Alpha Estate, Hedgehog Xinomavro 2014/15 Amyndeo


From €11.55, CA$21.90, 62 złotys, $18.49, £16.70, AU$28 (in any six) 

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I taste a lot of young, newly released wines. Indeed I am just back from a week in Bordeaux tasting hundreds of wines so young they are still in barrel (full reports next week). 

When I tasted the Alpha Estate, Hedgehog 2015 Xinomavro last month along with other new vintages from Alpha Estate in Macedonia, north-west Greece, I thought it would be an ideal candidate for a wine of the week. However, the problem with wines that have just been sent on their way from the winery is that they may well not yet be in retail distribution.

So I looked at our database of more than 162,000 tasting reviews and saw that I had tasted every vintage of this red wine from 2008 to 2015 (ie every vintage except 2007, the first), occasionally more than once because of my most recent visit to the estate last year. With the exception of 2008 and 2011, I have given every vintage a score of 17 every time. The 2010 score crept up to 17.5. That’s the vintage that Jancis chose as her wine of the week back in January 2015 and there’s plenty of background on the estate in her article and in my reports on two visits there, the first in its early days in 2008 and the most recent one mentioned above.

I therefore have no hesitation in recommending any vintage of this wine but since it is the 2014 and (soon) the 2015 that are most widely available, these are the two vintages I will describe in more detail. (See also below for probably the most detailed list of stockists we have ever provided for a wine of the week, thanks to the matchless efficiency and responsiveness of Alpha’s export director Kostas Arvanitakis.)

Xinomavro is Greece’s greatest red wine grape and is more famously associated with the Náoussa appellation, which is also in the north west of the country but south east of the Amyndeo plateau, which is high and cool and very close to the border with the Republic of Macedonia. (See The World Atlas of Wine map of Greece.) It is a variety that can be pretty tannic in youth and high in acid and therefore needs time in bottle.

However, as in other parts of the world – Bordeaux no exception – producers are working so much more carefully and knowledgeably in the vineyard and the winery that such wines can now offer pleasure at a much earlier stage and still age well. More of that below. Viticulturist Makis Mavridis and winemaker Angelos Iatridis have done just that with their various Xinomavro wines, though I find the Vieilles Vignes takes a little longer to express itself.

Hedgehog vineyard, pictured above, is at around 700 m (2,300 ft) on the Amyndeo plateau, influenced by two big lakes, as shown in the map below. It snows in winter. This cooler site, on sandy clay soils over limestone, produces a wine that is both rich and very fresh without excessive alcohol – the 2014 was 13% with a pH of 3.6 and the 2015 is even fresher with a pH of 3.36 and 12.8% alcohol.

Here are my descriptions of these two vintages with the background information Alpha so helpfully provide:

2015: Destemming, light crushing, cold soak, skin contact, alcoholic fermentation at gradually increasing temperatures. Kept on the lees for eight months with regular stirring. 12 months in French oak. TA 6.3 g/l, pH 3.36, RS 2.4 g/l, 12.8%.
Light to mid cherry red. The variety's red-fruit and cherry fragrance sings here, with the subtlety of the oak allowing the fruit to shine. Excellent freshness and taut, decisive but fine-grained tannins. Real finesse here, even in youth. I would drink this at the table, especially if you want to broach it now. Should develop much more complexity if given the chance to age in bottle – already showing a touch of dried tomato and black olive and the fruit becomes more aromatic as it opens in the glass. An excellent introduction to polished Xinomavro with a long life ahead.

2014: Winemaking as above. TA 5.4 g/l, RS 2.3 g/l, pH 3.6, 13%.
Mid crimson. Attractively dusty red fruits on the nose with a definite stony/mineral side to the fruit. On the palate, the classic freshness of this variety and pure, lightly peppery red fruit. Refined in texture and long on the finish. There is a certain restraint here but lots of fruit that has been picked at the perfect moment to reveal both fruit and freshness. Cool, juicy and elegant. Class act, the tannins already remarkably silky for this variety.

Talking of a long life ahead, I realised I had kept a duplicate sample of the 2009 in my cellar to see how it would age. I opened it this week and it has matured beautifully, showing more of the complexity of which this variety is capable and keeping all its freshness. But it still has a long way to go.

So if you buy the 2014 or the 2015 and have the chance to keep a few bottles somewhere that is reasonably cool and where the temperature is pretty constant, you will get the a second bite of the cherry and find it even more delicious.

The Hedgehog Xinomavro is widely distributed and available in the countries listed below. Those who currently offer the 2014 are likely to move on to the 2015 shortly. Following the list of importers and distributors are lists of stockists for the UK, US and Germany. The prices given at the top of the article are for the 2014 or 2015, where the retailer has specified a vintage, but I see that in the UK, for example, Uncorked are offering the 2011 for £15.95.

Importers/distributors by country
Greece: Amvyx
USA: Diamond Wine Importers
Canada: Univins & Spiritueux
Guatemala: Vinoteca
China: Wine Platform
Korea: Hellenic Wine
Russia: Alianta Group
Germany: all distributors are also retails, see the list below
UK: Maltby & Greek and Hallgarten Druitt Novum Wines
Australia: Estate Wines Distributors
Cyprus: La Maison du Vin
Holland: Tsantos Imports
Belgium: Canette
Austria: Hubert Fohringer die Vinothek
Switzerland: Thraki Gmbh

UK stockists
The following either have or will be moving very shortly to the 2015 vintage.
Maltby&Greek at Maltby Street Market and at Spa Terminus
Harvey Nichols
Fratelli Greci
Oliveology – Borough Market
Brother Marcus – new restaurant/bar that’s opening in Angle/Islington, following a successful pop-up in Clapham
Restaurant Sat Bains
Lemonia restaurant
The Life Goddess

US stockists – NYC
West 57th Street Wine & Liquor – 344 W 57th St.
Oak and Steel – 171 W 57th St.
Omega Wine & Spirits – 23-18 31st St.
Union Square Wine & Spirits – 140 4th Av.
Central Wine & Spirits – 227 Columbus Av.
Molyvos – 871 7th Ave.
Ousia – 629 W 57th St.
City Vineyard – 233 West St.
Marc Forgione – 134 Reade St.
Kiki’s – 130 Division St.
Nerai – 55 E 54th St.
Avra Madison – 14 E 60th St.
Avra E 48th – 141 E 48th St.
11 Hanover Greek –11 Hanover Sq.
Pylos – 128 E 7th St.
Limani – 45 Rockefeller Plaza.
Kellari – 19 W 44th St.
Periyali – 35 W 20th St.

US – Ohio
Jungle Jim's Fairfield and Eastgate
Red Feather Kitchen
The Wine Merchant
Water Tower Fine Wines
Colonial Beverage
Metropolitan at the 9
Western Reserve Wine

US – Washington, DC
Schneider’s Liquor

US – Maryland
Eastport Liquors
Luna Blu

German stockists
Alpha Feinkost. Holzhauser Straße 140H. 13509 Berlin. Tel: +49 (0) 30 3020 8830
Cava Griechischer Wein. Schustehrusstr. 20, 10585 Berlin. Tel: +49 (0) 30 342 0368
Wine and Harmony GmbH. Alexander Meißner Str. 40. 12526 Berlin. Tel: +49 (0) 30 396 0990
Stamatis GmbH & Co. KG. Stadtheider Straße 3a. 33609 Bielefeld. Tel: +49 (0) 521 179 791
Zois Grobhandel. 47269 Duisburg. Tel: +49 (0) 203 4849 8185
Nikolaou. Heesenstrasse 90. 40549 Düsseldorf. Tel: +49 (0) 211 9560 3800
Aegean Foods. Carl Benz Str. 23. 60386 Frankfurt am Main. Tel:+49 (0) 69 4260 1730
Cava Oinos. Gartenstr. 101. 60596 Frankfurt am Main. Tel: +49 (0) 69 963 0808
S. Tsotsoglou. Osramstraße 6. 89542 Herbrechtingen. Tel: +49 (0) 7324 918 9910
Meteora GmbH. Bei der Neuen Münze 20. 22145 Hamburg. Tel: +49 (0) 40 5257 0483
Mare Atlantico. Marktstraße 10-12 50968 Köln. Tel: +49 (0) 221 888 2760
Kreta Lebensmittel. Ossenpadd 4. 25495 Kummerfeld. Tel: +49 (0) 4101 375 5835
Atlas Feinkost. Helene Wessel Bogen 10. 80939 München. Tel: +49 (0) 89 313 9505
Mediterran. Wamslerstr. 2. 81829 München. Tel: +49 (0) 89 4357 3522
Papazof. Lagerhouse Strasse 5, 81371MünchenTel: +49 (0) 89 7298 9450
Kalamaras. Leyer Straße 107 – 90431 Nürnberg. Tel: +49 (0) 911 326 2135
Preventis. Maybachstraße 48. 90441 Nürnberg. Tel: +49 (0) 911 421 646
Stefanidis Feinkost. Bielefelder Straße 11. 33813 Oerlinghausen. Tel: +49 (0) 5202 993 580
Bolossis. Zelglestr. 7D-78224 Singen. Tel: +49 (0) 7731 949 112
Vegora Weine. Elise Kirchner Straße 16. D-65203 Wiesbaden. Tel: +49 (0) 177 310 6340

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