Santorini Superstar Artemis Karamolegos

Artemis Karamolegos is one of the most dynamic wineries on Santorini. Inspired by his grandfather, who started making wine and cultivating vines as a hobby in the 1950s, Artemis founded his winery in 2004, growing it to be the third largest winery by volume on the Aegean island. They own just over 3 hectares of vineyards (some over 100 years old) across Pyrgos, Megalorchori, Exo Gonia, Akrotiri and Fira, and have long term contracts to farm another 5 hectares. They specialize in Assyrtiko, with a range of wines and styles, including numerous single vineyard wines with seriously (150+ years) old vines. The progressive, travelled Artemis, along with talented young winemaker Lefteris Anagnostou, have released Santorini’s first orange wine, and are experimenting with their own custom-made cement tanks. The winery has become a destination, opening the popular Aroma Avlis Food & Wine restaurant, and offering a series of cooking classes. 

There are more than 20 wineries on the tiny volcanic Greek island, with vines cultivated there before the Minoan eruption in 1613 BCE, known as the most violent eruption in recent millennia. The volcanic soils are a scrubby mix of basalt, granite, pumice, obsidian and ash, with high levels of silica oxides and metals making the soils acidic /low pH, well suited to amplifying the mineral / marine / salinity of Assyrtiko. More than 40 varieties grow on the island, though not all are cultivated, and most are on their own rootstocks. 

The winery, and wines, were totally new to me when I tasted through a lineup last month in Toronto. They are amongst the most exciting wines I’ve had in 2021. 

Artemis Karamolegos Terra Nera White 2020, PGI Cyclades, Santorini, Greece
This ‘entry level’ Assyrtiko comes from relatively young vines, averaging ‘only’ 50 years, from lower altitude vineyards. It was fermented and aged in stainless, on lees, for 6 months. Tight and fresh, with lemongrass, verbena, melon, and crunchy green apple on a slight palate, shining with acidity, and washed with salinity through the finish. Refreshing, and seafood-ready. 89/100

Artemis Karamolegos Santorini 2019, PDO Santorini, Greece
This comes from vines averaging 80 years, and blends 90% Assyrtiko and 10% Athiri and Aidani. This was fermented and aged in stainless, on lees for 7 months. Lemon blossom, pear blossom, pear, white melon, jasmine rule this medium+ (13.5%) bodied white, ringing with marine salinity through the chalky / grippy finish. Streamlined, yet textural. Ultimately smashable. 92/100

Artemis Karamolegos Nykteri 2018, PDO Santorini, Greece
This is 90% Assyrtiko, 10% Athiri and Aidani, from vines up to 100 years, and vineyards in Megalochori and Pyrgos, up to 400m. This was native fermented in mostly second use barrels, before transferring to stainless for 16 months total rest on lees. It rested in bottle for 4 months prior to release. Fragrant honeysuckle, quince, lush cantaloupe, rule the fuller (14%) palate, with the riper fruit easily standing up to the wood, leaving just some lingering spice, along with a flush of marine salinity on the lengthy finish. Quite a serious, accomplished wine, built for aging. 92/100

Artemis Karamolegos Aidani 2020, PGI Cyclades, Santorini, Greece
From the rare Aidani grape, this comes from vines 15-20 years, sourced from vineyards in Kamari and Exo Gonia, and harvested in two triers. This was partial native fermented in stainless, where it remained for 6 months with bâtonnage. Very fragrant, with perfumed white blossoms, lime zest, melon, and honeysuckle, seasoned with jasmine spicing, and livened with brisk marine acidity. Quite a pretty wine. 89/100

Artemis Karamolegos 34 2019, PDO Santorini, Greece 
The name pays homage to the 34 centuries that Santorini has been reinhabited after one of the world’s most devastating volcanic eruptions, resulting in a two-years long winter, and the current size of the island today. This comes from very old ancestral Assyrtiko vines (some of the oldest on the island), cool macerated, and partially native fermented (10% in oak), where it remains for 8 months on lees. Quite powerful and potent, mineral-driven, with lashes of broken flint, wild lemon, wild quince streaming the length of the textural, medium+, vibrant palate. Ample salinity lingers on the lengthy finish. Quite stunning now, and will reward with cellaring. A worthy homage to the island and its history. 95/100

Artemis Karamolegos Pyritis 2018, PDO Santorini, Greece
This Assyrtiko comes from three vineyards of 120+ year old vines in Pyrgos and Megalochori. This was native fermented in stainless, where it remains for 10 months with bâtonnage. This is striking and vibrant, positively ringing with flinty minerality and salinity, streaking across the fuller, lees-lined palate with lemon pith and peel, quince, mirabelle plum, anise. Very finessed, confident, structural, and singular, drinking stellar now and with time ahead. 7900 bottles produced. 94/100

Artemis Karamolegos Papas 2017, PDO Santorini, Greece
Papas is a single vineyard in Megalochori with 150+ year old Assyrtiko, seeing 22 months on stainless and 2 months in large oak before bottling. This rested for 1 year in bottle prior to release. Lemon verbena, subtle melon, pear, broken stones, flake salts, lees rule this medium+ bodied, powerful and striking wine, lashed with salinity, and positively vibrating with energy. Exceptional now, and with time ahead. 1350 bottles made. 95/100

Artemis Karamolegos Ftelos 2017, PDO Santorini, Greece
Ftelos is a single vineyard with 150 year old Assyrtiko vines, in the district of Fira, facing the caldera rim. This spent 2 years in stainless, plus time in bottle prior to release. Super saline and marine, with darts of reduction moving through lemon, grapefruit, salinity on the earthy, stony, savoury, textural palate. Quite powerful, and most certainly, a wine of place. My bottle was slighted by faint TCA, hence the lower score. I think retasted, this would show higher. 2650 bottles produced. 92/100

Artemis Karamolegos Louroi-Platia 2018, PDO Santorini, Greece
This is a single vineyard with 150 year old Assyrtiko vines, in the lower part of Pyrgos. This spent 11 months in stainless with regular bâtonnage, with one year in bottle prior to release. Full and expansive on the weighted palate, with ripe quince, elastic, Bosc pear, honeysuckle, grapefruit, kissed with reduction, and sprinkled with salinity on the lingering finish. Quite an accomplished, impressive wine. 1350 bottles made. 93/100

Artemis Karamolegos Mysterio 2018, PDO Santorini, Greece
Mysterio was the first orange wine from Santorini, from 100 year old Assyrtiko vines, in Pyrgos, native fermented and with 19 days on skins before aging for 10 months in stainless. This saw minimal sulphur throughout. Pouring a burnished tangerine hue, this very textural orange streams bergamot, apricot, blood orange, medicinal white cherry, wild mint, ample citrus pith, mineral salts along a slick, incredibly grippy palate, finishing with a wave of salinity. 2500 bottles produced. 90/100

Artemis Karamolegos Terra Nera Rosé 2020 
This ‘entry level’ Terra Nera series rosé pours a pale pink, and blends 80% Mandilaria and 20% Assyrtiko, with vines 50+ years, from Exo Gonia, Akrotiri, Megalochori and Mesaria. After a brief cold soak this was fermented and spent 5 months on lees in stainless. Bright and fresh, with wild strawberry blossoms, raspberry, orange across a dry, slick, lees-bedded palate, finishing with a raft of salt and pepper spicing. Makes me crave calamari and red pepper aioli. 90/100

Artemis Karamolegos Terra Nera Red 2018
This ‘entry level’ Terra Nera series red comes from older Mandilaria (60 years average) vines, with a short maceration prior to ferment in stainless for 9 months, with a small proportion seeing time in oak. Soft and fragrant with wild plum, cherry, raspberry across a shorter, stony, lactic palate, finishing with a dusting of peppery spices and salinity. A lighter hued, lighter bodied red, ready for chilling and cracking now. 88/100

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Treve Ring

Treve Ring is a wine writer and editor, judge and speaker, and perpetual traveller. [She is also Correspondent Anorak.]