A vintage of two-speed wines

The 2004-2005 vintage in Greece produced a large quantity of late-maturing, medium- to good-quality red and white wines. Each wine is unique, of course, and owes much to the winemaker, and there are some major wines among the vintage where the raw material has been through the hands of an expert. The grower’s role is equally crucial, because it is rare that cultivating conditions are completely favorable. Nemea. In the area that produces Nemea Appellation of Origin of Superior Quality (OPAP) from Aghiorghitiko grapes, the 2004-2005 vintage was generally good. The season was late and the grapes were slow to ripen. As oenologist Panos Zoumboulis said: «In Nemea we had two-speed wines, according to what steps the growers took. Whoever got grape skins to ripen well made good wine, but that took proper handling in the vineyard.» Nemea OPAP 2004 will go on sale this fall, since the law stipulates that the wine must remain in the barrel for 12 months, though producers have asked for permission to bring out younger wines. But there will be younger wines made from Aghiorghitiko grapes that are grown outside the OPAP zone and are not covered by such restrictions. Pella. Thomas Ligas, an oenologist and winemaker in Pellas, speaks highly of the wine made from the Xinomavro, Merlot, Roditis, Chardonnay and Sauvignon varieties grown in the area. «Last year we had cool months in spring and autumn, no heat waves, and regular rain, which was good for the grapes. The only problems were with some Xinomavro grapes,» said Ligas. «People in northern Greece are pleased with last year’s crop,» said producer Yiannis Boutaris. Although many red wines have not yet come on to the market, the winemakers monitoring them know they are coming along well. In his own vineyard, Boutaris employed the «over-filling» method, which enhances the color of red wine. It was first used years ago in Burgundy, where the wine is not the deep red that wine drinkers like. But we will not be able to taste that particular wine until April 2006. Santorini. The Assyrtiko variety which grows on the island produced a very good harvest in 2004. «There was a large crop which produces a very fine wine – tasty, balanced, full and with character,» said oenologist Thanos Fakorelis. As for Mantineia, Fakorelis commented, «The vintage was late, but we are very happy with the result.» Mantineia has finesse and a light rose bouquet. It is still too early to make accurate predictions about this year’s crop, but so far the weather has been ideal, since there have not been any heat waves (at least in northern Greece: When it is 38 Celsius in Athens, it is up to five degrees lower in the north). It rained enough in the spring to give the vineyards the water they needed, and evening breezes were good for the vines. This year’s crop is expected to be smaller than last year’s, because vines don’t produce a large amount every year, but that is a sign of good quality. «Big» wines usually come from vineyards with small crops, either because the law so stipulates (Appellation of Origin wines) or because the grower so desires. Increase in French output Wine production has also risen this year in France, the European Union’s leading wine producer. Output had been low in both 2002 and 2003, so by 2004 the vines bore copious quantities of grapes. In Bordeaux, explained Thanos Fakorelis, vineyards carried out the so-called green harvest in June and July. That is when growers thin out the grapes to reduce the size of the crop, both to ensure quality and to keep within legal restrictions on output per hectare so the wine is entitled to be labeled Appellation d’origine de qualite superieur. «The 2004 crop will produce some very good ‘big’ wines. It was a tough year because the harvest was very late. «The grapes ripened with difficulty and the quality of the work in the vineyard played a big role,» said Fakorelis, who oversees vineyards in Bordeaux. He declared himself very satisfied with the result of last year’s vintage but, as he noted, production was not uniform. And how could it be? Every wine, even from the same variety, is different, with its own character, and the producer’s input counts for a great deal. So does the area where the grapes are grown; otherwise wines would be depressingly similar and the life of those associated with them would be very boring.

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