Does Vradiano ring a bell?
Unless you are a die hard Greek oenophile, most likely you have never heard of Vradiano. Honestly, few years back this grape was unknown to my ears as well.
But you should seek this wine. This is a grape steeped in antiquity and history. When Hercules finished his labors (chores), he came to Northern Evia to chill out in the hot Springs near Gialtra. I want to believe that he sipped on this restorative wine while hanging out in the mineral rich waters. I bet he did, especially if it was anything like some of the styles coming out of Evia these days.
As it is fashion, man fails to recognize the gifts he is conferred. Like many other grapes in the Old World, Vradiano vineyards were either neglected or pulled out to make way for other crops or real estate. Phylloxera took it’s toll as well and this grape would very well have been lost to history if not for the efforts of the Vriniotis family. To understand Vradiano, you have to know about the place which is it’s natural home – Northern Evia.
Northern Evia is a beautiful place although it may be a tad hard to get to. The ferry schedules are unpredictable as we learned the hard way and the road from Chalkidi takes you through some beautiful mountains before you arrive in Edipsou. Here in Northern Evia, beyond Edipsou on the promontory of magical Gialtra- yes magical – is the Vriniotis winery.
Kostas Vriniotis is an amazing winemaker and with every wine of his that I taste, my esteem for this very understated winemaker only increases. I realized quickly upon meeting Kostas that he would rather allow his wines to speak for themselves. Boy, do they speak!
Wines of Kostas Vriniotis:
Kostas Vriniotis does not make too many labels.The entry level wines (Methea) of this estate are anything but entry level and the IAMA reds and whites are a big leap here without costing much in the price! The IAMA Red (2012) is all fruit, forest floor and wet rocks. Firm tannins round off this wine with slight peppery notes. The IAMA White (2016) is full of flowers, apricots and lemons with great acidity. Think grilled fish and even sushi here!
The 2016 Assyrtiko Sur Lies is a revelation. Critics state that this is probably the best Assyrtiko outside of Santorini. Damn right it is! – maybe even rival those from the Cycladic island, this mineral and fruit driven wine reminds me of rocks and stones and island fruits and the sea and all things nice. 91 POINTS from Parker’s The Wine Advocate only adds to it’s accolade. If Kostas continues makes wines like these, the island wines are in trouble!
Where the reds are concerned, Vradiano is very much the king here and it rules from the crisp dry IAMA Rosé (one of the best from anywhere) to the bold, complex red to the pale pink fortified dessert wine and finally to the tsipouro (marc brandy) that I refuse to share with anyone.
Wines of Evia:
Evia is undergoing a late revival overshadowed in the past by Santorini, Crete, Nemea and Naoussa. Evian wineries are still finding their feet and frankly in the last several years have made leaps and bounds and surprised everyone by the vanities that thrive here. Our limited time in Evia did not allow time to explore the island further. Avantis Winery (not our import, but worth seeking), Montofoli (also, not our import) and Lykos Winery (definitely our import) have been defining the terroir in Central and Southern Evia. Notably Lykos surprises with it’s expressions of Agiorgitiko (Nemea), Sauvignon Blanc, Cabernet, Malagouzia, Assyrtiko and Viognier among others. Lykos definitely deserves a blog post of it’s own.
But since we are talking about Vradiano, a shout out to Lykos who’s entry level POPArt Red is a lip smacking blend of Vradiano and Merlot.
Vriniotis IAMA Red is a blend of Vradiano and Syrah. But to make a 100% Vradiano, you have to be gifted with the perfect vineyard, the perfect micro-climate and the perfect sensibilities. Vriniotis got it all. Coincidence? The yield that they get is extremely low – half a pound of grapes from each vine. So, not a lot of these gets bottled.
This Vradiano is sourced from old vines and uses native yeasts to do their magic – hence the “Wild Fermentation” on the label. The wine was further aged in 225 Liter French oak barrels and bottled without filtration. The result is an intense ruby colored wine with aromas of cherry, incense marzipan and allspice. The entry of this wine is disarmingly soft, but it has oodles of complexity for you to want to keep trying more. This can be dangerous!