Chloi Chatzivaryti: beautiful natural wines from Greece

Chloi Chatzivaryti is making some very exciting wines from a subregion of Naoussa called Goumenissa. I caught up with her over dinner with friends to try some of her wines, and hear her story.

Her father started a winery he named Chatzivaritis Estate in 2007 (note that although her surname is Chatzivaryti in English, they’ve chosen to translate the winery name from Greek to Chatzivaritis). He didn’t come from a wine background: he sold machinery for cutting marble, but he had a long-standing love of wine. In 1984 he made a wine just for friends and family. In 1993 he took the plunge and planted his first vineyards. Then, in 2005, he decided to build a winery.

Chloi studied agronomy in Greece in 2013, and did her masters degree at SupAgro in Montpellier, which meant spending 9 months in Montpellier, followed by a month in Bordeaux, and then 6 months in another country: she chose Lisbon. During the courser of these studies and just after, she did vintages. She spent time at Leon Barral in Faugeres (a natural winery), then Château Margaux, and then a vintage with Pernod Ricard (Brancott Estate) in Marlborough, New Zealand. So she ticked lots of boxes: natural, fine, big commercial.

This takes us to 2016, where she did a Greek harvest, and then followed this up with the following vintage in Argentina (she had a bad experience here) and Chile at Las Vascos. With all this experience under her belt she was ready to start for earnest at the family domaine with the 2017 vintage.

Goumenissa is a side-region of Naoussa, and before phylloxera there were 1100 hectares of vines here. Now there are 450, and there are 6 producers in the region. Main varieties are Assyrtiko and Rhoditis.

The viticulture here has changed. Until 2018 the vines were trained VSP, but since then she’s just let the canopy grow without any shoot trimming so it gets high and becomes a sort of floppy pergola, with the leaves shading the grapes a bit.  ‘We get better acidity and pH,’ she says. ‘The region is very good for red varieties, but not for whites. The results are very good.’

There are no additions whatsoever until the end, when I just put a little bit of sulfur. I put it one month before the bottling. I don’t filter, I don’t fine.

They have a lot of parcels with different soils. ‘Next to the winery is clay/sandy, but mainly clay,’ says Chloi. ‘Then when we go to the mountain (we have a parcel at 600 m) then you can find some schist. It gives very good pH: I had a pH of 2.9 last year.’ They also have some gravels, with sand. Another plot has white sandy soils.

Chloi decided to take a more natural course with two experimental Assyrtiko wines in 2016, before she made her first wines proper in 2017. ‘I wanted to see if going to natural could work,’ she says. ‘I made two barrels of Assyrtiko. One was a technical wine, and the other was completely natural.’ She monitored the fermentations. And then she bottled the technical wine filtered and unfiltered, and the natural wine filtered and unfiltered. She decided to go the natural route.

THE WINES

Chatzivaritis Estate Migma Pet Nat Rosé 2019 Goumenissa, Greece
12% alcohol. This is a blend of Negoska and Xinomavro. No additions. Full pink colour. This has lovely sweet strawberry and cherry fruit with brightness and also some texture. Really expressive. 91/100

Chatzivaritis Estate Minimus ‘Mi’ 2018 Goumenissa, Greece
Part of a triology of wines, divided into Mi, Ni and Mus. This is Assyrtiko, and it starts fermentation in the tank, then goes to barrel for three months, then an additional three months in barrel, then it goes to tank (when sulfites are added, total always below 30 mg/l). Complex with some cherry hints. Bright, lively and concentrated with nice acidity and really lovely texture, finishing with saline detail. 93/100

Chatzivaritis Estate Minimum ‘Ni’ 2018 Goumenissa, Greece
This is an orange wine that weighs in at 15% alcohol. It’s Malagousia grapes bought in from a permaculture producer. Fermented in 400 litre Clayver amphoras. Orange in colour, this is really expressive with lovely orange peel aromatics. Nice texture and depth with sweet dried fruits, pear and white peach. Has some richness and a bit of grip. 93/100

Chatzivaritis Estate Negoska Carbonic 2019 Goumenissa, Greece
This is a local variety with thick skins and big berries, and also low acidity. There’s a hint of lift here with sweet cherry and spice notes. The palate is rich and spicy with nice density and some sour cherry character, and a bit of grip. Lovely wine. 93/100

Chatzivaritis Estate Minimus ‘Mus’ 2018 Goumenissa, Greece
13% alcohol. Foot-trodden Xinomavro. Very fresh and bright with good acidity. Fine red fruits with raspberry and cherry. Precise with lovely purity and freshness. Really bright. 92/100

Chatzivaritis Estate Goumenissa 2016 Greece
This is 70% Xinomavro and 30% Negoska, and it’s the style of the wines the estate made before Chloi was properly involved. 12 months in small oak. Savoury and stylish with bright red cherries and raspberries. Has good acidity and finesse with lovely purity. There’s some oak here but it is harmonious. 92/100

Chatzivaritis Estate B2 2018 Goumenissa, Greece
13% alcohol. This is barrel 2, which was thought to be the best barrel of Assyrtiko. From 700 metres. Very fine and expressive with bright lemon, pear and spice. Has a mineral edge to the fruit, which is lively. Grapefruit and spice. Lovely purity and texture. 94/100

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