We were very fortunate this morning to catch up with wine writer and Wine & Spirits senior editor and wine critic for wines of the Mediterranean Tara Q. Thomas, one of leading experts on Greek wines in the U.S. media and a self-defined “Greek wine geek” (see below), not to mention one of the nicest folks in the business.
Yesterday, Tara a few other fortunate journalists attended a private vertical tasting of Boutari Kallisti, stretching back to 1989, organized on the occasion of the Wine & Spirits second annual Top of the List tasting in Manhattan (did we mention that Boutari has made it into the Wine & Spirits Top 100 list 13 times?).
Here’s what Tara had to say about this amazing tasting:
The vertical was fabulous last night; I wish you’d been there. The Vertical Room was a trade-only VIP event, with 6 wineries pouring: Boutari (Kallisti), Catena (Alta Malbec), Drouhin (Chambolle-Musigny), Jordan (Cabernet), Muga (Rioja Prado Enea) and Vietti (Barolo Castiglione). People found lots to talk about at all of the tables, but the Kallisti vertical generated the most buzz, and I don’t think I’m saying that just because I’m the resident Greek wine geek. I think it was mostly because most tasters had no idea what to expect, and had somewhere between no to middling expectations, and so they were blown away by how well these wines aged. The ’89 — the first barrel version of Santorini Boutari made — was not the best wine on the table (as [winemaker] Voyatzis told me once, embarrassedly, “Well, we hadn’t done it before, so all we had were new barrels…” but it was still fascinating and delicious (a couple people told me they loved it most of all); it was turning towards nuts and a little mocha yet it was still vibrantly acidic. The 1993, however, was the star, the one that had everyone talking, and dragging others to the table: It was gorgeous, youthful, mineral, tense, saline, long, the only hint of oak in it its breadth on the palate.
Many people decided right then and there to start cellaring Santorini. I mean, how many other whites can you pick up for under $30 and cellar for the next 17 years to such excellent effect?
Top 100 Winery for many years [13 times]. I think what sets them apart is consistency (both in winemaking and in distribution in the US; one of the things that has hurt many Greek wineries is importers who don’t care well for their wines, although thankfully that’s changing). And that when Boutari decides an area is worth investing in, they throw themselves into it. Voyatzis didn’t leave an inch of Santorini unmapped before the company decided to build a winery and make wine there; he had some of the brightest people in the field working for him, like Yiannis Paraskevopoulos at Gaia and Haridimos Hatzidakis at Hatzidakis, both of whom went on to make superlative Santorini under their own labels. You can slag on Boutari for being a big company, for making some commercial wines, but when it comes to areas that are integral to the definition of Greek wine (Naoussa the prime example, Santorini the next), they work really, really hard. And Voyatzis is a master at identifying places and grapes with true potential, and at hiring exceptional people.