Tag Archives: Greek Wine

Greece Meets Ipswich

Now that parts of the UK have a small amount of freedom to dine in restaurants, socialise (at a socially distant distance) and taste new wines. Our team in the East of England jumped at the opportunity to partner with The Salthouse Harbour Hotel, to bring a taste of Greek wines to the area, paired with a four course menu with a suitably Grecian theme.

When you think of Ipswich, many associate the town with the disappointing football team more so than its food and drink scene, however there are so many hidden gems – one of which, The Salthouse Hotel, on its age old harbour is a beacon of hope!

The restaurant team have often shouted about the iconic Gaia Wild Ferment Assyrtiko and in an effort to push the Eastern Mediterranean boundaries further, they decided to throw a Greek Wine Evening to showcase what the country has to offer to their guests.

And here is how the evening looked, with words from Ed Keith, Sales Executive in Hallgarten’s East Team:

Arrival drink – 2019 Agiorgitiko Rosé ‘4-6H’, Peloponnese, Gaia Wines

“A beautifully balanced and delicate Rosé that would give any usual suspect Southern French Rosé a run for their money. A perfect harmony of fresh red fruit, acidity and a hint of sweetness. Great modern packaging also.”

Pre Starter – 2019 Vidiano, Dafnes, Crete, Idaia Winery
Paired with – Tempura halloumi fritters with pickled carrot and orange salad served with a smoked tomato relish

“The real surprise for most. Incredible minerality, balanced rounded fruit, a touch herbs and a bone dry finish. Like a combination of Chablis and Muscadet. What could go wrong when there is deep fried cheese involved!”

Starter –  2019 Malagouzia, Single Vineyard Turtles, Florina, Alpha Estate
Paired with – Whole bream “En papilotte” for two to share with lemon, garlic, olive oil and oregano

“Much more refined and elegant than some other Malagousia ‘sur Lie’ gives this an incredible texture to balance with the aromatic style of the wine. Refined stone fruits with a hint of citrus. Beautiful with seafood and stands up to spice brilliantly. It didn’t shout over the dish but you knew it was there.”

Main – 2013 Monemvasios Red, Laconia, Monemvasia Winery
Paired with – “Youvetsi” Braised lamb and tomato stew with orzo pasta, spinach and feta cheese

“Possibly my favourite “lockdown” wine. If a Barolo and Bordeaux had a baby this would be it. Generous but not overpowering fruit with a real feel of freshness. Add to this dry yet supple tannin and you have in my opinion a perfect red wine for winter or anytime to be honest. This is made for lamb, either stewed of grilled and it won the crowd!”

Dessert – 2008 Vin Santo, Santorini, Gaia Wines
Paired with – Honey and rosewater baklava, Pistachio nuts and cinnamon syrup

“I don’t need to convince anyone on this. Rich and luscious toffee, caramel and figs. Much more complexity and knocks spots off most other Vin Santo’s and certainly most dessert wines. It isn’t cheap but we only served this in 50ml measures so the bottle went a long way. A real point of difference on a list!”

2016 Greek & Italian – potentially a great vintage…

The buying team has recently spent some time tasting the new 2016 vintages of many of our Greek and Italian wines. Wow – this looks like it has been a brilliant vintage (especially for whites). I cannot remember the last time I got so excited about Italy – and Steve has gone into raptures when looking at both countries.

“I am thrilled to say that 2016 ranks as one of the greatest white wine vintages I have seen,” Steve Daniel says.

In order to whet your appetites, here are some tasting notes from the team:

Steve Daniel, tasting Greece:

“Greek wines get better every year I taste them as the winemakers continue to improve and further understand their vineyards, but without doubt the 2016 vintage is something truly special. The year was a cool one by Greek standards and the white wines are amazing. Both Yiannis at Gaia Wines and Vangelis at Ktima Gerovassiliou state the whites from 2016 are the greatest wines they have made to date. All producers report the same quality.

“The wines combine power, perfume and finesse. I expect to see a flurry of awards  and high marks from Parker etc.  in the coming months.”


Steve Daniel, tasting Italy:

Colomba Bianca was launched last year on the 2015 vintage and the acceptance of the wines was universal and the wines have been great. In the 2016 vintage the wines have taken a quantum leap in quality. The wines are rich and aromatic at the same time, and have incredible length and complexity for the price points.

Ca’Rugate has been winning Tre Bicchieri awards for their Soaves for years and are one of the top estates in the region. The 2015s were excellent examples but once again the 2016 whites are at another level.”

San Silvestro, Cortese del Piemonte DOC ‘Adelasia’  2016
“I was completely blown away by the quality of this wine. This year the wine has amazing fruit and intensity and it really is a Gavi buster. The best vintage I have seen of this wine. As a fantastic alternative to Chablis, there has never been a better time to drink this kind of intense, mineral-driven wines.”


Jim Wilson, tasting Italy:

Colomba Bianca, Grillo ‘Vitese’ 2016 
“Lovely clean rich and spicy nose – a wine which begs you to taste! White peaches and black pepper on the palate. Looks good and tastes great!”

San Marzano, Verdeca Puglia IGP ‘Talo’ 2016 
“Beautiful fresh flowery nose, intense, touches of lemon zest, perfumed and unusually full. Wonderful balance of acidity and flavour. Very long on the finish. A real eye opener.”

San Silvestro, Cortese del Piemonte DOC ‘Adelasia’  2016
“Like Steve, I found this wine stunning. I have to admit I’ve never really been a fan, but this was drinking quite beautifully. Huge depth of fruit, hay and flowers on the palate, wonderful balance on the finish. Better by far than a number of Gavis’.”

Ca Rugate, Soave Classico DOC San Michele 2016 
“Gorgeous nose, soft appley fruit overladen with hazelnut and a hint of cream. Amazing intensity and depth. Long finish. Everything a really good Soave should be.”

Get in touch with your Account Manager to try these wines and if any knock your socks off, let us know!

A Great Greek Trip – Day four

I am being driven at high speed – maniacal speed – by Dimitris Seitanidis. We’re on our way from Kavala to Drama (the modern-day spelling of Hydrama) to visit the Manolesakis Estate, whose wines we started importing earlier this year. Dimitris, it would appear, could also work as a tour guide as well as a wine exporter. Later he will take me on a hair-raising moonlight tour of Thessalonika, chock-full of his flowery accounts of the town’s history.

Drama has the reputation of producing the ripest grapes in Greece, explains Dimitris. “George Manolesakis came from Crete after the war. By the early 1980s, he was working for the local producer Nico Lazaridis. And then, in around 1998, he founded his own company. You’ll like George, he is a quiet man. Dignified.”

Worse, still, my mobile phone is playing up. But I’m determined not to faff around. Best not to make a Drama out of a crisis. I groan inwardly at my pun.

“So. Here we are!”

We pull up at a pleasant modern building on the outskirts of town. Compact, this is the winery from which 150,000 bottles are produced each year. I am greeted with polite restraint by George (whom you immediately warm to, as he has a wrinkled and mischievous face, and bears an uncanny resemblance to Barry Cryer). He and his winemaker, Angeliki Apostolakis, give me a guided tour of the small, meticulously clean winery which actually looks more like a large house with attached garage. An original garagiste.

It’s all very polite, a touch reserved.

And then in walks Stavros.

Stavros Manolesakis, George’s son and general manager. Stavros the Greek. Big bushy beard and moustache, open necked shirt, billowing black leather jacket, big bear hug. “A typical Crete guy,” whispers Dimitris. He is almost a parody, I think, as he rat-a-tat chatters with Dimitris. Later I find that this is a delightful chap, who in his spare time creates banquets for the villagers and who delights in cooking for any local wedding in the village. He shows me a photograph of him barbequing 140 kleftikos. He is frustrated that I have not chosen to stay with his family.

“Next time, you stay with me and I cook,” he states. This is not a question. I’m not going to mess with Stavros.

We jump in his BMW and he begins tearing through the vineyards, seemingly oblivious to the effect on the car’s undercarriage. Quite dramatic, I think. (I cannot get Drama out of my head – what a great name for a place.)

We screech to a halt.

Stavros proudly indicates the surrounding sea of vines. “Now we have 25 hectares. They are dotted around the village in small parcels, none more than three kilometres from the winery. All are hand-harvested.”

Stavros’s father originally planted western varietals such as Sauvignon Blanc, Cabernet Sauvignons, Merlot and (not an obvious choice, this) Ugni Blanc. It is only in the last five years that he and Stavros have begun serious plantings of indigenous varietals. This seems to be a common theme on my trip. Now the area is best known for Assyrtiko, Limnio, Roditis and Agiorgitiko. Angeliki explains that Drama’s continental climate, rich soil, and gentle slopes provide ideal conditions. The result is low yields per hectare and a low volume wine production.

Like the other producers on my visit, they are trying to buy other plots throughout the area, but the locals are not stupid and are holding out for higher prices.  “What can you do?” asks Stavros, as we climb back into the car and charge back to the winery, where Stavros directs us into the tasting room.

“Let the tasting begin,” he announces.


  • Estate White 2015 (Chardonnay Sauvignon Blanc 60/40). Lovely nose, very inviting, simple, steeliness of the Sauvignon toning down the rich peach and guava of the Chardonnay. Great balance
    in the mouth, very easy drinking.
  • Malagousia 2015 – fabulous nose, very very lively, vibrant, a touch of the zibbibo.
  • Exis White (Malagousia/Assyrtiko) 2015 – creamy nose, touches of ice cream sundae, spicy palate, but beautifully balanced, acidity started to tail off now.


  • Estate Red (Cabernet Sauvignon/Merlot/Syrah) 2011 – dark fruit, restrained at first, then opening out after ten minutes, soft vanilla, very easy drinking. According to Stavros, this is what defines Drama.
  • Exis 2015 (Xinomavro/Limnio)– lovely creamy nose, serious fruit, brooding, fruits of the forest. Good food wine

On the way back to the airport, I muse on my visit. In a world awash with Cabernet and Chardonnay, the 300-plus varieties of Greece – including Xinomavro, Assyrtiko, Agiorgitiko and the undoubted king, Malagousia – offer a wonderful point of difference. Steve was 20 years ahead of the rest of us, so we are all trying to catch up. The best way to convince yourself of this, of course, is to visit the estates on which they are produced, so with apologies for those great producers I haven’t visited on this trip – Gaia, Monemvasia and Idaia – here are my five picks from the trip:

  • Alpha Estate Axia White 2015 (Assyrtiko/Sauvignon Blanc) – nervy and steely and poised; like a highly-strung filly panting in the starting gate. It is beautifully balanced. The acidity feels understated, but the wine stays in the mouth for an eternity, lingering like a love song.
  • Gerovassiliou Estate White (Malagousia/Assyrtiko blend) 2016 – roll out the barrels: this is a stunner! Beautiful nuances of cream, peach and tangerine, then moving on to soft spiciness in the mouth, white pepper, jasmine, exotic, something of the souk about it. Just bottled.
  • Gerovassiliou Avaton (Limnio, Mavroudi, Mavrotragano) 2013 – interesting wine, this. The deep black fruit is obvious, but running through this is a fault line of minerality. It has an edginess to it. Poised, like a gymnast.
  • Biblia Chora Estate Red 2012 (Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, Limnio) – a fantastic and classy nose, definitely claret-like. Beautifully integrated into the oak, real concentration of flavours and well balanced. Although aspiring to favour the indigenous varietals, this becomes my wine of the trip.
  • Manolesakis Estate Red (Cabernet Sauvignon/Merlot/Syrah) 2011 – dark fruit, restrained at first, then opening out after ten minutes, soft vanilla, very easy drinking.

A Great Greek Trip – Day Two

At the foot of a master…

Like a lot of great men, the thing which strikes you about Vangelis Gerovassiliou is his humility. Here we are, Chris Losh and I, on the second day of our Greek trip, sitting on the deck of Gerovassiliou’s ocean-going liner of a winery, and he resolutely refuses to gloat when we keep bringing up the subject of his 1990’s single-handed resurrection of the then almost extinct Malagousia grape. Softly spoken, he is a man for whom a shrug of the shoulders says more than a dozen words.


“I had a lot of help. I was working a vintage in Bordeaux and was intrigued by what they were achieving. I got to know Peynaud. Emile Peynaud. I was introduced to him by Corinne Mentzelopoulos from Margaux.” (If this was anyone else, you’d think they were name-dropping, but Vangelis looks almost embarrassed, muttering under his breath about “luck.”)

“Peynaud liked the potential of the grape when I first micro-vinified it and so I planted four hectares at Domaine Porto Carras, where I was working. He convinced me to continue with my experiments, so I set about developing it during my twenty-five years at Carras.”

It has not been an easy ride. “In the 80s everyone attacked us for drip irrigating. Now everyone irrigates. But you learn something new every year. This year, for instance, we had a lot of rain in the spring and I was worried, But in actual fact, this has turned out to be the best vintage for a long time. So maybe we should irrigate more.”

So what about the wines?

• Estate White (Malagousia/Assyrtiko blend) 2016 – roll out the barrels: this is a stunner! Beautiful nuances of cream, peach and tangerine, then moving on to soft spiciness in the mouth, white pepper, jasmine, exotic, something of the souk about it. Just bottled.
• Malagousia 2015 – big, rich and textured, good body and satisfying round. Spices in the mouth, warm, enveloping. A foodie wine.
• Sauvignon Blanc 2015 – a lovely wine. Serious nose, Loire-type grassiness, touches of white pepper. In the mouth it is rich and complex with a hint of salted caramel meandering through the palate.
• Museum Collection 2014 (a blend of the major whites – Malagousia, Assyrtiko, Viognier, Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc) – Complex nose, stone fruits, quince, almond ice cream, incredible concentration of fruit and a long finish redolent of dried apricots.

But I want to taste the 2016s rather older bottled stock. Thankfully, Vangelis can sense this and I see him sneaking off to the winery, returning minutes later with tank samples of the 2016 whites. We wait in anticipation while he opens the Malagousia, then bury our heads in the glass. Some things stay with you for a long time, they play on your memory. This is such a wine. Thinking of words to write, what comes to mind is that it somehow sits between a Chablis and a Sancerre, having the steeliness of one and the richness of the other.


The Viognier has that lovely just-cut apricot smell. It lingers, it fills the room as I bend to write. But the maestro is not happy. Vangelis shakes his head and says we must waits few minutes. He thinks it is too closed.  So we wander away and look at other wines, but I’ve got one eye on my glass in the corner. After ten minutes Vangelis beckons us back, a quiet smile on his face. And now the wine leaps out of the glass like a salmon. This is a speedball of fruit. My mouth wants to explode. The mouth is filled with a wonderful piercing acidity.

• Estate Red (Syrah, Merlot, Limnio) 2014 – rich stone fruit, a hint of rhubarb. Stylish and smooth on the palate.
• Avaton (Limnio, Mavroudi, Mavrotragano) 2013 – interesting wine, this. The deep black fruit is obvious, but running through this is a fault line of minerality. It has an edginess to it. Poised, like a gymnast. It reminds me of the first time I ever tasted Mavrud, in Bulgaria, 22 years ago.
• Avaton 2016 from tank – Black Forest Gateaux, alcoholic, almost port-like. Massive.

In spite of the fact that we are novices in his company, Vangelis hangs on to our every comment. But there is a hint of mischief in his face, and, when we are finished with our opinions, he drops his bombshell. “Here in Epanomi, the 2016 vintage is the best of the last 30 years.”

Jolly good thing we were complimentary about the 2016s then!

Jim Wilson, Portfolio Director

A Great Greek Trip – Day One

No matter how many times you do it, there’s always something disconcerting about being deposited by the late night budget airline into a small, unfamiliar European city. Bleary-eyed passengers shuffle unseeing through the dimly-lit concrete arrivals hall and emerge into a cold night, now blinking against the harsh light of the bus concourse. Thessaloniki is considered an open-air museum of Byzantine art, according to VisitGreece, but tonight it’s pitch dark and we’re hungry, and all we pray for is a taxi.

But there are times in your life when you’re really grateful to be a wine buyer, especially when you work with producers such as Evangelis Gerovassiliou – the Godfather of Malagousia – who has arranged for us to be picked up. Minutes after landing we are whisked off in a cab (how guilty you feel, looking back at the queues for the airport bus) that winds its way us through the industrial surrounds of the airport to an amazingly funky restaurant, Duck Private Cheffing (some name!) where Evangelis treats us to carpaccio of swordfish, eggs sprinkled with black truffles (brought into the restaurant by a mate of his who tells us they come from Mount Olympus!), grilled langoustine, lobster, grouper and seabass. And four desserts. Four.

But to work.

I’m here on a long-awaited trip to visit some of our producers in northern Greece (and about time, too) and next morning, in the company of Imbibe’s Chris Losh, I am driving through the flat scrub hinterland of the city towards Amyndeo’s hazy, golden and tawny coloured hills which offer the promise of kind things.

Immediately upon arrival at Ktima Alpha, you feel at home. The winery is new, linear, cool, classy. The affable export manager, Kostas Arvanitakis – a touch of the Danny de Vito here – greets us expansively, takes our bags and whisks us away on a tour of the vineyards.


The estate was founded in 1997 by the experienced viticulturist Makis Mavridis and chemist-oenologist Angelos Iatridis. The winery and the 105-hectare vineyards are situated midway between two huge lakes on land which was previously underwater. “Here they have found many fossils, including some mammoth fossils,” explains Kostas, as we watch two falcon hawks glide overhead.

The vineyards are in immaculate condition. Ktima Alpha was the first vineyard in Europe to install subsoil irrigation pipes – in 1995 – and now have 500 kilometres of them. “That would get you from London to Newcastle,” I helpfully explain to fellow northerner Chris.

“We have fifteen varietals in production, with another twelve on an experimental basis, “ says Kostas, pausing to show us the prized 93-year old xinomavro vineyards; the winery’s Xinomavro Reserve regularly tops the bill as the best Greek red in international competitions.


“But still, I’d love to have a crack at Riesling.”

I tell him we’re more interested in indigenous varietals, but Kostas points out: “Yes, but blends are important to the consumer because they allow him to be introduced to obscure Greek varietals.”

Alpha is on a journey to increase awareness of Amyndeo, often in the shadows of its bigger cousin Naoussa down the road. Alpha are renting a satellite from the University of Athens to provide photographs to allow them to ascertain ripening potential. “We make our data available to the local winemakers. If we can help them, then we increase awareness of Amyndeo.” It seems to be working. Vineyard land is increasing in the region, in contrast to much of the rest of the country.

The €20 million investment in the winery is obvious. The winery is sparkling. We pose by the horizontal rotating fermenters, the French oak barrel room, the R&D department – “Angelos’ playground,” according to Kostas.


As we head towards the tasting, Chris asks him about the influence of awards and press comments. Kostas tells us that of all the awards the winery has won, gaining a spot in Wine Spectator’s Top 100 Wines in late 2015 for the Alpha Malagousia Turtles Vineyard had the biggest impact on sales. “That got us noticed.”

We taste 22 wines, highlights being:


  • Axia White 2015 (Assyrtiko/Sauvignon Blanc) – nervy and steely and poised; like a highly-strung filly panting in the starting gate. It is beautifully balanced. The acidity feels understated, but the wine stays in the mouth for an eternity, lingering like a love song. I announce this grandly. Kostas looks bemused, but does reveal that Australia’s Peter Barry has planted assyrtiko and has released his first commercial batch.


  • Xinomavro Hedgehog 2013 – masses of juicy just-pressed curranty fruit on the nose, ripe strawberry fruits, pomegranates, sweet, almost unctuous. Beautifully smooth in the mouth, oak integrated, soft tannins. Really gorgeous.
  • Xinomavro Reserve 2012 – classy elegant, Mayfair gentleman’s club on the nose, leather, sophisticated, Prime Minister’s Question Time – important and significant. Alcoholic, leather chairs, cigar smoke.
  • Xinomavro Reserve 2005 – right out of the top drawer. Serious, deep, moody, a big novel of a wine. Surprisingly upfront fruit, but in the mouth it is textured, gamey, supply and leathery. Perfect balance. Still got lots and lots of time.
  • Alpha Estate SMX (Syrah, Xinomavro, Merlot) 2013 – very soft, supply, an athletic wine, limbering up, ready to crush the oppo, good acidity, mocha, coffee, a touch of orange.

And then we have lunch. And this is what we have (unbelievably): lentils, eggplant, grilled cheese with red pepper jam, risotto, wild boar with pasta, steak, beef in muscat sauce. And three desserts. Lunch ends at 6.45.

It’s good to be in Greece.

Jim Wilson, Portfolio Director