ALS – The Emergence of a New Extreme Terroir Dry White Wine from Santorini…

ALS is the exceptional new creation from three young Greek winemaking talents in Yiannis Papaoikonomou, Ilias Roussakis and Alexis Kolovos. Yiannis Papaoikonomou studied oenology in Athens before coming to Santorini in 2009 to work at Domaine Sigalas, where he worked as a vineyard manager (under the guidance of a consultant) and as an assistant winemaker. In 2013, Yiannis left Santorini to go to Chile (Vina Maquis), New Zealand (Oyster Bay) and France (Chapoutier) for further work experience and in 2015 he finally returned to Santorini to literally help build the Vassaltis Winery from scratch with Ilias Roussakis.

Ilias studied agronomy in Athens and oenology in Montpellier. He started to work in Santorini’s vineyards, working at Sigalas and Hatzidakis while he also worked at T-Oinos on the island of Tinos as chief oenologist. His broad based experience helped him to consult at wineries all around the Cycladic islands with great success. The third member of the team behind ALS is Alexis Kolovos, who originally studied agronomy and now works as a landscape architect all around the Cyclades. But his goal was always to manage a vineyard and finally with the ALS project, this has become a reality.

While sharing the same vision for Santorini’s terroir, there is also a strong friendship that connects the three ALS partners. In 2015, they finally got the opportunity to rent a vineyard in Imerovigli with a 25 year contract…. that you can find on Google maps at:

36.436530570174845, 25.423992561987845

The vineyard is 2,5ha and certainly wasn’t in a great condition when they took it on. Year after year, they started renting more vineyards and also started renting fields to convert into vineyards. They created a company which today runs 6,5ha of healthy, productive vineyards in Vourvoulos, Oia, Megalochori and Imerovigli.

While most of their grapes are now sold to wineries like Vassaltis, they just couldn’t resist the temptation to vinify a part of their own grape yields and so in 2018 they decided to make their first wine. With the help of their good friend Nikos Chatzakis, a fellow winemaker on the island of Syros, who agreed to host them and allow them to vinify ALS in a corner of his premises, their first pure Assyrtiko creation was born.

Selecting the only the very best clusters from every plant, they harvested their first grapes on the evening of the 19th of August 2018, loading a refrigerated truck before taking the ferry across to Syros. Four hours later they were pressing the Assyrtiko whole bunch grape clusters in a pneumatic press. They kept the juice in a tank for a day, with low temperatures to let it clarify a little and then racked the wine the following day. The juice was pumped gently into their small inox tank where the fermentation took place at 20-21 degrees centigrade with selected yeast. The wine stayed on its lees for 12 months with battonage for 4 months before being bottled on the 11th of July and spending an additional 16 months in the bottle before being released. The current release is still the 2018 but they also produced 1,300 bottles in 2019, 2020 and 2021. From 2022, they hope to increase their production quantity.

ALS Extreme Terroir Dry White Wine 2018, 14%, Greece

RS 2.5 | pH 2.97 | TA 6.8 | VA 0.4

This is certainly a unique expression of Assyrtiko unlike any other wines I have tasted from Santorini to date. With 12 months ageing on its lees in tank and a further 16 months ageing in bottle, the aromatics show complex layers of bruised yellow orchard fruits, bees wax, ripe pears, chamomile tea, briney sea breeze salinity and pronounced mineral nuances of crushed basalt and gravel. There are some truly alluring, dusty, leesy notes but the nose still retains impressive purity, focus and depth. The palate is broad, plump and quite glycerol with soft, creamy, spicy yellow fruits, green herbal tea nuances, spicy almonds and walnuts and then yet more savoury peachy, salty, briney maritime complexity. This certainly is a very impressive maiden release white wine with exceptional depth, palate concentration and a mellow, harmonious balance. The wine coats the palate and from the last swallow, the flavours resonate with leesy, savoury intensity and persistence for over a minute before the clean, soft acids bring the extravaganza to a final curtain call. An extraordinary creation. (Only 1,300 bottles were produced)

(Wine Safari Score: 95/100 Greg Sherwood MW)