Reasonable Cellar Alert! $20 Greek Red!
Greece is a modern wine lover's treasure trove. It’s full of new (but actually quite old) grapes, many nearly extinct, from fascinating terroir just waiting to be (re)discovered.
40 years ago Lefteris Glinavos looked around and saw an opportunity in his homeland, the remote, western, alpine hills of Zitsa. The hills had basically been abandoned by its goat herder population, but still held all of the natural components for quality wine: stony limestone soils, high elevation, adequate rain, a long cool growing season, and distinctive grape varieties.
He knew he lacked sufficient knowledge and equipment to make the wines of his dreams.
He took a leap and armed himself with an oenology degree from Bordeaux, one of the first Greeks to do so.
He then built and outfitted a modern winemaking facility, with all the trappings we take for granted today: stainless steel tanks, temperature control, and French oak—all unheard of at the time.
Degree in hand, he could have followed the trends of the time: he could have ripped up indigenous vines, planted Cabernet Sauvignon, extracted it to death, in 100% new American oak, sprinkled with mega purple, doused in SO2 and probably won some accolades doing so.
Instead, he mostly followed local traditions; just enough modern sensibility and technology were applied to create wines true to himself and his homeland. His influence was felt far and wide, and a slew of others followed suit.
Now his son Thomas runs the estate with the same thoughtful ethos. New wines made from ancient grapes, like Vlahiko, a sensitive and endangered varietal with only 3 hectares left in the world. His still red is one of just two produced from the grape, making it one of the rarest wines on earth, and one sip will have you scratching your head why.
With three years of bottle age, this wine is just coming into it's own. I've enjoyed this wine with 6+ years of bottle age and no end in site, making it a perfect addition to your reasonable cellar.
Glinavos, Ioannina Vlahiko, 2018
Graphite, mushrooms and forest floor, attack before the fruit, orange peel and rose petals. Red cherries and blackberries, wild and ripe, rife with cooling acidity, and warm soft velvety tannin. This wine is a head scratcher, so complex and interesting, familiar yet totally new, not polished, yet not faulty. Strong and intense like its fighting its way out of the glass. It needs a short decant and older bottles have proven its cellar worthiness, stock up a few for now and a few for later.