A complex, sophisticated Greek red from a rare local variety.
From €17.40, $24.99, £26, 316 Norwegian kroner, AU$60
*NB Christos Zafeirakis makes three versions of Limniona red, this original one (pictured below), plus one made from young vines (identified by ‘Young Vineyards’ or ‘New Age’ on the label) and Limniona Terra Cotta. There’s no obvious way of refining the Wine-Searcher results to show just the original version, which the prices above and the description below refer to.
March 2010, Athens: my first meeting with Christos Zafeirakis (pictured at the top of the article) and my first taste of his Limniona, a dark-skinned indigenous Greek variety he is largely responsible for rescuing and re-evaluating though others have followed suit. At the time there were just 10 ha (24.7 acres) planted in Greece, sometimes as part of a field blend, and it typically disappeared in wine blends, for example with Xinomavro. My notebook reminds me that the 2007 – his first vintage – was long, spicy and deeply aromatic, the 2008 even fresher, brighter but still with lots of spice, pepper and both red and black fruit flavours and finely textured tannins. It was an exciting discovery and grist to the mill while we were writing Wine Grapes, when every first encounter with a lesser-known variety felt like finding wild pink cyclamen among the darkness of deeply fallen leaves.
Fast forward to late 2022 and the 50 Great Greek Wines. Zafeirakis Limniona 2019 was one of my favourite reds in the selection I tasted. It was already showing some signs of the interactions that happen between the many components in a wine when it ages in bottle (in those wines not made for immediate consumption), so that while all that lovely dark and dark-red fruit and the gentle spice notes provide delicious intensity and freshness – more blackberry and cherry than blackcurrant or strawberry – there’s now also the first signs of complexity, flavours that are much harder to describe because they are so special to high-quality, maturing red wine.
The tannins are starting to soften though not yet silky, and while there is no rush to drink this, it is perfect now: a tantalising array of aromas and flavours to capture your attention even if you have indulged in a late-December flavour-fest or have opened one or two expensive bottles saved for special occasions. The last two lines in my tasting note read: ‘A sophisticated wine that still packs a punch. Seriously moreish.’
Domaine Zafeirakis’s 12 ha (30 acres) of vines are planted in Tyrnavos, in the foothills of Mount Olympos (seen in the image below) in Thessaly in the east of central mainland Greece. The winery is marked near the town of Larissa on this World Atlas of Wine map of Greece. This is a perfect spot for Limniona, a thick-skinned and high-acid grape which loves hot days and cool nights.
Christos Zafeirakis, fourth-generation winegrower, studied in Athens and Italy and worked in several Italian wine regions before returning home to the family estate. Almost all the vineyards are certified organic by Biohellas and since 2019 he has started to apply biodynamic principles in the vineyard. The Limniona is planted in sandy-clay soil with lots of flint, which Zafeirakis believes gives 'the flint-saltiness character, finesse and long aftertaste' to the wine.
This 2019 vintage was fermented spontaneously (ie no added yeasts) in Austrian oak vats (5,000 and 3,000 litres) and matured in a mix of new and old 1,200-litre and 2,400-litre casks so that while there is no perceptible oak flavour, the wine has been allowed to breathe and interact with the oak, enhancing all the incipient potential and complexity of this variety, farmed in this way, in this place. The wine is certified organic and has an alcohol level of 13%.
The Where to buy page of the Zafeirakis website helpfully lists their importers around the world, including Clark Foyster in the UK and DNS Wines in the US. As well as being widely distributed in Greece, the wine is available in Australia and Norway. In the UK you can buy a case of six bottles directly from Clark Foyster at £152.04 by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.
See our tasting notes database for other vintages of this wine, including the rosé version, and further examples of Limniona such as the very good ones made by Oenops and Dougos.
All the photos are courtesy of Domaine Zafeirakis.