KTIMA KIR-YIANNI | Amyntaio & Naoussa
posted on 04/04/2016

Ktima Kir-Yianni with two wineries in Western Macedonia, wine culture of decades, cutting-edge technologies, very focused work in the vineyard, innovative marketing and valuable human resources is clearly a thoroughbred horse in the race for Greek wine. The estate was established in 1997 when Yiannis Boutaris, current Mayor of Thessaloniki, decided to take an independent path from the family’s historical wine Company "Boutari", the later exclusively managed by his brother Konstantinos from that point onwards. Yiannis Boutaris, best known in Naoussa as “Kir-Yiannis” (a less formal calling of ‘Mr. Yiannis’) kept the spectacular vineyards at Giannakohori within PDO Naoussa built a new winery within the estate and expanded production to PDO Amynteo, a winemaking zone with exceptional potential. As we wanted to have an overview of their work we visited both wineries in Amyntaio and Naoussa (Giannakohori), with respective visits to nearby vineyards.

 

Kir-Yianni Wines from the Amyntaio winery

 

We visited both Kir-Yianni wineries: firstly in Amyntaio (Agios Panteleimonas, Florina) on the banks of Lake Vegoritida and two days later at Giannakohori Imathias (Naoussa)

 

KTIMA KIR-YIANNI, AMYNTAIO | Tuesday, December 8th


We woke up in the picturesque Nymfaio and kicked off! From Aetos to Agios Panteleimon the route is flat. The area is very famous for its lignite mines operated by DEI Electricity Company, with Ptolemaida factory supplying all Greece with electricity. By the way, Greece ranks second in lignite production in the European Union and sixth worldwide. However after Amynteo the scenery changed rapidly! Vines, acacias, lakes and birds create a serene, continental setting at 650 meters altitude. Amyntaio, a leading Greek winemaking PDO zone, is famous for Xinomavro which is thinner and lighter here than that of Naoussa. It is also ideal for producing exceptional white, rosé and sparkling wines.

 

 

Kir-Yianni wine outlet at the picturesque, stone-built Nymfaio

 

Fabulous scenery on the way to Agios Panteleimonas

 

We finally reached Agios Panteleimonas of Florina, the most important wine village of PDO Amynteo. The winery of Kir Yianni at Amyntaio is located near the banks of Lake Vegoritida, in the shadow of Vitsi and Kaimaktsalan Mountains (or Vorras, the third highest mountain in Greece). It was purchased in 1996 and wittily inspires the name of the winery’s basic wine range: Shack. Arriving, we met young oenologist Vassilis Milonas who undertook to guide us through the winery and vineyards Droumo and Samaropetra.

 

 

The view of Lake Vegoritida from Kir-Yianni winery in Amynteo

 

Touring the winery

 

At Amyntaio Kir-Yianni produces 900,000 bottles of wine annually, that is 75% of their total production. These are more commercial wines of faster consumption, unlike Giannakohori winery where are made the reserve labels of the producer. All white, sparkling, rosé wines and two of the seven red wines of the producer are made exclusively in Amyntaio, as the area is ideal for those due to its colder climate. The whole area is surrounded by four lakes: Vegoritida, Petron, Zazari and Cheimaditida that give the name to the respective white wine ‘Tesseris Limnes’, meaning ‘Four Lakes’.

 

 

Four-wheel adventures in Samaropetra

  Flocks of birds; frequent and beautiful sight of the lakes

 

After a short stroll around the winery Vassilis took us to the 4 hectare vineyard named 'Droumo'. It is a 100% Sauvignon Blanc vineyard planted in 1989, which makes it the oldest Sauvignon of the area. The planting of Sauvignon and other white varieties in Amynteo was first inspired by Yiannis Boutaris who first believed in the good performance of white grapes in a cold region that the red Xinomavro did not always ideally mature. Droumo’s crop was for years the best ingredient of Samaropetra wine, while today it is vinified and marketed separately. Right after we visited the maybe highest vineyard of the area (700 meters), famous 'Samaropetra' which is planted to Gewurztraminer, Sauvignon Blanc, Assyrtiko, Malagouzia, Roditis and experimental Xinomavro (various rootstocks with dense planting). Here the mother soils are poor with limestone at the hill slopes and also poor but mainly sandy, alluvial at the plain, with low yields of grapes in both cases.

 

Part of beautiful Samaropetra, the vineyard of white grapes!

 

 

Visiting Droumo vineyard, planted to Sauvignon Blanc in 1989

 

On the top of the hill of Samaropetra, with Mount Vitsi on the background.

 

We thank Vassilis as a vineyard visit always offers wine lovers a different, deeper understanding and appreciation when trying the respective wines... which we will taste two days later at Giannakohori!


KTIMA KIR-YIANNI, GIANNAKOHORI NAOUSSA | Thursday, December 10th


Two days later we are at our beloved Naoussa! It's always nice to come back, this time on the occasion of the event 'Naoussa, City of Wine'. At Kir-Yianni winery we had the pleasure to be guided by Charoula Vasiliadou and oenologist Antonis Kioseoglou; we thank them both a lot.

 

 

Arriving at Ktima Kir-Yianni in Giannakohori, Imathia

 

Snap from the winery’s entrance

 

 

The impressive, magnificent vineyard reaches the forest

 

In the barrel cellar; works on the new cellar were underway at the time

 

From the balcony of the winery, at an altitude of 280 meters, you can enjoy beautiful views to the south and east side of the vineyard. Charoula told us the first vineyards and warehouse were first purchased by "Boutari" Company in the late 1960s. Initially the vineyard was planted to Xinomavro, while in the 1980s they also began to cultivate Syrah and Merlot. Today the Estate consists of 50 hectares of vineyards from 45 blocks which are vinified separately. Half of the vineyard is planted to Xinomavro, 25% Merlot, 15% Syrah and the remaining 10% consists of Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Petit Verdot, Malbec, Negro Amaro and Mavrodaphne. The grapes are left 24 hours into a Reefer Container to maintain their aromas and prevent them from heat. They use two shorting tables: one for the clusters and a second one for the berries, after de-stemming. The producer only takes the free-run juice and sometimes -when the grapes are excellent- the first pressing.

 

The Tower that is the emblem of the winery, next to the age-old oak tree
 

Works on the new cellar were still in progress these days, so I owe you the photos. The winery has about 850 oak barrels (70% French and 30% American ones), most of them barriques. We ended up at the tasting room with the -quite popular today- kitsch collection of Yiannis Boutaris in a beautiful wine tasting from both Amynteo and Naoussa wineries along with oenologist Antonis Kioseoglou. Please note for most wines tasted below the vintages may have currently changed.

 

AMYNTAIO WINES


The following wines come from the Amynteo Winery:

 

  • Sparkling | Akakies sparkling (rose) and Paranga sparkling (white)
  • White | Paranga, Samaropetra (or just Petra), Tesseris Limnes, Droumo and Palpo
  • Rose | Akakies
  • Red | Paranga and Kali Riza

 

The sparkling wines of the estate aim to serve more commercial objectives with the tasting ease of residual sugar and obvious, primary aromatic profiles. From the whites, unfortunately single vineyard Ntroumo (Sauvignon Blanc) and Palpo (Chardonnay barrel) were missing from the tasting, thus my favorite white was Tesseris Limnes which I describe below along with the rose and the two Amyntaio reds:

 

  • Four Lakes 2014 (60% Chardonnay, 40% Gewürztraminer) - A beautiful blend in which Chardonnay is starring as explosive, spicy Gewürztraminer was not sufficiently expressive in the difficult year of 2014. Stone fruits, dry nuts, oak overtones, few spicy notes from Gewürztraminer along with hints of lychee and flowers. Intense palate, high acidity supported by the wine’s full body, medium (+) alcohol (13.5%) and a long aftertaste. Half Chardonnay (i.e. 30% of the wine) has been fermented and matured in 225 and 300 liter oak barrels of which 80% are new and 90% French. Annual production of 60,000 bottles.

  • Akakies Rosé 2014 (100% Xinomavro) - Intensely aromatic with aromas of framboise, red grapes, strawberries, cherries and candies. Moderate acidity on the palate, sour cherries and sweet and red fruits, slightly cooked. Beautifully underlined acidity, moderate alcohol (12%) and medium body. Annual production of 120,000 bottles. Its beautiful name is due to the acacias found across the road from Amyntaio to St. Panteleimon.

  • Paranga red 2013 (Syrah, Merlot, Xinomavro) - A stainless steel tank fermented red wine with ripe red fruit, sweet spices and cinnamon. Syrah makes it fleshy with black berries and plum flavors. Medium (+) acidity, moderate tannins. An entry level, mass production wine but at the same time very good, soft, easy, pleasant. Annual production of 200,000 bottles.

  • Kali Riza 2013 (100% Xinomavro) - A top quality wine from 60+ years old bush vines from Amyntaio with grape selection on the vineyard. Excellent, fine aromas of sour red fruits, flowers, violets, blossom, strawberries and red cherries without the familiar smell of tomato paste expected from an average Xinomavro. High acidity, medium (+) tannins, fine character, medium (+) body. Kali Riza is a delicate food wine with an excellent balance –due to the old vines- and authenticity. Only 2-3 years old French oak barrels were used. Annual production of just 6,000 bottles. In my opinion this is the top Kir-Yianni wine from Amynteo regardless of color, at least among the ones I have sampled.
 

At work!

 

Tasting Kir-Yianni wines

 

NAOUSSA (GIANNAKOHORI) WINES

 

 

The Tower is named 'Kula' from the Turkish "Kule" which means outpost. Here lived a Turkish pasha during the Turkish occupation.

 

The two olive trees in the middle of the vineyard, which give their name to the homonymous wine


Five red wines are produced here totaling 300,000 bottles, i.e. 25% of the overall production. We tasted all but ‘Mple Alepou’ (Blue Fox) and below are my notes of my three favorites:

 

  • Ktima Kir-Yianni 2012 (60% Merlot, 40% Xinomavro) - This is the former 'Giannakohori'. Impressive nose of plums, black berries, notes of violets and eucalyptus leaves. Fleshy mouth, high acidity, high tannins that require time and high alcohol (14.5%). A dense, intense, not at all tiring wine. I reckon it can nicely develop for at least 10 years. Matured for 18 months in 80% French and 20% American oak barrels, 30% of them new. Its unique quality, attractive price and availability make it ideal for those who are keen on 'smart' wine buys on a global scale. Annual production of 80,000 bottles.

  • Ramnista Naoussa 2011 (100% Xinomavro) - The only PDO Naoussa of the producer comes from various blocks of the estate and 20 to 30 year-old vines. Winemaking has changed in recent years with the use of 5 tons tanks, pigeage with pistons and the move towards using larger barrels. A blockbuster wine, dense enough -for Xinomavro at least, with red fruits, berries, flowers, wood, spices, tobacco and dark chocolate. High acidity on the palate, high, ripe tannins, moderate (+) alcohol, full body, medium (+) finish. As Antonis told us "Everything Xinomavro needs is good years. Everything else it does it alone!" A less typical but excellent Xinomavro, somewhere in between the modern and rustic styles. Annual production of 40,000 bottles.

  • Diaporos 2012 (87% Xinomavro, 13% Syrah) – For many years the 1,5 hectare block #5 just above the estate’s lake was giving the best results of Xinomavro in blind tastings. Thus it was separated, blended up with little Syrah and became the flagship wine of the estate. Diaporos is the name of an island in Chalkidiki that Stelios’s mother loved, lending its name to the wine in a mostly philosophical mood, to express the state of 'being there'. Complex aromas of black berries, eucalyptus, spices, plums, tobacco, chocolate, flowers and violets. Very dense mouth with high acidity, pronounced tannins, full body, high alcohol (14.5%) and a long aftertaste. I recommend 10 to 15 years aging! Annual production of 9,000 bottles.
 

Diaporos and Ramnista from Giannakohori, Kali Riza from Amyntaio. Xinomavro dominates them all.

 

Oenologist Antonis Kioseoglou answered all our queries on the wines tasted

 

 

Kir-Yianni wine bar at the departures of Athens International Airport "El. Venizelos"

 

Yiannis Boutaris’s evzone outfit. The lapel badge shows the election slogan of the Mayor.

 

There is no doubt Ktima Kir-Yianni is a model in the Greek wine scene. An estate that marvelously balances between classic and modern, marketing and authenticity. Greeks owe much to Kir-Yianni. But Greek wine’s most recent benefit from the Boutari family is the persistence of their Managing Director Stelios Boutaris to establish the word 'KTIMA' instead of Domaine, Estate or Chateau at exports. This is a substantial change only a historic and innovative producer like Kir-Yianni has the ability to first understand and then impose by embracing the practice. No doubt the rest of the industry will follow. After all... Boutari knows!

 

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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