VRINIOTI WINERY | Gialtra Evia - June 21st, 2015
posted on 15/07/2015

Finally time for another wine trip! In the middle of June, just a few days after my WSET exams, we can finally close the books and start our wine explorations again. This trip has been decided a little while ago and mainly organized by our friends Vassilis and Helen. Our destination is Vrinioti Winery in Gialtra Edipsos, Northern Evia!

 

The route to Gialtra by car, via Chalkida

 

Evia is the second largest island of Greece after Crete. Its size and the fact it is linked to the Greek mainland don’t make us feel we are in an island however. In any case, it is a place with extremely diverse landscapes and beautiful nature. Evia topography can be divided into three sections: South Evia which is rockier and wilder, reminiscent of the Cyclades. Central Evia is mostly mountainous and reminiscent of Central Greece, while the Northern part has similar vegetation, waters and charm to nearby Pelion. Although the ferry boat journey from Arkitsa is much easier and relaxing, we chose to get to Northern Evia by road via Halkida to enjoy nature. Our destination Gialtra is located in the Northwest tip of Evia, bordering the North Evian Gulf.

 

 

Stop for coffee at Limni Evias

 

Arrival at the spectacular Vrinioti Winery!


We had seen many winery photos and appreciated its views and beauty long before our actual visit. Nevertheless it is much more beautiful in reality! Upon arrival, we met Kostas Vriniotis, his wife Thomais and their child, George. As always we started our conversation from the winery history. How did it all begin?

 

A new planted vineyard with Assyrtiko and Vradiano, with the exotic Gialtra beach on the background

 

Their story begins in 1850 from the Kostas’ great grandfather who was growing grapes and making wine having built a stone wine press in the yard, still in place. At that time the whole area seen from this gorgeous balcony was planted with vines exclusively with a local red variety named Vradiano. The massive phylloxera attack in 1955 and killing of vines forced the growers to thoroughly replant their vineyards during the whole next decade, mainly with gray variety Roditis and white Savatiano. At the same time the local cooperative was founded and it absorbed the entire grape production of the region for years.

 

 

Chatting with Kostas Vriniotis

 

Relaxing at the vineyard


Some years later Kostas Vriniotis, a grape grower himself, started working in the cooperative. He learned enough there about winemaking before starting his own venture Vrinioti Winery in 2002. In 1995 he planted the first vines with white varieties Assyrtiko and Malagouzia and red varieties Syrah and Vradiano. Later on they also planted the white varieties Monemvasia and Aidani. In 2002 the first wines were bottled in another winery’s rented facilities, while the first bottling in the current winery took place six years later. Apart from the magnificent view to the Evian Gulf, the mesoclimate is also ideal for producing exceptional wines: the proximity to the sea and the beneficial breeze offers mild summers without extreme heatwaves, with cool nights and mild winters with sparse rains and snowfalls.

 

 

Preparations for BBQ!

 

Waiting for the charcoal with Assyrtiko Sur Lie 2011 in our glasses

 

 

Grilled to perfection!

 

Standing next to 0,4 hectare of Syrah -planted in 1998- intended for 'Syrah Wild'!


Let’s now take a short tour around the winery: the room with storage tanks, the wine cellar with wooden oak barrels and the bottling line. The winery currently produces 50.000-60.000 bottles annually from almost exclusively owned vineyard grapes. Their aim is to gradually increase production, but in any case they are not to exceed 100,000 bottles. The oak barrels are either new or used up to five years and renewed annually by about 15%.

 

 

Exploring the view with binoculars

 

At the wine tanks room

 

 

In the barrel cellar...

 

...where the red wines of the winery are maturing!


We return to the courtyard and Kostas fires the barbeque. The tasting of wines was very casual and relaxed this time; we tried the first wine standing while barbequing, while the rest wines we tried at the table with the wonderful cooking of Thomai and exemplary grilled meats by Kostas! I had a notepad next to my plate, so here are my wine-tasting notes:

 

  • Assyrtiko Sur Lie 2011 - We started with an incredible four years’ old white wine that shows the quality level of the winery right from the start: lemon, grapefruit, saltiness and a very characteristic minerality (wet pebbles) that –with the exception of its moderate alcohol at 12.8% abv- it can easily be mistaken with some of the legendary Santorini Assyrtiko in a blind tasting. High but perfectly balanced acidity, with beautiful structure due to the Sur Lie method (maturation on fine lees) and very slightly developed character (in spite of its four years of age), with a long aftertaste. I asked Kostas how this similarity with Santorini Assyrtiko is explained and he replied the soils are mostly stony with sulfur compounds; don't forget we are not far from the thermal baths of Aidipsos. The vines are also cultivated at an altitude of 400 meters, at Mount Telethrio. Annual production is 2,000 bottles and suggested retail price is € 10 –I call this a bargain!


  • IAMA Red 2010 (50% Vradiano, 50% Syrah) – We tasted decanted IAMA red in three vintages starting from 2010: Ripe, jammy red fruit, red cherries and very ripe and sweet tannins. A wine that is stylistically reminiscent of New World wines, exuberant, juicy, generous. Alcohol at 13% abv, annual production of 10,000 bottles and suggested retail price is € 9.


We cannot really identify Vradiano since we taste it blended with Syrah, so we ask Kostas to describe its features. He tells us it is a very vigorous and productive variety that requires fairly low yields to achieve aroma and flavor concentration (yields are 6 tons of grapes per hectare for IAMA). The variety matures slowly, has no deep color and has high acidity and tannins. It features aromas of sweet spices (cinnamon, cloves) and red fruit. We will have a better picture when and if there is a varietal version of Vradiano at some point; for now we are enjoying the excellent blend with Syrah!


In the meanwhile the weather is changing rapidly: the clouds thicken and a sudden summer storm forces us move inside. But it is still beautiful and atmospheric; we carry on tasting!

 

  • IAMA Red 2011 (60% Vradiano, 40% Syrah) - Much more rigorous and elegant wine with bigger aging potential and more acidic red fruits (strawberries, red berries), iodine notes and more intense tannins. Fermentation and malolactic conversion take place in tanks and later the wine matures in French oak barrels for 12 months. Slightly higher alcohol at 13.5% that we feel lower due to high acidity and marginally ripe fruit.

  • IAMA Red 2012 (60% Vradiano, 40% Syrah) - Although this warmer vintage ceased a rise in alcohol even further to 14% it is stylistically similar to 2011, mainly because of the slightly sour red fruits and iodine sensation. Exemplary discreet oak character and slightly ripe tannins. In the mouth it feels warmer though (a recognizable +1% abv above 2010) but it suits the wine!

  • IAMA White 2014 (60% Malagouzia, 40% Assyrtiko) - A very charming, fresh white wine with a nose reminiscent of stone fruits (peach, apricot), grapefruit, green apple. Moderate alcohol (12.5%), wonderfully refreshing, absolutely summery. Annual production is 100,000 bottles and suggested retail price is € 9.

  • Assyrtiko Sur Lie 2013 - Very interesting! Compared to 2011 we tested before, it has quite a different character. More tropical fruits on the nose; mango, ripe peaches, herbs, chamomile and honey. It has an exotic character reminiscent of Alsace wines and less of a mineral, Santorini-like character compared to 2011, while it feels a little more developed too. In any case it is exceptional. Alcohol at 13.5%.

  • "G" 2012 (100% Vradiano) - Fortified sweet wine from red Vradiano, producing only 600 500ml size bottles annually. The wine is copper in color and has aromas of flowers, potpourri, marzipan, sweet rose and Turkish delight. Mouth aromas are similar to the above, with an additional toffee sensation and excellent balance. Skin contact prior to fermentation, bleeding of Vradiano destined to red IAMA in its pink stage, arresting fermentation at 6 Baumé and maturation in oak barrels for two years. Proposed shelf price is € 18.
 

A laid-back wine-tasting, with tasteful food!

 

We sampled Assyrtiko Sur Lie 2011 and 2013

 

Kostas Vriniotis presenting his wines

 

White and red IAMA side-by-side...

 

 

  

Kostas Vriniotis

  The extraordinary balcony of the winery...

 

 

And our Company...

 

...chilling out!

 

An exceptional effort by Vriniotis Winery, resulting to wines with real character. A private family initiative that has put Northern Evia on the Greek wine map with considerable potential. Since this great wine range is complemented by the stunning views, the beautiful beach nearby and the excellent hospitality of Kostas and Thomais Vrynioti, then we can safely talk about a very tempting wine tourism offering!

 

Kostas, Thomais and little George we thank you all for your hospitality! Helen and Vassilis thank you for the great idea! We wish you all a lovely summer and a great 2015 vintage!

 

Photos: Stavroula Mariamou

 

Gregory Kontos, DipWSET


Wine writer and taster, sommelier graduate and WSET Diploma holder, with an appreciation for food, traveling, music, friends and bon vivant things in general. Co-partner at Aegean Food Exports and founder of Aegean Wine Selections, a Company focused in Greek wine exports. He is married to Stavroula Mariamou and they have a son. 

 

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