Nico Manessis sent this report.
Greece has experienced the most demanding and difficult vintage in years. With little or no rain during the winter of 2006 and spring of 2007, vines were going to be tested to their limits - and so they were. Three successive and prolonged heatwaves in June and July left growers with the following: berry size shrunk to the smallest ever encountered and the size of the crop down by around 25% and by as much as 45% in some areas.
Not surprisingly, the indigenous grapes fared better than the imports. Sunburn was a problem especially with white grapes. Top names used sorting belts to eliminate burnt and raisined grapes. White wines are intensely flavoured with an obvious heat imprint. They are one dimensional as their freshness and minerality are missing.
Hardest hit was the Peloponnese, where fires burnt to the ground the up-and-coming Tetramythos winery. Their high vineyards, up to 800m above the Gulf of Corinth, survived the raging-for-days wildfires. In a rare spirit of camaraderie, nearby Oenoforos and Katoghi-Strofilia wineries offered Greek-Australian winemaker Panayiotis Papayianopoulos the opportunity to vinify Tetramythos wines in their cellars.
Elsewhere, astonishingly, there were some very good whites such as the bone dry wines from Santorini. Excluding the sunburnt grapes, those protected in their unusual and ingenious ground-hugging 'basket' pruning produced wines of high acidity and their mineral laden character in full song.
Red wines fared better. Growers in Nemea saw that the moisture-retaining heavier soils and old bush vines produced the best Aghiorghitiko grapes. This time well-draining hillside vineyards suffered more and water stress was a problem. Measured irrigation was essential wherever possible. The berries of the usually generous in size Aghiorghitiko were much smaller than usual and their colours are the deepest in memory, if lacking their usual florality. They are concentrated and richly flavoured.
The undisputed star of the vintage is the great red grape Xinomavro, unique to the north-western vineyards of Naoussa and Amyndeo. It is the finest since 1990. Furthermore, the wines of Goumenissa and Rapsani, where Xinomavro is part of the blend, are also terrific.
Though autumn rain and an unusually early snowfall has brought some relief to the battered vineyards, the 2007 extreme weather patterns laid bare their weaknesses and strengths.
The shift in climate in Greece is taken seriously. So much so that on 1 December 2007 in Thessaloniki, the first ever symposium on climate changes and the impact on viticulture and wine will bring together professors Gregory V. Jones from Southern Oregon University, Benjamin Bois from Bordeaux University and Theodore Mavromati and Stephanos Koundouras from the Aristotle University of Thessaloniki.