This Time Last Year – Part 20: A Wine Tour of Attica

Part of a series of posts that cover my travel to Greece and the USA in April/May 2016.

May 7 2016 – Athens (Attica Peninsula)

The freshly squeezed orange juice at St Thomas B & B is delicious. It’s a great start to what is going to be a most interesting day. Sissy and Marian are picking me up and we’re going wine tasting! We are in the Attica wine region, historically best known for large scale production of Greece’s famous Retsina made from the Savantiano grape – this grape relishes the hot climate, is easy to grow and has no diseases. But modern winemakers are producing white wine Savantiano that is clean, crisp and textural and to my palate pretty darn drinkable.

Sissy and Marian from Grapefool – wine lovers and my hosts for the day

They have visits planned for me with Roxanne Matsa and her 12.2 hectare historic estate very close by at Kantza, Domaine Papagiannakos in Mesogaia and Mylonas Winery in Keretea.

Roxanne is picking roses when we arrive. She’s been in the wine industry all her life but also loves her rambling garden with large areas of borage, rose bushes and orange trees.

Roxanne Matsa

We drive to the vineyard where there is an electricity station on one perimeter – on her former vineyard land. She sighs. The vineyard is planted with malagousia, savantiano, syrah – and sauvignon blanc!! Roxanne makes the wines for the giant Boutari company but she keeps a little for herself.

Sissy, Roxanne and Marian with a sauvignon blanc vine and Mt Hymettus in the background.

We return to her wonderful old house. She limps. I limp. We go up and down the stairs the same way. We taste some wines and eat wonderful pie. The visit is too short.

We head towards Domaine Papagiannakos, somewhere south-east of the airport and east of Markopoulo in the middle of nowhere. We drive on unsealed lanes past orchards of figs and pistachio trees.  I’m introduced to it as a ‘bioclimatic’ winery, a term I had not heard before.  It is a very modern facility with architectural awards to its name. It’s popular as a function and wedding venue.

The ‘bioclimatic’ winery and some of the gardens of Domaine Papagiannakos

The tasting room is downstairs. We are taken through the tasting by Angeliki Papagiannakou, who had just received the news she had aced her WSET exams. There are many wines to try including young and old vine savantiano, malagousia, assyrtiko and a delicious rose made from a blend of cabernet sauvignon and the indigenous grape agiorgitiko.

A line-up of the extensive range at Papayiannakos with Angeliki.

It is another 15 kilometres south to Keterea and the Mylonas Winery where we meet winemaking hero Stamatis Mylonas,

Stamatis Mylonas

Listening to his story, of his father establishing vineyards in 1917 and growing mainly savantiano for retsina, his working in the winery as a boy then taking papers in oenology before starting his own label I am reminded of Kumeu River in NZ – the next generation taking over the reins and completely modernising the production and producing wines that are very special. Stamatis has not thrown away all the tradition though. He still makes a retsina and in the basement winery is a 500-litre amphora he uses for his sweet wine in honour of his father and grandfather.

A display of some of the Mylonas Wines

We taste through an extensive range including the now familiar malagousia, assyrtiko and savantiano and two unusual reds - limniona and mandilaria – along with merlot.

All of the whites are unoaked but have skin contact for 6 to 25 hours before the juice is pressed or run off. I am particularly impressed by the Mylonas Savantiano and its development as we taste through several vintages. And the wine is now available in New Zealand through Taste Greece Importers in Browns Bay!

I am given a wine to taste blind.  It’s a little unusual. I am asked if I like it. “Um, it’s different,” I say.  They sneaked a retsina in for me to try !!! I can quite categorically state it is definitely the best retsina I’ve tried.

Marian, Stamatis and Sissy tasting the Mylonas range of wines

We head back towards Paenaia, straight up the motorway this time, no mucking around. But there’s still more wine tasting.  A bottle of Lafkiotis Agionimo 2015, a wine from the Nemea region that I passed through ten days before on my way from Corinth to Kalamata, is opened over dinner. It’s made from 100% Agiorgitko, the red wine grape that Nemea is best known for. It had 12 months maceration in new French oak. I found it soft on entry with a spicy kick.

I made this map to show where the wineries are that we visited today.

Map of the Attica Peninsula showing the locations of St Thomas B&B, Kantza and the Papagiannakos and Mylonas wineries.

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