Another Epic White Assyrtiko Release From the Vassaltis Winery in Santorini…

The Vassaltis Winery is the latest addition to Santorini’s booming wine culture, with construction completed in April 2016. Yiannis Valambous, together with oenologists Elias Roussakis and Yannis Papaeconomou, who complete the team, share the vision that Santorini can produce world class wines and that a new generation of Greek winemakers can deliver big results, given the opportunity.

Typically, in the winery, after the gentle pressing of whole bunch clusters, they allow the free run juice vinification to take place in stainless steel tanks under controlled temperature. The wine remains on its lees for 6 months in the tank before bottling.

Vassaltis Assyrtiko 2017, DO Santorini, 13.8 Abv.

The latest release from Yiannis Valambous’ Vassaltis Winery is another absolute cracker. Pale straw yellow, the aromatics show incredible intensity and complexity with layers of crunchy green pear, pithy apple, white citrus, almonds skins and a most captivating maritime note that wafts out the glass. An incredible mix of salty sea breeze, kelp beds, rain drenched concrete and crushed granite minerality mix with notes baking herbs, dried straw and yellow pithy orchard fruits. The palate shows an impressive grown up restraint and displays vibrant fleshy layers of yellow stone fruits, yellow grapefruit and white peach, all underpinned by a tantalising salty, briney twang and chiselled, crystalline fresh acids. A really profound white wine that serves as a flag-bearer for the island of Santorini and its iconic Assyrtiko variety. Drink now to 2028+

(Wine Safari Score: 94+/100 Greg Sherwood MW)

http://www.vassaltis.com

Vassaltis Vineyards Pushing The Boundries of Quality and Style – Revisiting the Maiden Santorini Assyrtiko Barrel Aged 2015 White…

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)

San Lorenzo SW19 Restaurant and Importer Wimbledon Wine Cellars Hosts An Amazing Greek Fine Wine Extravaganza…

18 months after my last epic trip to the Greek Island of Tinos to visit the exciting premium winery of T-Oinos, I recently had another great opportunity to taste a broad selection of offerings from four premium Greek wineries. With some exceptional whites and reds paired with delicious food prepared by Wimbledon Hill restaurant institution San Lorenzo, the scene was set for another Greek fine wine extravaganza in London.

Hosted by their UK importer Wimbledon Wine Cellars, Vassaltis, T-Oinos Clos Stegasta, La Tour Melas and Nopera wineries presented current and new releases to an eager, thirsty audience. While I have never doubted the quality of the wines on show, the occasion served as yet another reminder to reinforce just how world class some of these wines really are.

With Yannis Valambous of Vassaltis.

Greek wines are on the ascendancy, with many nearing a level of mainstream consumer fine wine acceptance on par with other mediterranean countries like Italy and Spain. Plenty of hard work still lies ahead, especially for some of the reds, but overall, the future for premium Greek wineries and wine drinkers is very bright indeed.

Rose Flight

La Tour Melas Idylle D’Achinos Rose 2016

Pristinely pure, dry and mineral with a seductive kiss of strawberry and cherry fruits, taught fresh acids and a delicious liquid minerality on the finish. Just add sunshine!

(Wine Safari Score: 92/100 Greg Sherwood MW)

White Flight 1

Vassaltis Assyrtiko 2015 (Magnum), Santorini, 13.5 Abv.

Lovely yellow pithy citrus, white peach, salty sea breeze notes. Impressively dense core of fruit, wonderful concentration and minerality, beautifully embroidered by a fresh, briney acidity. Such class and depth. A real beauty.

(Wine Safari Score: 94/100 Greg Sherwood MW)

T-Oinos Assyrtiko (Amphora) 2016, Tinos, 14 Abv.

Taught crisp white blossom, crushed granite and yellow citrus on a restrained, very sophisticated nose. Superbly saline on the palate with tart green apple, bruised white peaches and yellow grapefruit … tasted on a misty, sea spray swept beach. Another sublime pinnacle for the Assyrtiko grape.

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

White Flight 2

Vassaltis Assyrtiko 2016 (Barrel Fermented), Santorini, 13.7 Abv.

Incredibly complex, mineral, yellow stone fruit notes with an expertly judged hint of sappy, resinous oak spice. Beautifully textured palate, pithy, vibrant and saline but with more breadth and creamy depth. Saline, spicy, piquant finish. What a beauty.

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

T-Oinos Assyrtiko (Barrel Fermented) 2016, Tinos, 14 Abv.

Fabulously crystalline and bright, this expression shows such tension, minerality together with bruised orchard fruits, yellow apples and sweet ripe lemon peel notes. Seemlessly cool, fine boned palate with impressive intensity, liquid minerality, green apple pastille fruits and a long, lingering finish.

(Wine Safari Score: 94/100 Greg Sherwood MW)

Red Flight 1

La Tour Melas Cyrus One 2016, 14 Abv.

Merlot / Cabernet Franc / Agiorgitiko

Rich ripe expressive nose packed with earthy red berries, sweet red plums, cassis and hints of sour cherry. So pure and attractive, the palate is finely balanced, pitching creamy black berry, vanilla pod spice and buttered brown toast notes dusted with dried herbs and spice. Approachable and accessible. Lovely.

(Wine Safari Score: 92/100 Greg Sherwood MW)

La Tour Melas Palies Rizes 2013, 14 Abv.

Rich, plush nose, intoxicating perfume of sweet cherry blossom, violets and red berry liquor notes. Sweet confit, intense and ripe fruit expression from 110 year old ungrafted Agiorgitiko vines. Plush, intense, and texturally very opulent.

(Wine Safari Score: 93/100 Greg Sherwood MW)

T-Oinos Mavro 2012, Tinos, 13 Abv.

Sweet raisined black berries, earthy cherry and bruised black plums. Lovely earthy graphite notes, superb lacy tannins and real elegance. Subtle hints of black liquorice and black cherry linger on a long, cool, restrained, elegant finish.

(Wine Safari Score: 93/100 Greg Sherwood MW)

Red Flight 2

T-Oinos Clos Stegasta Marvrotragano (Magnum) 2013, Tinos

Delicious classical depth of black cherry, graphite, tart black cherry and earthy cassis berries. Creamy, dense, very textural, there are tantalising liquorice hints, black berry, salty graphite notes and a long opulent, luxurious finish. Real character and class.

(Wine Safari Score: 94/100 Greg Sherwood MW)

La Tour Melas 2015, 14.5 Abv.

Cabernet Franc, Merlot, Agiorgitiko

Rich dark broody nose full of black cherry, kirsch liquor, blue berry, graphite and a spicy, cedary, dried herb notes. Quite sweet fruited and opulent, very lush, there is an attractive cassis and black plum confit length. Front loaded with fruit, less minerality. Delicious sweet texture with fine length.

(Wine Safari Score: 92/100 Greg Sherwood MW)

La Tour Melas 2014 (Magnum), 14.5 Abv.

Finely piquant, laced with violets, cedar and wood spice with an underlay of ripe cassis, black plum, cassis leaf and saline, fresh black cherry spice. Definite classical under tone of graphite and dried herbs, but the tannins are quite resolved, soft and spicy. Drinking well now.

(Wine Safari Score: 92+/100 Greg Sherwood MW)

Sweet Flight

Nopera Epitome Muscat de Samos, 13.5 Abv.

Sweet bruleed orange peel, tarte tatin, sweet old honey and marmalade. Lifted by orange zest, grapefruit confit and citrus complexity. Rich, finely textured and integrated acids balanced with toffee apple, caramel and sweet, rich opulent concentration from grapes of vines over 100 years old. Delicious, real class.

(Wine Safari Score: 94+/100 Greg Sherwood MW)

San Lorenzo Restaurant is located at 38 Wimbledon Hill Road, SW19, London.

Tel: 0208 946 8463

Assyrtiko – The Grape and the Winery That Could Show South Africa the Way Forward… 

In the wake of the Greek financial crisis in 2010, Yannis Valambous, who lived around the corner from my shop in South Kensington, came in and bid his farewell, saying he was heading back to Greece to open a winery. Needless to say, I rolled my eyes, wished him all the best and thought he might possibly be the craziest or bravest individual I knew. And that was the last I heard from him… until 2016.


Yiannis returned to Santorini, his childhood holiday destination, with a plan that was part dream, part folly, which was to revive the family vineyards he inherited from his father and create a modern, state-of-the-art, boutique winery.

Fast forward and the Vassaltis Winery is now the latest addition to Santorini’s booming wine culture, with construction completed in April 2016. Together with Oenologists Elias Roussakis and Yannis Papaeconomou, who complete the team, they share the vision that Santorini can produce world class wines, and that a new generation of Greek winemakers can deliver big results, given the opportunity.
Typically, the white wine vinification takes place in stainless steel tanks, under controlled temperature. The wine remains on its lees for 6 months, in the tank before bottling.


Vassaltis Assyrtiko 2016, DO Santorini, 13.5 Abv.

A deceptively dark straw colour, this wine is as fresh as a Greek Spring morning. The nose is so pronounced and precise being an incredible mix of salty sea breeze, kelp beds, crushed granite, dried orange peel and dusty dried baking herbs. But there is also an undertone of richness and citrus fruit freshness that follows to a palate of vibrant yellow stone fruits, white peach, grapefruit, mineral austerity, and a saline, tart acidity. But with all great Assyrtiko whites, the over riding influence is maritime, salty, mouth watering acidity and rasping, mesmerising mineral austerity. A wine Eben Sadie in the Swartland would be proud to have made, which is a real badge of honour! Drink now to 2025+

(Wine Safari Score: 94/100 Greg Sherwood MW)

The winery is open to visitors year-round, in addition to tours that introduce visitors to the indigenous grape varieties of the island and the unique viticultural practices that have been a tradition in Santorini for centuries.

Vassaltis Vineyards Winery:

Vourvoulos, Santorini

84700, Greece

Contact: Yannis Valambous

Tel: +30-22860-22211 

Fax: +30-27110-544450

info@vassaltis.com

http://www.vassaltis.com

Visiting Hours: 11am – 8pm (or by appointment for Groups)

Alternative varieties in South Africa? It’s all Greek to me… 

I’ve had a few days to reflect on my profound recent visit to the Greek Cyclades island of Tinos, the T-Oinos winery and their Clos Stegasta vineyard.

Clos Stegasta Assyrtiko vines on granite soils
Assyrtiko made in barrique, amphora and stainless steel

I’ve always known how hot and dry Greece and its islands can be, but what made this visit extra interesting, is that in 2001/2 the winery and their consulting enologist re-examined 1000+ years of Greek viticulture to decide what indigenous varieties would be the most suited to the sites they were looking to plant on.

Assyrtiko used for Clos Stegasta flagship white

For these granitic, sandy soils, they chose Assyrtiko and Malagouzia. For the reds they chose the noble Mavrotragano and Avgoustiatis. So far, with only 4 or 5 proper vintages under their belt, they are finally starting to hone in on a more assured style and direction for both the whites and the reds.

In South Africa, they may have 350 years of winemaking history to reflect on, but all the varieties planted were brought in from the European diaspora and none were indigenous. Trying to replicate Bordeaux, Burgundy or the Rhone in Africa can come with its challenges. 

After about 30+ years of ‘modern’ viticulture in South Africa, and many false starts, growers are finally finding suitable microclimate sites for cooler climate varieties such as Pinot Noir. But it is the recent attention being paid to new, ‘exotic’ varieties that is drawing a lot of interest. Varieties that could protect the future quality of South African wine as the world heats up and water becomes an even scarcer commodity. Sustainability is the word on everybody’s lips.

Luckily in South Africa, there is a lot of freedom and a real sense of not having to stick to a fixed set of rules. Between 2011 and 2015, fifteen new varieties were planted including Nero d’Avola, Gruner Veltliner, Barbarossa and Alicante Bouchet. 

Eben Sadie and Rosa Kruger at the Cape Wine 2015 Terroir Seminar

But for me, it is undoubtedly what Eben Sadie’s been up to that has captured peoples’ imagination. One of South Africa’s foremost experimental winemakers, he has been toying with new varieties like Grillo and Cataratto from warm climate Sicily as well as Assyrtiko, Agiorgitiko, and Xinomavro from Greece. 

Assyrtiko in Tinos, trained in a gobelet style

Indeed, speaking to Eden Sadie at Cape Wine 2015 last September, he reported fantastic results with Assyrtiko whites, a variety that has shown great drought, heat and sunburn resistance abilities. 

Maverick experimenter Eben Sadie

So having just tasted some very impressive reds and whites in Greece, I’m convinced more than ever that Assyrtiko, as well as some of the noble Greek red varieties, could certainly be the next big wine varieties to go mainstream around the world. 

Watch this space… Australian and South African Assyrtiko whites on merchants’ shelves alongside Greek versions from Santorini and perhaps even Tinos!?