Lyrarakis, Armi Thrapsathiri 2011/12 Crete


€13.50, $15.99, £16.95

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I just love this quirky, full-bodied white from the Greek island of Crete. Not surprisingly, it is not that easy to track down. You can buy it online direct from the producer here.

In New York, Gotham Wines & Liquors stock the 2011 at $15.99. BerryThrapsathiri_bottle Bros of London, Hong Kong and various other points east list the 2012 at £16.95 a bottle, largely because one of their new intake of Masters of Wine,
Demetri Walters MW, is Greek. (They now employ a total of seven: wine education specialist Martin Hudson MW; wine buyer Simon Field MW, burgundy director Jasper Morris MW, wine buying director Mark Pardoe MW, New World buyer Catriona Felstead MW, and most recently wine education specialist Anne McHale MW and private wine events sales manager Demetri. Most of these are jobs I've never heard of elsewhere incidentally!)

Demetri has added quite a few offbeat Greek finds to the Berrys' list – as you can see in the Greek section of our Points east – autumn collection but my favourite by far is this intense dry white of which Julia and I have now tasted both the 2011 and 2012 and loved them both (scores of 17 and 17.5 if you are interested). Indeed when I had to choose wines for a fancy fundraising dinner at Christie's organised by the Financial Times recently, I chose the 2012 to be served with our first course – before Berry's own-label Barolo 2009, which is also a very fine drink already (as I'm finding the lighter 2009 Barolos to be. I enjoyed Vajra, Albe 2009 Barolo recently – not for its ambition but for its purity and early charm).

Anyway, back to Crete… Thrapsathiri is a probably-Cretan grape variety (yes it is in Wine Grapes, where we explain that it is identical to the variety known as Begleri on other Greek islands such as Santorini and Lesbos). It's often found in a field blend and its wines can be rather low in acidity but not this varietal example since Lyrarakis grow it at a relatively high altitude, 500 m – Armi is Cretan dialect for a summit – on rocky soils exposed to cooling winds from the east. They age it for a few months in barrels of both acacia and French oak and the highly aromatic result is chock full of character. Honey, orange peel, spice verging on cinnamon, quince, green fig and grassiness have all been noted in our several tasting notes on these two vintages. It shows no signs of ageing rapidly and is full without being heady. Just 13% alcohol, it is probably best drunk with food – at least it is complex and satisfying enough to deserve some attention. I could imagine drinking it with a chicken dish.

And don't think that by buying this wine you will be exposing yourself to weird winemaking or serious oddity. The wine is beautifully made in the family-owned cellars shown above. Lyrarakis have played a major role in saving Cretan indigenous grape varieties and are well worth supporting. But most of all, treat yourself to some entirely new flavours.

According to, the 2007 vintage is still on sale in Germany at just six euros a bottle. At that price it is surely worth a punt if you can track it down, even if it may be a bit long in the tooth.

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