Home to one of the most beautiful sunsets in the world, those lucky enough to have visited this jewel of the Cyclades will know that the same volcano that created Santorini’s dramatic caldera views, also created the volcanic soils that produce some of the world’s most exquisitely fresh and mineral white wines, from local grape Assyrtiko.
Representing the younger generation of winemaking at Vassaltis, Yannis Valambous has brought a passion and an energy to drive quality to the level of fine white Burgundies and Rhones that dominate the world stage. Working with his friend and now colleague Elias Roussakis, an extremely experienced oenologist, they work with their aegean eco system, using only indigenous grape varieties, utilising traditional viticultural practices.
Only last week I tasted the second release of the Vassaltis Barrel Aged Assyrtiko from 2016, a profound white wine that I scored 95 points, possibly my one of my highest ever scores for a Greek white wine. From those Assyrtiko lovers who have not tasted it, I did receive a subtle ridicule for “liking” an oak influenced Assyrtiko so much. To many, this is a grape truly expressive of its volcanic terroir and should not be adulterated or tampered with. But that’s semantics. Assyrtiko works harmoniously with oak if sensitively handled as well as Chardonnay or Pinot Blanc for example.
So, as a pre England v France 6 Nations 2018 rugby match warm up aperitif, I decided to revisit the maiden 2015 Barrel Aged Assyrtiko to put my 2016 note and score in proper context. 🌹🏉🍷
Vassaltis Vineyards Assyrtiko Barrel Aged 2015, Santorini, Greece, 13.5 Abv.
In the 2015 vintage, Vassaltis added a barrel aged Assyrtiko to their range, using low-toast and top-quality French oak to give beautifully well-integrated toasty spice notes and a creamy texture to Assyrtiko’s naturally intense minerality. With another year in bottle since I tasted this wine, the nose remains bold and unbridled, full of rich, pithy yellow orchard fruits, dusty volcanic minerality, sweet smokey tart pineapple pastille fruits and a very subtle, vanilla pod spice allure. On the palate, the Assyrtiko grape characters reign supreme, with vanillary creme brûlée oak notes very much a footnote. The wine retains its profound basalt mineral character, a dusty pithy yellow fruit intensity and a finely integrated, salty, briney finish underpinned by a precise fresh acidity. A vintage of a wine that’s still a stylistic work in progress, but nevertheless, delicious! Drink now to 2025+.
(Wine Safari Score: 93/100 Greg Sherwood MW)