We tasted: Estate Agryros Assytriko 2016 £13.79 (+vat) Costco
Emma says: “This week’s exciting news is that I opened my Assyrtiko with a brand new prized possession; a gold plated corkscrew. But keep that between us, Andy thinks it was the gift I brought back for him from my Master of Wine conference in Spain…oops.
And it seems apt because I’m very excited to be introducing Assyrtiko as one of our 52 grapes, which coincidentally was also given a small spotlight at a tasting during the conference I have just returned from. This grape has been called the “Chablis of Greece” by fellow wine geeks and I hope once you experience it, you’ll understand why.
The true home of this grape is a beautiful island right at the tip of the Cyclades islands in Greece; Santorini. This island was born by the explosion of an undersea volcano. As a result, the island has a stunning backdrop of multi-coloured cliffs and layered volcanic soils that are fantastic for growing vines. The island’s other secret is old vines, sometimes over 100 years old, and on their original rootstocks which is another rarity. I won’t delve into that right now because it will distract us all from just appreciating the grape. However, the result of these old vines, grown in intriguing little basket shapes, is a wine that has incredible finesse, yet intensity and a mineral streak that gives them the Chablis-esque reputation. One famous Australian winemaker, Jim Barry, was so taken by this grape he transported cuttings to his side of the world and is now attempting to create his version in South Australia; so look out for that.
This wine comes from Estate Argyros, a family run winery I happen to import from and so I’m pleased we are getting to try their wine. This version is 100% Assyrtiko so we can taste its purest version. At first sniff I was pleased it had this gunflint, smoky quality that gives it that edge of complexity. Then a burst of salty lemon zest and a grapefruit lime zing, slightly honeyed, almost like an aged Riesling. To taste the high acidity of this grape leaves a zippy lift to the palate, and the rich saline grapefruit flavours continue with a dose of tropical fruit salad. Having said that it doesn’t taste like a warm climate wine. It is altogether lean and fresh tasting. And that is what I think I love so much about this grape, I’ve spent my teenage holidays on this sunny island and given the gorgeous heat I experienced there I can’t quite believe it can produce a wine with so much finesse.”
Andy says: “I’ve noticed that my tasting notes are getting shorter each week. And you’re in luck, as the trend is about to continue.
I think I’ve officially run out of vocabulary for wine, and am sitting on a learning plateau. So I’ve done my usual trick of tasting, working out what I think I tasted, and then reading Emma’s notes to see if I was close. On this occasion, maybe a C+ or a B-.
The first thing I noticed (pre reading Emma’s notes) was the acidity. It’s intense, possibly more so than my experience in Week 18 with Savvy B. This time, I think my eyes did actually water. I’m sure there’s (probably) a scientific name for it, but I’m (for now, until I find it) going to call it the ‘sour shudder’. I’m sure (hope) you all know what I mean – that involuntary face scrunching forehead squeezing wince when you taste something acidic/sour. Yeah, well every sip so far has triggered that reaction.
I also found it sweet (it’s not), leaving that oily residual feel on the roof of the mouth. I need to work out what that indicator is if it’s not sweetness. Emma’s notes say ‘honeyed’, perhaps that’s it. And she also mentioned grapefruit, so given I wasn’t a massive Viognier fan, I’m not super taken by this one either.
Assyrtiko is perhaps the most famous grape of Greece. A white grape that is said to have the elegance of Chablis. Try to find one from its birthplace, the island of Santorini but any Greek white stating Assyrtiko on the front or back label will do.