Alpha Estate is one of Greece’s most ambitious wine estates. It’s based in Amydeon, a region that’s a high plateau near the North Macedonian border. It has a long heritage of growing grapes, and is famous for Xinomavro. I met with winemaker Angelos Iatridis, who founded the winery back in 1995 with viticulturist Makis Mavridis.
The 220 hectares of vineyards are at 600-700 m, and are surrounded by three mountains: Voras, Vitsi and Vemio, all above 2000 m. This is a fully continental climate, because there is no sea nearby, and it’s the coolest climate in Greece. Heat summation is around 1500 GDDs, and there’s usually a slight water deficit at the end of July/beginning of August, just before veraison. The climate is also moderated by two nearby lakes. Vintage is usually at the end of September or early October.
The soil is very sandy, and with a high sand content, phylloxera can’t survive here. This allows them to plant ungrafted vines. The first 40-60 cm is 80% sand, and the bedrock under this is hard limestone. Long ago, this whole area was covered by a giant lake. There’s a variation on this terroir in some places, where there’s sandy top soil, and a layer of limestone and alluvium.
Alpha Estate are committed to their social footprint in the area, and support many families working at the estate. They are also involved in a project with the municipality, in which growers are given vineyards, and then helped with consultancy. 85 hectares of vineyards are in this project, which Alpha Estate are supporting with finance and technical advice. The idea is to keep young people in the region, working the vines.
The project was started in 1995 with just 7 hectares, and now has 220 hectares of owned vineyards, plus partnerships with growers. They use no herbicides, and have 1000 km of underground irrigation pipes – they were the first in Europe to use these. They practice regulated deficit irrigation with the red wines.
Xinomavro, which translates as ‘sour black’, is an ancient indigenous variety, and they have a clonal selection made by a nursery. They isolated 6 clones from Amyndeon and 5 from Naoussa. Angelos’ daughter did a thesis on Xinomavro selections. They did three different vinifications of nine different clones to see how they performed. Aymndeon now has much more Xinomavro than Naoussa, where it is declining.
As well as Xinomavro, they specialise in Assyrtiko. ‘It’s one of the few whites with lots of phenolics during the pressing,’ says Angelos. ‘We have quite good extraction of phenolics. This is one of the few whites resistant to climate change.’
From 2013-2020 they were involved in a precision viticulture project, using the WorldView-2 satellite, which gives 8 band multispectral imaging at 1.84 m resolution.
Alpha Estate Assyrtiko Aghia Kiraki Single Vineyard 2021 PGI Florina, Greece
13.5% alcohol. pH 3.14. Wild yeast ferment in stainless steel. Pure, lively and quite taut with lovely balance and weight. Shows fine spices with a slight saltiness under the focused lemony fruit. 92/100
Alpha Estate Assyrtiko Aghia Kiraki Single Vineyard 2018 PGI Florina, Greece
13.5% alcohol. pH 3.12. This has some honey, spice and nuts on the nose with crystalline citrus fruit. Delicate and refined, with some mandarin, fine toasty notes and a hint of nuttiness. Lovely weight and good structure. 93/100
Alpha Estate Assyrtiko Aghia Kiraki Single Vineyard 2015 PGI Florina, Greece
13% alcohol, pH 3.13. This is pure, linear and very expressive with tight lemony fruit. Crystalline and pure with good acidity and subtle toasty hints. Lovely precision and pure fruiyt. 93/100
Alpha Estate Malagouzia Turtles Single Vineyard 2022 PGI Florina, Greece
13% alcohol. Stainless steel. Really floral and expressive. Pretty and floral with a grapey edge, more floral than terpenic. Delicate, pretty palate with lovely fruit and good acidity. Very fine and delicate. 93/100
Alpha Estate Malagouzia Turtles Single Vineyard 2015 PGI Florina, Greece
12.5% alcohol. Nice purity here, with lovely white fruits, some floral notes and a bit of spice. Crystalline citrus with some toast, and a nice tangy citrus finish. 92/100
Alpha Estate Sauvignon Blanc Fumé Kaliva Block 2021 PGI Florina, Greece
13% alcohol. Wild ferment in fine-grain white French oak with lees stirring. Delicate and pure with lemon and grapefruit notes, as well as a subtle bready note. Lovely precision here with a sweet pear edge and some saline hints. Refined and stylish. 93/100
Alpha Estate Rosé Hedgehog Vineyard 2022 Amydeon, Greece
This is the only PDO for rosé in Greece. 100% Xinomavro. Pale in colour, this is delicate and crystalline with tapering acidity. Amazing texture and a slight salinity. Lovely focus here. 92/100
Alpha Estate Xinomavro Hedgehog Vineyard 2020 Amydeon, Greece
14% alcohol. Matured in oak. 35 year old vines on trellises. Vibrant, aromatic dark cherry fruit nose with some cranberry. Has a nice sappy edge with some fine spices. The palate is supple, well structured and very fine, with some tart notes. Has a silky texture, but then some firm tannin on the finish. Lovely. 94/100
Alpha Estate Xinomavro Hedgehog Vineyard 2017 Amydeon, Greece
Complex, with spicy and mineral undertones to the dense, ripe black cherry and red cherry fruit. Fine grained with good structure and lovely midweight palate with a nice grainy quality. Such a beautifully balanced wine. 95/100
Alpha Estate Xinomavro Hedgehog Vineyard 2011 Amydeon, Greece
This was a cool vintage but then there was a hot August and mid-September. There’s a little bit of volatile lift on the nose with spicy black cherry and blackberry fruit. The palate is fresh, concentrated and intense with lovely sour cherry, plum and berry fruits with good tannins and acidity. Supple fruit and some warmth on the finish. Distinctive. 94/100
Alpha Estate Xinomavro Reserve Vieilles Vignes Barba Yannis 2016 Amydeon, Greece
Barba Yannis is the name of the previous owner of this vineyard, which was bought in 2002. Ungrafted vines, gobelet, western exposure facing Mount Voras, planted in 1919. Complex and finely spiced nose with raspberries and cherries. The palate is structured and refined, with good acidity and massive intensity to the fruit. Sour cherries and raspberries with lovely precision and layers of flavour. Such precision and purity: a monumental wine. 96/100
Alpha Estate Xinomavro Reserve Vieilles Vignes Barba Yannis 2013 Amydeon, Greece
Still youthful and taut with raspberry and cherry fruit, and a salty edge to the black cherry fruits. There’s also some black tea and dried herbs, and shows some richness. There’s grip on the finish with a stony, sour cherry edge. Such a lovely wine. 95/100
Alpha Estate Xinomavro Reserve Vieilles Vignes 2008 Amydeon, Greece
Beautiful and refined with pure red cherries and plums. Still lots of fruit here, this is powerful with subtle tar and spice notes. Good acidity and structure, showing real refinement. Subtle notes of tea and fine spices on the finish. Thrilling. 96/100
Alpha Estate SMX 2020 Florina, Greece
This is a blend of Syrah, Xinomavro and Merlot, with 18 months in new oak. Stylish and smooth with textured black cherry and blackcurrant fruit. Sweetly spiced with texture and polish, with a sour cherry edge. Lovely fruit, good concentration, nicely expressive. 94/100
UK agent: Maltby & Greek
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