KTIMA BIBLIA CHORA | Kokkinochori, Kavala - June 5th, 2018
posted on 03/07/2018

Vangelis and Vassilis. Gerovassiliou and Tsaktsarlis. Both come from Epanomi Thessaloniki, have studied at the same University in Greece (Aristotle University of Thessaloniki), carried on their oenology studies at the University of Bordeaux and have worked as chief oenologists in emblematic wineries of Greece. Gerovassiliou at Domain Porto Carras discovering the potential of Malagousia, Limnio and other intigenous Greek varieties and Tsaktsarlis at Domaine Costa Lazaridi for years putting his signature under the flagship wine range ‘Amethystos’. With so many common aspirations and course in life, it was very natural to create something together. So in 2001 the two partners established the -famous today- Ktima Biblia Chora in Kokkinohori, Kavala.

 
 

Arriving at Ktima Biblia Chora

 

Impressive entrance to the Estate and beautiful trees on the sides

 

The imposing mansion is built in the middle of the vineyard, in a "French Château" manner.

 

Ktima Biblia Chora is located one and a half hours drive from Thessaloniki and forty five minutes from Kavala

 

Ktima Biblia Chora is a unique case study in Greek wine, as it has been very quickly established in the mind and heart of Greek consumers just a few years since its foundation. At the same time, it has been established as a stable, quality and timeless choice among professionals who find peace of mind by listing these wines in their restaurants. The annual production of 550,000 bottles is mainly consumed within the Greek territory, while 25% of production is being exported.
 

The quite inspired as well as commercially successful brand name "Biblia Chora" was proposed by significant Greek Chemist-Oenologist Stavroula Kourakou-Dragona who suggested that in antiquity the wine of the area was called "Biblinos Oenos" and the greater area "Biblia Chora". The vineyards are located on the southern slopes of Paggaio Mountain at an altitude of 380 meters, providing low temperatures and finesse to the grapes, while the constant sea breeze coming from Strymonikos Gulf in the South prevents diseases and extreme temperatures. At the same time, the great diurnal temperature variation contributes to slow grape maturation and thus to an ideal aromatic expression. All of the above, together with the stony and relatively barren soils, complete an ideal growing coincidence.

 

5.500 m² is the winery's area; it includes production areas, oak barrels and bottles cellars, wine tasting room as well as sitting / lounge rooms and offices

 

Undoubtedly their most famous wine is Ktima Biblia Chora white. While in the global wine market New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc (tropical fruits, mango, grapefruit, cut grass, pineapple) is quite widespread and appreciated as a wine style, the wider Greek public had not been exposed to it until the launch of Ktima Biblia Chora white, with extra nerve and structure from the contribution of Assyrtiko. Since launch though, the Greeks fell in love with this wine that became a reference point of tropical crispness.

Ktima Biblia Chora exclusively uses grapes from their privately owned vineyards of approximately 48 hectares. Their blends are based on famous French grape varieties: Sauvignon Blanc, Semillon, Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot from Bordeaux, Chardonnay and Pinot Noir from Burgundy, Syrah from Rhone for the rose and Alsatian Gewürztraminer for the sweet wine. At the same time, they have chosen to use three Greek varieties from Southern Greece: Assyrtiko (Cyclades), Agiorgitiko (Nemea) and Vidiano (Crete) and a local red variety, still not identified, producing a rosé and a red wine. What is remarkable is the Estate cultivates many other known and lesser known Greek varieties in an experimental vineyard reminiscent of that of Porto Carras, in order to discover their dynamics and potential in the area.
 
 

Reception desk

 

Lounge room in the main building

 

The rooms in the top level are used to host the winery managers during harvest, as well as friends and associates

The use of the above varieties make up six wine families: "Ktima Biblia Chora" (white, red, rosé), "Plagios", "Areti" (single varietal from Greek varieties), "Ovilos", "Biblinos" (rosé and red from the local variety of Pangeos) and "Sole" (the first Vidano outside Crete and red Pinot Noir).
 
I was welcomed by chemist Annegret Stamos, export manager of the Company. Annegret first met Vassilis Tsartsaklis in 1992 at Domaine Costa Lazaridi (she joined a year before). At that time they were buying grapes from ​​Kokkinohori Kavalas area and Tsartsaklis had since been convinced for their quality; they were more acidic and fruity than grapes from other regions. So the original vineyard was planted in 1998 and expanded ever since.
 
This is the first building, built in 1998, that hosts production; the front building on the other hand -the mansion- was built between 2001 and 2007
 
 

Stainless steel fermentation tanks and a wooden 'egg' tank in the background

 

300-liter baby tanks; here are seperately vinified the grapes of the experimental vineyard

 

In the white wine barrel cellar; here mature wines from Assyrtiko, Semillon and Chardonnay (first two for Ovilos white, the third for Plagios)

 
 

Annegret Stamos is the export manager of the Company

 

The regular 750ml bottle in fron of two huge Nebuchadnezzar bottles (15 liters each), it looks like aminiature

 
I had the pleasure and honor to taste all wines of the Estate together with Annegret. This was an actually flawless wine range and I want to stress how hard it is for a winery to achieve these levels of quality for their entire range. Here are my notes from the tasting:
 
Sole Vidiano 2017 (92% Vidano, 8% Assyrtiko) - Nose reminiscent of stone fruits, peach, apricot, flowers and some spices. High acidity, creamy palate, medium (+) alcohol 13.5%, full body. Very expressive, a little more austere on the palate due to high acidity. Cold extraction and 100% stainless steel fermentation. First bottling in 2015.
 
Approximate retail price: € 15-16 // Annual production: 8,400 bottles
 

Ktima Biblia Chora white 2017 (60% Sauvignon Blanc, 40% Assyrtiko) - High aroma intensity and a pure Sauvignon character, exotic, sweet’n’sour with gooseberries, green pepper, grass, lime, green apple and notes of minerality. High acidity, intensity, duration; a very catchy style overall. Despite its expressiveness, however, this is not a very flexible style with food, at least on a theoretical level. I imagine it as an ideal partner next to salads, cold dishes and Asian cuisine. However, it makes one out of three bottles of the Estate and this fact alone says something about its popularity.

 

Approximate retail price: € 12-13 // Annual production: 262,000 bottles

 

Left to right: Sole Vidiano, Biblia Chora white, Areti White, Plagios white, Biblia Chora rose, Biblical rosé 2017, Ovilos white, Biblia Chora red, Sole Pinot Noir, Areti red, Biblical red, Plagios red and Ovilos red

 

Areti White 2017 (100% Assyrtiko) - Intense fruit with lemon, mango, some minerality (flint, wet pebbles), high acidity, long duration, volume and strength. Alcohol at 13.5% and still quite aggressive in the mouth, needs either aging or to enjoy it next to a big fatty fish; or oysters. A great wine that will offer more to patient wine lovers; in 3-4 years it will begin to completely unfold its virtues.

 

Approximate retail price: € 16-17 // Annual production: 14,300 bottles

 

Plagios white 2017 (85% Chardonnay, 15% Assyrtiko) - Classic Bourgogne-style Chardonnay with a dash of Assyrtiko. Chardonnay has been fermented in oak barriques (50% new and 50% first used) with 5 months bâtonnage, while Asyrtiko is fermented in stainless steel tanks. Creamy, with exquisite fruit (nectarines, peaches) and exemplary use of barrels that add beautiful layers of complexity (dough, hazelnuts, oak wood). Moderate (+) acidity with Assyrtiko contributing ideally offering nerve, moderate (+) alcohol, volume in the mouth and a long duration. At least 5 years recommended aging.

 

Approximate retail price: 17-18 // Annual production: 10,000 bottles

 

 

Museum collection (old vintage bottles) in underground cellars

 

Old vintage white Areti bottles; an Assyrtiko that is meant to age


Ovilos white 2017 (50% Semillon, 50% Assyrtiko) - It feels like all aromas of all above white wines have been gathered in a glass! When I first smelled it reminded me of Fume Sauvignon Blanc as it has a nice oaky herbaceous style and an incredible exotic character: peppermint mango, papaya, starfruit, spices and a creamy and nutty middle palate. High acidity, also creamy palate with volume and excellent structure, full body, 13.5% alcohol and a long aftertaste. Both varieties have been fermented in oak barriques (50% new and 50% used once) with 5 months bâtonnage. A wine triumph, among the top white wines of Greece.

 

Approximate retail price: 20-21 // Annual production: 25,000 bottles

 

 

The five whites of the Estate

 

Rose and red wines

 
Ktima Biblia Chora rose 2017 (100% Syrah) - Framboise, cherries, sour cherries and strawberries on the nose. Medium (+) acidity, medium body and a cool aftertaste. All contribute to the charm and flexibility of this youthful summer wine. Cold extraction prior to fermentation and bleeding (saignée method) afterwards.
 

Approximate retail price: 12 // Annual production: 68,000 bottles

 

Biblical rosé 2017 (100% anonymous local variety) - Ktima Biblia Chora highlights a rare local dark-skinned variety that has not been named yet and is under study. Crashing without any extraction result to a beautiful, coral-color pale rose wine with a more discreet aromatic profile -for the Estate standards at least- with rose petals, nectarine, mineral notes and creaminess. First launching in 2014 was exclusively in magnum bottles mostly sold in Mykonos and this determined the wine’s prestige.
 

Approximate retail price: € 32-33 (magnum 1,5 lt)

 

Impressive vineyard in the foothills of Mount Paggaio

 

Ktima Biblia Chora red 2016 (45% Merlot, 40% Cabernet Sauvignon, 15% Agiorgitiko) - Very expressive blend with plums, black fruits, cassis, herbal notes, black pepper and oak highlights. High acidity, high alcohol and high tannins that require some aging, or at least pairing with beef dishes. Very good aftertaste. Twelve months in 60% new and 40% used (one to three uses) oak barrels.
 
Approximate retail price: € 16-17 // Annual production: 113,000 bottles

Sole Pinot Noir 2016 (100% Pinot Noir) - This is another proof that Greece can -under certain circumstances- make some relatively good Pinot Noir, but never the fragrant, blossoming, complex wines of France and other selected cold regions. Moderately expressive, red fruit, a hint of flora and relatively high alcohol (14% abv) that does not match the character of the variety. High acidity but relatively exposed. The above have nothing to do with Ktima Biblia Chora, but with the objectively high degree of difficulty in making Pinot Noir in Greece.
 
Approximate retail price: € 19-20
 
 
Great views from the balcony and a cosmopolitan aura

 

Biblical red 2012 (100% anonymous local variety) - Red fruits, black berries, earthy and roasted notes, dry nuts and coffee. High acidity, fine handling of tannins, marginally mature, moderate (+) alcohol and medium (+) duration. Very nice work, from an exciting, unexplored variety.


Areti red 2010 (100% Agiorgitiko) -  The most charming red variety of the Balkans with an origin from Nemea is successfully grown in Kokkinohori and gives all its classic features: sweet red fruits, sour cherries, red cherries and its signature sweet spices profile: liquorice, cinnamon, clove. Almost eight years old but still retains a youthful charm that many Nemea wines would envy!

 

Approximate retail price: € 16-17 // Annual production: 13,000 bottles

 

-I did not taste Plagios red and Ovilos red due to my rushing schedule, but I will do so and will be adding my notes later-

 

Wine tasting of the whole Ktima Biblia Chora wine range was a great experience

 

It was a unique tasting that left no doubt about Ktima Biblia Chora’s dominant position among the country's top wine producers.
 
 

27 grape varieties from all over Greece are grown in the Estate's experimental vineyard

 

Wine and art go hand by hand

 

Leaving Ktima Biblia Chora

 

Ktima Biblia Chora, 110 kilometers from the city of Thessaloniki and 46 kilometers from Kavala, with less than two decades of life is a game changer that created an unprecedented wine buzz in Greece. The recent acquisition of Kokkalis Estate in Ilia and the announcement for the creation of a winery in Santorini Thirassia, named Ktima Mikra Thira, attest that the future belongs to the brave and the inspired. That is, Ktima Biblia Chora.
 

* Updated article originally published in Grape wine magazine (issue #9, page 60)

 

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. 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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