Delightful wines made in the Peloponnese by a winemaker from Paphos
It’s the time of the year where many winemakers from abroad visit the island, and the end of January saw those from the Peloponnese descend on the island and present their wines to professionals and the general public. One that flew earlier than the rest was Tselepos. Born in Paphos, Yiannis and his daughter Andriana had the chance to organise tastings of their wines for wine lovers in Nicosia (Pralina Experience), Limassol (Dionysus Mansion) and Paphos (vertical of Merlot based Kokkinomilos at La Bodega). This year sees them celebrate 30 years as a winery.
Many, and not only from Greece, consider the family business of Domaine Tselepos as the real gem of the Peloponnesian vineyard and, I should add, of Greek wine in general.
Following the Turkish invasion, in 1975 Yiannis went to France to try and build his future. He studied oenology in Burgundy, Dijon in particular. He received his degree and then worked in France, Spain and Cyprus before working as a consultant oenologist in various projects in the Peloponnese in 1982. It was there that he was charmed by the Moschofilero grape, being an exotic, fine and delicate variety; so, he decided to remain in the area, buying his first vineyards in 1989 on the eastern slopes of Parnonas mountain range. The purchase and cultivation of privately-owned vineyards in a region where most producers buy grapes is an important fact differentiating Tselepos from others. He can be credited as on one of the pioneers of the Moschophilero grape and was one of the winemakers who contributed to the Greek wine renaissance.
His initial trials with the grape showed that it was a varietal with enormous potential that hadn’t yet been seriously explored. Upon seeing the possibilities, he was really inspired to work with it. In 1989 Yiannis acquired his first small vineyard and planted the first Moschofilero vines as well as some Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot. The truth is that the latter two were fashionable grape varietals, and back then there weren’t any red wines being produced in the region. Later he planted single vineyards of Chardonnay and Gewurztraminer.
Over time he became increasingly convinced of the importance of bringing indigenous Greek varietals into the spotlight and showcasing their potential. This is what led to the eventual creation of the vineyard in the neighbouring region of Nemea, planted with the red indigenous varietal Agiorgitiko.
Today, Tselepos Estate has an annual production of 450,000 bottles in Arcadia, investments in Nemea and Santorini and the production of unique, authentic wines from privately-owned vines and is one of the most remarkable producers and exporters of Greek wine.
The Pralina Experience
The winemaker partnered with the Paphian Sommelier and Manager of Pralina to produce a remarkable food and wine matching. As is customary, the evening started with a sparkling wine named after his wife, Amalia.
Ktima Tselepos Amalia Brut is a 100% Moschofilero using the traditional method for making sparkling wines. The fruit is sourced from a privately-owned vineyard in Perpatiara (Tegea, Arcadia). For the production of Amalia Brut the grapes are picked while their sugar is still low. It gives aromas of lime, lemon, green apple, brioche notes, flower blossom, lychee and sweet spices (anise, clove). Generally, this is a well-made sparkling wine that forms a creamy mousse, thin and continuous bubbles, and it is also more floral, exotic and spicy on the palate with high acidity and moderate alcohol (12%). The perfect drink to welcome us. €17.90
The spinach salad with goat cheese, phyllo pastry and sweet dill dressing was served with 2017 Ktima Tselepos, Moschofilero, Mantinia PDO (€11.95). An aromatic and refreshing summer white, this Mantinia was so beautifully floral on the first whiff I felt I had been transported to a meadow. It has a lot of texture and drinks very (very) well due to refreshing acidity and very reasonable alcohol level, and a very good matching.
Grapes come mostly from the private vineyards of the Chryssou family at Emporio, Akrotiri and Pyrgos for the 2017 Ktima Tselepos, Assyrtiko, Santorini PDO (€25.50), and what an Assyrtiko we had with a sea bream ceviche with avocado, fresh coriander and nigella seeds. With its sea salt, lemon peel and fresh-fruit aromas, this wine offers focus and finesse from the beginning. On the palate, bright lemon and lime peel flavours and a pronounced mineral edge are beautifully integrated. This is a terroir-driven white that’s made for fresh fish dishes.
The red 2015 Ktima Driopi Reserve (€18.90) is poured in our glass with a lamb shank served in red wine sauce. The 100% Agiorgitiko was expertly matched – in 2003 Tselepos purchased a selected 8.5 hectare vineyard in Koutsi Nemea at an altitude of 380 meters making the Driopi Estate. Driopi Reserve comes from a single vineyard with 50-year-old vines. The long extraction and 12-month maturation in new oak barrels have created a structured wine that retains unaltered the character of Agiorgitiko. Driopi Reserve is a rich, complex, robust red wine with a velvety feel that wins you from the moment you first meet. Of course, if you want, you can wait for a while until you enjoy it, since it will cellar for another decade.
The iconic 2015 Avlotopi, Cabernet Sauvignon, Arkadia PGI (€23) was served with the cheese course, Graviera from Sirros with poached pear. This Cab exudes warmth and allure. It is deep garnet in colour and has enticing aromas of dark plum, cocoa powder, dried rose petal and dusty earth, laced with a subtle note of dried sage. The palate is seamless and opulent, featuring decadent dark fruit, finishing with supple, sweet, rich and lengthy tannins. This powerful wine will unfold beautiful layers over time.
Finally the dessert – a smooth pistachio parfait coated with white chocolate served with fresh berries and raspberry mousse served with Amalia Brut Rosé, Methode Traditionnelle (Not available yet). Remarkable matching for a sparkling wine made from Agiorgitiko grape, with this pale pink wine bringing a full bouquet of pleasing floral aromas with hints of red berries. Its flavour is delicate, but vibrant and well-rounded. Just like our evening with Domaine Tselepos wines and the food experience of Pralina.