Another wine that is often ignored but each and every time I dip my toes in the waters of Assyrtiko I am reminded what truly grand wines these are!
There are some wines that even the pros can forget about. Wines that really never fail to wow when tasted but are too often missed or skipped over. Take Assyrtiko from Santorini for example. These are wines that never seem to really underperform. yes there is a range of quality and style, going from incredibly complex and detailed artisanal wines that capture the salty, minerally character of the terrain and climate of Santorini, but there are also wines that are targeted towards consumers looking for a fruitier rendition of this classic variety.
In either case, or any case for that matter, there is the unifying nature that the terroir of Santorini seems to imprint on these wines. It’s that minerality, born of silty volcanic soils, little rainfall that forces the vines, often truly ancient, to big deeply through layers of pumice in search of water, and near endless sun that produces rich, ripe, and complex fruit ready to be turned into world class wine. For more information on the island of Santorini and the way these wines are produced please reference Sunsational Santorini.
When one thinks of minerally wines, salty wines, this sort of class of wine one often thinks of wines that are light and crisp. At least I am guilty of that generalization. the incredible and unusual things with Assyrtiko from santorini is that it can be minerally and crisp, and profoundly rich at the same time. Deceptively rich, as all that minerality and acidity can help mask the depth and textural richness of these wines. The real truth is often only revealed when these wines are paired with food. Grilled fish for example, often a bit of a dominating presence with light crisp wines, when paired with Assytiko the wines fills out, gains depth, and marries with the smoky and even oily flavors of the fish almost seamlessly.
Add to this brilliance in the mouth the fact that these wines are virtually all available for about $20 a bottle and you have a wine that should be in wide demand and with world class acclaim. The fact that neither of things are true, due mostly to the limited supply of the wines and the correspondingly limited market penetration that supply allows, gives consumers a terrific opportunity to experience one of the great white wines of the world for a song! Take advantage of this opportunity while it lasts, and to make the most of it pair one of these great wines with some grilled fish this weekend; recipes will be coming on Thursday to make that an easy reality.
I paired these wines with grilled squid, shrimp, octopus, and Branzino and I can say that each and every wine worked brilliantly, though the hatzidakis was best with the octopus and Branzino while the Sigalas as better with the squid and shrimp. It made for a summer’s feast to be remembered. Now it’s your turn to make some memories. Try some Assyrtiko and see for yourself how good these wines truly are.
Hugely salty and mineral on the nose right out of the bottle with slow to emerge aromas of lightly melony and orange rind tinged fruit. this gains a hint of apricot with additional air but never loses its piercing seabreeze and salty notes. This is rich yet cutting in the mouth. A real wow wine with terrific energy even though there is substantial weight on the palate and simply terrific depth of fruit. Incredibly electric on the palate with acidity, there’s plenty of fruit to keep things balanced and just when you start wondering if this is a fruit bomb the cutting minerality arrives leaving the palate salty and refreshed on the long, pure finish. An absolute brilliant wine. 94pts
Dusty on the nose with decidedly volcanic soil aromas, steely white fruits, a hint of something vaguely celery like, more like cardoon and some dried citrus pith notes. Broad on entry, and rather elegant, this is chiseled in the mouth with great salinity and savoriness up front followed by hints of white peach, lime pith and a faint red apple note. The acidity is quite firm but well covered so you think this is a touch soft for a moment, then this turns firm and structured in the mouth with huge minerality on the backend and through the spicy, peppery and moderately long finish. This is youthful with electric acidity on the finish. Could use some time in the bottle but the fabulous intensity, structure and balance here already makes it irresistible with food. Grilled squid and shrimp I should add. 91pts
Earthy with the wood from barrel ageing immediately apparent on the nose. It’s well integrated adding resiny, sweet and smoky nuances to the nose but obvious and slightly more pronounced than the ripe pear and green floral notes that emerge in the glass. Lovely and bright on entry, this has a little weight and just a touch of roundness and creaminess from its time in barrel. The fruit is rather orchard toned, all pears, apples and with a little peachiness and quince on the backend where this gains some floral and slightly toasty oak power. The finish has a lovely sweet/tart tension and fine length with the acid really driving the sweetness and subtle spice from the wood that turns a bit sticky on the finale. It’s a lovely wine, and while the wood adds complexity and texture I’m not sure it improves the wine. 89pts
Candied and sweetly floral on the nose with a hint of butteriness and a touch f honeycomb along with gentle suggestions of sweet fruit and a hint of a spearmint top note. A touch of gas on the palate lends this a prickle on the tongue. Easy drinking, round and full, this remains well grounded with smoky mineral notes, a hint of saltiness, and fruit flavors that are rather restrained. Gorgeously drinkable, this is a party wine par excellence. The finish is brisk if modest with a fine blend of saltiness and citrus and sweet orchard fruit notes. On the simple side for Assyrtiko but at the same time this should be wildly popular with anyone who enjoys white wine. There’s a hint of tannin here and austerity that really adds energy on the modest finish. 88pts
This smells almost sweet on the nose with lots of baked apple, lemon cream pie aromas over a base of dusty and white peppery minerality. Bright and clear on the palate, the texture here is lovely, tissue thin and fine with plenty of juicy acids and the flavors are nicely detailed if subtle with layers of creamy citrus, citrus pith and quince on the palate but this lacks the explosiveness and depth of the finest examples. A bit short on the finish, though admirably dusty and mineral driven, this feels like a cautious wine. Still delicious but lacking wow factor. To it’s credit this does gain length with air. 88pts