Greek Alpha, that’s top notch wine from Angelos Iatridis

By Panos Kakaviatos for wine-chronicles

14 May 2015

After interviewing Angelos Iatridis for it took me some time to finally post notes on the wines I tasted at his gorgeous estate in northern Greece. Many thanks to him for welcoming me with such an amazing array of wines while I was in Thessalonika to judge at the International Wine & Spirits Competition. I am in the midst of penning an article on Greek white wines for Decanter but let me just say this: he is making some of the best wines from Greece that I have tasted. OK, I did not like all of them – you can read about that in the enclosed tasting notes – but generally speaking, Angelos and vine grower Makis Mavridis are kicking ass and taking wine names. It is no wonder that his winery was selected to be part of Robert Parker’s unique Matter of Taste Saatchi gallery “Icon Wines of the World” tasting in London this past February.

Tasting held at Alpha Estate on 26 February 2015


An extraordinary tasting at Alpha Estate

Wines in bold I liked particularly, when red and bold even more and when underlined, too, wine nirvana.

Axia Blend Red 2011 PGI Florina. A blend of 50% Xinomavro and 50% Syrah. Made from 25-year-old Xinomavro vines and 15-year-old Syrah vines grown on cooler high altitude vineyards (620-710 meters) on sandy clay soil over limestone. The wine’s rather low pH of 3.35 balances the 14.5% alcohol very well, as the wine comes across as concentrated, suave and with a long and smooth finish. I am quite charmed by this wine’s finesse. 91

Axia Blend Red 2012 PGI Florina. Same blend and terroir as the above only a different vintage. Just as much alcohol but a bit less acidity. It is nonetheless brisk and flavorful, but one gets the impression of slightly less focus as compared to the 2011. 90

Alpha Syrah Turtles 2011 PGI Florina. Love the name! It is made from a vineyard that is similar to the above, but for some reason not as complex. A candied fruit aspect on the attack and then a smooth enough texture marked by Syrah like pepper notes, but the wine lacks the nuance of the preceding blends. Certainly rich at 14.5% alcohol but here I do get a bit of warmth on the finish. 88

Alpha Xinomavro Hedgehog 2009 PDO Amyndeon. Similar soils as above, also similar cool and high altitude but apparently better draining against rains and the vines are 25-year-old 100% Xinomavro. The nose is quite subdued but with subtle red fruit peaking through with aeration. The texture is smooth and elegant with a medium plus body and length, but it lacks just a bit of complexity. Perhaps the heat of the vintage results in a certain monolithic aspect? 88

Alpha Xinomavro Hedgehog 2010 PDO Amyndeon. What a difference a vintage makes. Forget the notion that for Greek wines a vintage does not matter… In this case we see that 2010 had 1.271 degree days as opposed to 2009’s 1.644. Indeed, Angelos explained that the temperatures were not as extreme and that 15 degree Celsius evenings ensured a longer cycle of ripening. And the result? A finer wine. I love the floral character and freshness on the nose. The medium plus bodied palate is elegance and finesse with cool blue fruit of medium plus intensity. A lingering finish makes this lovely. I am going to buy some. 92+

Alpha Xinomavro Old Vines 2008 PDO Amyndeon. Made from 87-year old vines Gobelet training. The label is great and promises something special. Delivered. A lovely vintage, with cool weather that did not lead to any over-ripe notes. Indeed, 13.5% alcohol with 6.6 grams of acidity per liter (and 3.4 grams of residual sugar, completely integrated). I could not believe that this was aged in 100% new oak as that was very well integrated. As often said: oak should be a seasoning and not the main ingredient. The wine is complex with a full body and aromatic notes of herbs and red and black fruit. Very smoothly textured with excellent sap on the mid palate leading to a long lingering finish! Lovely. 92+

Alpha Xinomavro Old Vines 2009 PDO Amyndeon. Like the previous 2009, I get more black fruit and… extraction of tannin. Interestingly the alcohol here was 13.5% as well – and the acidity was even a bit higher. But numbers do not always explain things. Perhaps we can turn to the degree days. Again, there was more sun in 2009 than in 2008, with less coolness. The color of the 2009 is darker, too. A very well made wine, but not as pleasing to my taste for cooler fruit as the 2008 is. 90

Alpha Xinomavro Old Vines 2010 PDO Amyndeon. A cooler fruit vintage. Only the tannin is more present and this would be infanticide really to even think of opening today. Dry herbs, elegant freshness and a sumptuously sap filled mid palate, but with stricter tannin. Buy this and put in your cellar for a few years as it should be something special. Bravo! 92

Alpha Pinot Noir 2011 PGI Florina. I must say that my Burgundy accustomed palate was rather shocked with this. Certainly rich and savory, but a hefty New World style, coming with high extraction (cold soak for 40 days, for example) for my palate, leading to 14.5% alcohol after having been aged in new medium-toasted oak. I would have thought of a cool climate California Pinot. Well made! De gustibus non est disputandum. 87 (score higher if you like the style)

Alpha Estate Blend 2009 PGI Florina. Here a wine where the blending of 60% Syrah, 20% Xinomavro and 20% Merlot was supervised by none other than Eric Boissenot, the talented man behind so many fantastic Medoc wines. Oh, yes, this happens to be the much deserved “flagship” wine of Alpha Estate. Why? Well, in spite of the vintage character, this happens to be the best 2009 I tasted. Sure, it has 14% alcohol and almost 3 grans of residual sugar but a gorgeous ripe tannin lending structure, with a lowish pH of 3.45. A delicious full bodied wine with notes of red and black fruit, and savory pepper and hints of licorice. The new oak is well integrated. Bravo. 92+


Great wine from Alpha Estate

Alpha Estate Blend 2010 PGI Florina. Predictably this is better than the 2009 but in a closed phase. Cooler blueberry combine with blackberry and less noticeable herb notes to make a more complex wine, with more nuances than its older sibling. While the 2009 was more “southern” in approach, I felt like the 2010 is more northern Rhone. Lovely! 93

Alpha Estate Blend 2011 PGI Florina. We seem to be in a vintage that combines the welcoming warmth of the 2009 with the cooler fruit of the 2010. I may like this best at this stage. Spicy, fruit driven and sumptuous with smooth tannin and a long finish. Perhaps my overall favorite. 94

Alpha Utopia 2010 PGI Florina (100% Tannat). Only 9,500 bottles of this wine. Angelos had worked in Madiran and was determined to make Tannat wine. The nose is subtle with some spicy aspects as well as blackberry fruit. The palate is certainy tannic and structured. There is a large scaled aspect to this, and the French word charpente comes to mind. I was not as excited by this as with some of the other wines, as it left me pondering more its structure than its pleasure. But give it time… This may be worth squirling away in your cellar for … later pleasure. 90+

Alpha Utopia 2011 PGI Florina (100% Tannat). Once again, we have a vintage difference. The 2011 is more open than the 2010 and will be ready for drinking sooner. I immediately noticed a richer mid palate. But the wine is far too young to enjoy today. 91+

Excellent Sauvignon Blanc

Excellent Sauvignon Blanc

Alpha One 2008 PGI Florina (100% Merlot). Every year it is something different explained Angelos. A winemaker choice for the grape variety. Coming from a special vineyard, of especially ripe grapes, with malolactic in new oak and then aged in new oak – proudly given the 200% new oak treatment. But I have to disagree with other critics who praise this as the nec plus ultra of the estate. No, for me it is simply too much. The oaky aspects are too prelavent. It may be pre-ordered as the most expensive wine of the estate, but I am happier that the flagship wine costs less as it presents consumers with a better price/quality ratio. 86 (score higher if you like the style)

Alpha One 2008 PGI Florina (100% Negro Amaro). Similar notes to the above. If you like the style, you will probably love this one too! 86 (score higher if you like the style)

Alpha Rose 2014 PGI Florina. The rose exhibits lovely aromatics of fresh strawberry with vibrancy (low pH). A really savory, yet energetic wine. Buy it in time for summer barbecues. I would. 90

Alpha Estate Sauvignon Blanc 2014 PGI Florina. This was one of the best Greek white wines I have had from the very difficult vintage. Smooth and clean nose. Citrus and grapefruit. Kiwi touch as well. Vinified in stainless steel. Just lovely! 92

Alpha Estate Malagouzia 2014 PGI Florina. Is it the slightly higer pH that gives this white less energy than the Sauvignon Blanc? In any case, the wine exudes pleasing aromatics of orange blossom and white flower, rather delicate, with a more green apple aspect on the palate. “We never do malolactic fermentation,” Angelos remarked. A lovely white in a somewhat challenging vintage. 91



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