Thursday, April 14, 2016

Wine Art Estate (Mikrochori, Greece): Stellar food and vibrant wines

Wine Art Estate's goal is to demonstrate how well selected indigenous and international varieties perform in the microclimate of its native Drama. And, based on our experiences there during our North Greece tour, they are well on the way to accomplishing that goal.

The estate is the result of a cooperation between two professionals: Yiannis Papadopoulos, a successful civil engineer, and Yiannis Kalïtzidis, an equally successful architect (and, by the way, a "master chef", as I will explain later). Papadopoulos initiated the venture in 1993 by planting a small family vineyard and vinifying the produce. Kalïtzidis joined forces with him two years later. And the rest is history.

We arrived at the estate in the early evening after fairly intense sessions at Stelios Kechris and Ktima Biblia Chora, and long rides in between. We were welcomed warmly by Akis Papadopoulos (son of the founder and winemaker) and his father.

Wine Art Estate at our arrival
Akis and Yiannis Papadopoulos, Wine Art Estate

After introductions, Akis led us into the cellar for a tour. Before proceeding further, though, I would like to provide some details regarding the estate.

The winery, and 16 ha of the estate's 26 ha of vineyards, are located in Mikrochori, a village in the Macedonian prefecture of Drama (see map below). An additional 10 ha of vineyards is being planted in Kali Vrisi, an area close to the Bulgarian border.

Location of Wine Art Estate indicated by red arrow
The climate in Drama is semi-continental with 2017.75 degree days and 264.4 mm of rain annually. The estate's vineyards sit on well-drained, red-brown sandy clay soils which are blessed with good structure and bountiful organic matter (The lower soil layers in Mikrochori are compact). The vineyards lie on south-facing slopes at altitudes ranging between 90 and 275 m.

Wine Art Estate currently plants four indigenous (Assyrtiko, Agiortiko, Limnio) and eight international (Sauvignon Blanc, Chardonnay, Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Syrah, Sangioveses, Nebbiolo, Touriga Nacional) varieties. The scions are spur-pruned on bilateral cordons and are grafted onto a number of rootstocks to include 110R, 140RUG, 1103P, 41B, and SO4. Row orientation is north-south in Mikrochori and west-east in Kali Vrisi.

Now back to the tour of the winery.

The facility is comprised of two structures -- each possessing above- and below-ground aspects -- located on two sides of a bisecting road and connected by a broad underground tunnel which doubles as a barrel storage room. One of the structures serves as the wine production facility while the other services the commercial aspects of the business.

As we went through the cellar, Akis explained its operation as well as their practices. He was especially proud of the rotary fermenter -- employed in red wine production -- and the electronic monitoring system which allows centralized monitoring of tank operations. The winery has a 300,000 bottle capacity.

Source: Wine Art Estate
Source: Wine Art Estate
After our tour of the wine production area we made our way through the tunnel to the building on the other side of the street. Once on the other side we came up one level to the tasting room which had been set up for a wine tasting dinner for the bloggers.

The first wine poured was the 2013 Techni Alipias, an 80/20 Sauvignon Blanc-Assyrtiko blend. The wine was aromatic with a grassy nose accompanying grapefruit and tropical aromas. The minerality and mouthfeel reflected the Assyrtiko contribution. Bright acidity with some bitterness and a lengthy finish. The wine was further complexed by the grilled eggplant with which it was paired.

Grilled Eggplant

The next wine up was a 2015 Malagousia. This wine exhibited fruity and floral aromas and a slight reductiveness. White flower, white peach, white melon. Uber pleasant. Paired with a feta and pesto dish.

Feta with Pesto

Our third dish was a stunning sauteed octopus in olive oil. It was paired with the 2011and 2014 Assyrtikos. The 2011 Assyrtiko was tank fermented. Less mineral than Santorini Assyrtikos. As is the case for all the estate's white varieties, the fruit was sourced from the Kali Vrisi vineyard. Citrus and complex tropical fruit suggestive of riper grapes. Citrus rind. The 2014 Assyrtiko was barrel-aged and showed toast notes and grapefruit. The oak was beautifully integrated. Akis indicated that the toast levels for the barrels were medium.


The 2014 Chardonnay spent six months on oak. Sweet vanilla notes and great acidity. A burnt toast flavor is late-arriving. This could be a Chardonnay in the class of Leeuwin Art Series Chardonnay or Capensis were it not for an overt oak presence.

The Techni Alipias Rosé 2014 is a blend of Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, Sangiovese, and Nebbiolo. A complex nose, inclusive of vanilla notes, but simple on the palate. Paired with a squid risotto.

Squid Risotto

The Techni Alipias Red 2012 is a blend of Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, and Agiorgitiko. On the nose red fruit, raspberry, cocoa, chocolate. Spice and softness on the palate. Ripe fruit. Easy drinking. This was paired with a Beef Loin and Sweet Potato/Carrot side.

Beef Loin with Sweet Potato/Carrot side

After the Tecni Alipias Red, we turned to the varietal red wines: 2010 Syrah, 2011 Merlot, and 2007 Nebbiolo. The Syrah showed notes of meat, blood, fruit and a brambliness. On the palate it was softer and rounder than its Northern Rhone counterparts. The Merlot had a nice nose with dark ripe fruits, chocolate, and earth. Good acidity and a spiciness. The Nebbiolo exhibited traditional tar and roses but, in addition, showed perfumed cassis, nutmeg, and stemminess. The attack was unimpressive but the mid-palate was superb and it ended with a long, elegant finish.

After the final dish was consumed and cleared, the Chef made his way up to the dining room and was revealed to be Yiannis Kalïtzidis, the co-owner. This guy is obviously restless. He was not busy enough in his professional career so he went out and partnered with his friend to found and grow one of the highest-quality wineries in Macedonia. Not satisfied with that, he takes the time to turn out restaurant-quality food to restaurant-sized audiences. Amazingly accomplished man.

Yiannis Kalïtzidis

This was a very pleasant visit for the group. The wines of the estate are of excellent quality and has that characteristic across the board. We encountered many very good wines on this trip but there were only two estates where the quality stayed at an extremely high level across the entire product line. And Wine Art Estate was one of those properties. Unlike the practice at many of its contemporaries, this estate has only three blends, a key tell that it is really focused on the goal of demonstrating the Drama microclimate effects in its wines.

©Wine -- Mise en abyme

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