Tim falls for the op-art charms of a pale Cretan.
From €14.60, $25.39, £21.91.
At the London Wine Fair in May I spent some time tasting at the Wines of Greece stand, guided by my colleague Yiannis Karakasis MW (who wrote this account of Peter Barry’s South Australian Assyrtiko). I took advantage of the country’s plethora of indigenous varieties, producers I had not come across before, and from both established and emerging wine regions. (If you're interested in Greek wine, you may like to mark your diary for the evening of Sunday 13 October when we'll be organising a tasting of hand-picked Greek wines in London.)
A wine that caught my eye in more ways than one was this, from new producer Oenops Wines. As a connoisseur of wine labels, I thought this was great, and have done my best to capture its genius in the attached composite image. Close up, it’s an attractive, whirling pattern; at a distance, its dots resolve into the letters ‘VI DIA NO’.
Vidiano is a white wine grape variety native to Crete. Although this island is home to the cult of Dionysus and can trace its wine culture back millennia, it is only now experiencing a fine-wine renaissance. For me, Vidiano is its leading variety, well placed to spearhead the reappraisal of wines of the region.
Vidiano exhibits much of the versatility of Chardonnay, yielding unoaked and oaked versions, working with and without malolactic conversion, and making solid sparkling wines too. I tasted many examples when visiting Crete in 2018 and at its best Vidiano gives a lemon-rind flavour, sometimes leaning towards apple, sometimes stone fruit, and a sage-like herbal lift, with chalky minerality and plenty of crunchy acidity. I found good examples from Douloufakis, Gavalas, Idaia, Kavaritakis and Lyrarakis (producer of this 2014 wine of the week).
In this case, Nikos Karatzas, the man behind Oenops, has crafted a fine, expressive Vidiano. The portion fermented in oak brings a kiss of almond complexity to the core of citrus fruit and lemon thyme that is emphasised by the portion made in stainless steel. A third portion is made in amphorae. After blending, the wine is matured in amphorae too, for six months on the lees, giving an attractive texture and perhaps some gentle salinity to the mid palate.
Oenops is based in Drama, in the north-east of mainland Greece, but Nikos’ aim is to find old plots all over Greece and make the best wines he can from them. The Vidiano, sourced from mountain vineyards in the Heraklion area of Crete certainly delivers that.
The wine is ready now, but has the weight and acidity to drink well over the next five years. I scored this 16.5/20 when tasting at the London Wine Fair. A bottle I opened at a dinner party two weeks ago reinforced my view. With this being both Wimbledon fortnight and the five days of Henley Royal Regatta (where the wine tends more toward insipid than inspiring), this would grace a sunny outdoor picnic equally well.
Fortunately, Clark Foyster are importing this into the UK, and will sell direct at £131.46 per six or £21.91 a bottle, and in the UK it is stocked by retailers such as Philglas & Swiggot. It can also be found on both coasts of the US, from $25.39, and of course in Greece itself, from €14.60.