xinomavro as a key variety to watch.
The amount of energy put in to trials of different varieties and processes is very impressive. They have, in fact, donated a parcel of their land to the Thessaloniki Viticultural College. You get the feeling that the philosophy behind Alpha Estate is both long-sighted and very progressive.
The stand-out tasting of the trip (all of which were excellent) . We tasted the full range of wines and were even treated to to some of the older vintages. It was again the reds that really shone from this winery with the overarching theme of fresh, clean and beautifully structured vinious wines. Kostas was really able to make us understand the evolution of the winery and wines as they are now.
Later we went out to dinner at a traditional Taverna in the mountains near the Alpha Estate with 2 students who had recently been employed by Alpha, showing their commitment to supporting the local community.