ARTEMIS KARAMOLEGOS WINERY | Santorini - September 15th, 2017
posted on 24/10/2017

Every time I taste the wines of Santorini producer Artemis Karamolegos in various exhibitions, I get excited. Karamolegos is not a person as communicative as other producers; however he aims to top-quality wines and has progressed impressively in recent years. I even dare to say that after my recent trip to Santorini tasting their entire wine range, I reviewed my own Santorini Top-4 wineries and now Karamolegos is one of them.

 

Arriving at the Artemis Karamolegos Winery

 

 

At the winery entrance

 

Mavratragano linear vineyard next to the winery


I had an appointment with the production manager and oenologist Lefteris Anagnostou. This was the second harvest that Lefteris handled as the head winemaker (at Karamolegos winery and in general), that is an important responsibility. Of course Lefteris' talent and knowledge in both vineyard and the winery along with his view of things are evident in his high quality work. His previous winemaking experience in France, New Zealand, Crete and Santorini, his willing to do things and his young age give Lefteris all necessary background needed for him to be a leading oenologist. Lefteris started our conversation giving me some information about the winery of Karamolegos family.

 

 

Sampling the –still fermenting- musts from the tanks with oenologist Lefteris Anagnostou

 

The Vinsanto aging cellar

 

 

2017 single vineyard Assyrtiko from Louros with 15% potential alcohol, from a 1,1 ton wooden cask

 

Pyritis resting in the winery cellar


Artemis Karamolegos did not get the wine bug by his father; he rather did from his grandfather. The later cultivated his vines as an amateur in the 1950s, making wine for his family. Half a century later, in 2004, the grandson Artemis Karamolegos founded his winery in Exo Gonia, right in the heart of the volcanic island with an initial production of 20,000 bottles. Thirteen years later the production has grown tenfold, reaching 200,000 bottles. Now the producer cultivates 18 acres of vineyards in Kamari, Messaria, Exo Gonia, Pyrgos, Megalohori and Akrotiri. Of these, 6 hectares are privately owned and 12 are rented with long-term contracts, while they also buy grapes from local growers; like almost all producers do (in 2017 they bought 220 tons of grapes).

 

 

Winemaking in full swing

 

Part of the barrel cellar

 

Regarding 2017 vintage, Lefteris told me initially it seemed to be a very favorable year with rains and snow (very unusual for Santorini). However, the June heatwave and –unusual for the Island- downy mildew carried the harvest earlier, at the same time reducing production. The winery started on August 3rd harvesting Athiri and xenoloa (local varieties that are not Assyrtiko), they later harvested low attitude Assyrtiko, Mavrotragano and finally high attitude Assyrtiko. The harvested grapes are kept in the refrigerator for 24 hours, then pass through the shorting table, crusher (the whites) and are pressed separately -by village or vineyard- using two small pneumatic presses.

 

In the winery’s brand-new bottle cellar


We had a very nice tour around the winery, we tasted wine from almost all tanks, we passed by the brand new bottle cellar and ended up in a beautiful yard where we tasted a wide range of twelve wines. Are you ready?

 

This is where we tasted the entire range of Karamolegos wines

 

Aidani 2016 (100% Aidani) - Relatively shy nose, stone fruits, some flowers (jasmine), notes of minerality. Moderate (+) acidity, moderate alcohol (13%) and body, quite floral on the palate.


Annual production: 4,000 bottles


Terra Nerra white 2016 (100% Assyrtiko) - A wine from Santorini Assyrtiko which the producer has voluntarily degraded to PGI Cyclades so as not to be confused with the top PDO wines of their range. It comes from lower altitude grapes, younger vines (20-30 years) and also contains some press wine. Lemon, mineral elements, peach on the nose. Nice balanced palate with typicity and purity. It lacks complexity but how much to ask from a great entry-level wine?


Annual production: 40,000 bottles


Santorini Karamolegos 2016 (90% Assyrtiko, 10% Athiri and Aidani) - The best Greek white wine as awarded in TEXSOM IWA 2017! The precious grapes from 40-120 year old vines from Messaria, Karterados, Akrotiri, Pyrgos and Megalochori villages along with sur lie handling for six months contribute to a top-quality wine with aromas of lemon, green apple, grapefruit, minerals, high acidity, moderate (+) alcohol (13.5%), full body and a long finish. A very special work that puts Karamolegos wines among Santorini's best!


Annual production: 58,000 bottles

 

Tasting Karamolegos wines with oenologist Lefteris Anagnostou

 

 

A volcanic logo!

 

Pyritis, Nycteri, Mystitio/14, Terra Nera rose, Terra Nera red and Mavrotragano

 

Assyrtiko Santorini Karamolegos 2016 (100% Assyrtiko) - A super premium wine from 80-100 years old vines. The old-fashioned label that promotes the variety first does not give quality clues, but what’s in the glass is really awesome. An amazing wine of real class, intensely mineral, a scent of seawater and wet pebbles, lemon, lime and citrus fruits. The palate has volume and strength, high acidity balanced by the creamy sensation from the lees (6 months sur lie). Unbelievably long finish, dowry of the century-old vines.


Annual production: 20,000 bottles


Pyritis 2016 (100% Assyrtiko) – Vines aged 120 years and over, from three vineyards: one in Megalohori and two in Pyrgos. Austere nose with lemon, mineral notes and flint. Still closed and extremely young, it needs more time in the bottle (bottled July 2017). On the palate however it is already roaring, with strength, full body (10 months sur lie), high alcohol (14%) and a very long finish. A Doric wine made with minimal interventions, best suited to the purist fans of Chablis and Riesling.


[Sample from the bottle, not released when I tasted it]


Annual production: 6,500 bottles + 300 magnum 1,5 lt bottles


Pyritis 2015 (100% Assyrtiko) - The same wine a year backwards offers yellow peach, minerals, the typical flint and more sweet, round aromas. Beautiful creamy, round palate, with perfect balance, incredible complexity and length.


Annual production: 6,100 bottles + 230 magnum 1,5 lt bottles

 

Excellent look of recent wines Mystirio/14 2016 and Pyritis 'Santorini Mega Cuvee' 2015

 

Nykteri Karamolegos 2015 (90% Assyrtiko, 8% Aidani, 2% Athiri) - This wine comes from overripe grapes from 100-120 year old vines and is aged twelve months in 500lt barrels (15% new and 85% second and third use) with an additional four months in the tank. The result is a wine with aromatic sweetness (due to alcohol and the leading role of the oak) with ripe stone fruits, vanilla, dry nuts and full body.


Annual production: 4,000 bottles


Mystirio/14 2016 (100% Assyrtiko) – A single vineyard wine from Pyrgos from 80 year-old vines. Fermented with the skins (as in red vinification) for 14 days (hence /14 in the name) with native yeast and zero intervention, with the exception of oxygen protection. A wine with no filtering or stabilization, only minimal addition of SO2 prior to bottling. That’s a mystery! The above method result at a very intriguing aroma of spices, incense, ripe peach, tea, cardamom and mastic. Full bodied (ten months sur lie), quite tannic (reminds red wines) and a very long aftertaste.


Annual production: 1,100 bottles (1,500 is mentioned on the label, but the wine eventually had many lees!)

 

From left: Aidani 2016, Terra Nerra white 2016, Santorini Karamolegos 2016, Assyrtiko Santorini Karamolegos 2016, Pyritis 2016 (no label yet), Pyritis 2015, Nykteri Karamolegos 2015, Mystirio/14 2016, Terra Nerra rose 2016, Terra Nerra red 2016, Mavrotragano 2014, Vinsanto 2007

 

Terra Nerra Rosé 2016 (80% Mandilaria, 20% Assyrtiko) – Aromas of strawberry, some rustic dried fruit notes and a very nice, easy, simple and pleasant palate!


Annual production: 8,000 bottles


Terra Nerra red 2016 (100% Mandilaria) - Mandilaria is a very difficult and anti-commercial variety beautifully vinified here in Beaujolais Cru style giving a very cute wine: red cherries, sour cherries, strawberry, sweet spices. Much tougher on the palate, quite tannic and unconnected, all coming from the variety.


Annual production: 8,000 bottles


Mavrotragano 2014 (100% Mavrotragano) - The grapes come entirely from family owned, twenty-year-old vines. Very nice red fruit, plum, black cherries, finely herbal, eucalyptus, juniper berries. Full bodied palate, concentration, very intense flavors and distinctive, digested barrel despite the two-years ageing in them (in second and third-use barriques and a single 500lt barrel). Long aftertaste.


Vinsanto 2007 (85% Assyrtiko, 15% Aidani) - The unbeatable charm of Vinsanto tasted a decade after the harvest: caramel, dry nuts and mocha notes make up a rather shy nose, for Vinsanto standards of course. But on the palate it really roars: coffee, brandy, toffee, dry nuts, cocoa, hazelnut, caramel and very high acidity balancing the sweetness. Very exuberant palate with a long aftertaste. An unforgettable wine of international class!


Annual production: 4,000 bottles

 

 

At the winery’s restaurant "Aroma Avlis"

 

Broken dakos (dakos rusks with tomato, capers, fresh onion and xinotyri cheese from Naxos)

 

Karamolegos Winery has made serious quality leaps and has nothing to envy from the other wineries of the island, except their communication skills. Re-branding and more frequent wine seminars and presentations can be a good start for more people to better assess the quality of their work. Still feeling Vinsanto's sweet taste, I moved next to the “Aroma Avlis” Restaurant, in a beautiful courtyard with herbs and flowers, overlooking the Aegean, for a beautiful culinary epilogue.

 

 

Kantaifi with Cycladic cheeses

 

The view from "Aroma Avlis" to the Aegean Sea, Monolithos Beach and Anafi in the background

 

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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