This blog has led me to travel to the wonderful city of Athens, the capital of Greece! I got into contact with this winery just a little south of Athens International Airport. The winery lies within the center of the town Koropi and is attached to the living quarters of the family of Nikolai. This is actually how they used to build the wineries back in the day. Every house had its own winery! The coolest thing ever, I know! Actually, the winery of Nikolou is the only one left remaining in town, that has maintained its traditional infrastructure. It comes with the most amazing family as well! Their knowledge and hospitality know no limits! They introduced me to this local white grape variety called Savantiano and it amazed me how much possibility this grape has! Savantiano is a grape that is typical for the area, that said so it does not need a lot of water and can withstand drought very well. It grows on so-called bush vines with roots that go deep into the ground in search of water, so the grapes develop a lot of complexity on their own. There is also a lot of wind in the area, sort of similar to the wind you can find on the islands, which makes the vines not that susceptible to deceases. Also, slopes were dug between the vines so the water would be lead through there so the vines are protected from fungal deceases. The winery has been in the family for generations, each of the previous passed on their knowledge and passion so the next generation could lift the winery to a new level. Even though they produce lots of different wines, it is the grape Savatiano that is what makes this a vineyard worth visiting! As said above, Savatiano is a grape that produces wines in many shapes and forms. The most known form in the country is the Retsina wine! Retsina is a wine made from a base and has added extract from pine trees to give it an extra dimension. But the family did something more with it! During my tasting opportunity, I was presented with a Savantiano that was made as a crisp fresh white, just as the grape is. Think of fresh lemons with a touch of sea salt, other fresh citrus notes, and green apples. It is lovely! Nicely matched with oily sardines. Second was the same grape, but now made aging on the lees. The aromas found in the basic Savatiano are still present but complemented by a creamy texture and tones of yeast and bread. There is already a nice herbal dimension present in the wine, which makes it perfectly combined with white meats such as turkey, chicken, or even pork. Of course, seafood works as a perfect marriage, along with so many other cuisines with a Mediterranean touch. Also, creamy cheese does the trick. Think not only of Brie but of local cheeses like Mizithra. This cheese is very creamy as well, and based on sheep’s or goat’s milk, and can be made salty, which can be matched with the touch of salt still present in this wine as well.
The third one was called ‘Botanic Base’ and is in fact a Retsina wine. A Retsina wine is a local specialty from Attica. What makes this wine so special is that they add a certain amount of pine resin to the basic Savatiano wine to give it an extra kick, or should I say a whole new dimension! Literally thousands of years ago, the wine in Greece was kept in amphoras (which is a huge clay jug) and then this was sealed with resin to prevent oxidation. During this process, some of the resin dripped into the wine, giving it a distinctive flavor. From then Retsina was born! The resin brings aromas like almost a wet pine tree forest, after it just rained, along with a lot of herbal notes. This way it is beautifully matched with fish from the BBQ or grilled with lots of herbal flavors. The family of Nikolou uses just the right amount of resin, in order to maintain the beautiful character of the Savatiano grape, so you still find the lemon peel and the saltiness in it. As innovative as the Nikolou family is, they decided to take Retsina to a new level and produced the very first sparkling Retsina, which is really one of a kind! Here the Methode Traditionelle has been used as well, with the second fermentation within the bottle. So come to think about it, this sparkling is actually a combination of the three wines above. You have your basic Savatiano, combined with the aging on lees during the Methode Traditionelle, added with the pine resin. This wine has been called ‘Botanic’ and actually the name already describes the character, which is just full of aging notes and botanical herbs. This wine is just heaven! Match it up with seafood and many other traditional Greek dishes.
And then, just when you think it cannot go any better than this, their orange wine was served on the table! Again made from the famous Savatiano, this wine has been made completely natural, with no added sulfites, wild yeast, no clarification or filtering, and a lot of skin contact! As the color presents itself to be more yellow than orange it is proudly called ‘Savatiano Yellow’, with a taste so unique and complex, it will just blow your mind! Because these grapes come from 60-year-old vines, they already show a lot of complexity and it just becomes more and more after the vinification. Complex aromas of tropical fruits like juicy mango and apricot, orange peel, saltiness, and spices are just the tip of the iceberg. When I tried this wine, I felt like words would never be enough to describe this wine in all its beauty and I was right. because every sip provides you with more and more flavor and complexity. This wine may be hard to match, but then again, so are some of the dishes. And therein lies the match made in heaven. Think of dishes that are so hard to match a wine with, like boiled meats, sharp cheeses such as goat’s cheese, and some blue cheeses it also does very well with lots of vegetarian dishes. Even though this wine has been made without any sulfites, you would be amazed at how well it ages in the bottle.
Apart from the wines I have tasted and described above, there is still a wide range of other delicious wines that Nikolou offers, all made from either local varieties or French with a Greek twist! My only advice after this wonderful experience is just to go try it out for yourself. When you travel to Athens next, take the time to visit this amazing place, where hospitality and good wines know no limit…
The winery can be found below address;
8 N. Ntoyni St. in Koropi (close to Athens International Airport)
Tel: +30 210 60 20 775