Not sure about you, but a few years ago I’d never heard of Assyrtiko, the native white grape of Santorini? So I was intrigued to read that the Wine Advocate’s Mark Squires, no less, claims that as a category Assyrtikos are “among the world’s great whites.” He goes on to say that Assyrtiko is “simply brilliant, a high-upside white grape that works well in every incarnation: unoaked, oaked, Nykteri, monovarietals, blends (with Aidani and Athiri) and sweet (Vinsanto) versions.” (Greece: The Santorini Special by Mark Squires, eRobertParker.com, 30 October 2015)
And the reviews are just as good for Assyrtiko’s ageing prospects. According to Squire, “they have the structure to age far better than people think…I find it hard to believe, say, that a top level Assyrtiko from a good producer in a good year shouldn’t go (at least) a decade.”
Fortunately I’ve enjoyed some terrific Assyrtikos over the last couple of years. Top notch importers like David Lamb of Douglas Lamb Wines have helped to introduce Australians to Santorini’s best producers, and you’ll now find Assyrtiko on the wine lists of many of country’s top restaurants.
For a grape that hails from one of the hottest and driest wine regions in the world, Assyrtiko has a surprising level of acidity (hence, it’s impressive ageing potential) and a minerality that often invites comparisons with Chablis.
One of the best examples of dry assyrtiko, the Gai’a 2015 Thalassitis, is currently listed on the Cellarit Wine Market. Here’s Squires’ 92 point review:
The 2015 Thalassitis is Gai’a’s familiar, old-vines Assyrtiko, unoaked and without malolactic fermentation (as the winery points out, “due to the climate conditions of Santorini the wine contains no malic acid, thus no malolactic fermentation is required”). It comes in at just 12.9% alcohol. This is just gloriously fresh and makes a statement right off the bat. Clean and remarkably delicious, with the fruit lifted and zipped into the palate, this is a nervy Thalassitis that I liked a lot. There is just a tinge of lemon on the finish. The fruit dances over the tongue. It is fresh and refreshing. On the second day, it was even better, its parts far better integrated and its freshness sealing the deal. It is not, to be sure, the biggest in concentration and body (it could use a bit more, perhaps), but it is respectable enough and its summer-refresher demeanor is very appealing. It will drink well young, but this should hold on for a few years nicely. This is a high-personality offering that succeeds on its own terms. There were 67,000 bottles produced.
by Merrill Witt, Editor