Alpha Estate: background briefing and tasting

"... lovely, nuanced wines from the plateau of Amynteo, in northern Greece ..."
Macedonia - Northern Greece
Macedonia – Northern Greece

Alpha Estate is a prominent winegrower who has seen great success in both its native Greece and in international export markets. The winery and vineyards are situated in PDO Amynteo (also Amyndeo or Amyndeon), itself inside the larger IGP region of Florina.  Amynteo is west of the better-known PDO Naoussa, and is just south of the northern border of Greece.

The vineyards of Amynteo lie on a plateau that ranges from 540 to 700 metres above sea level, surrounded by the moutains of Vermio, Vitsi and Voras. While the mountains provide some protection from cold northern winds and weather, they also block most of the Maritime influence from the Aegean Sea. So the climate is continental, with cool, rainy winters, and warm but temperate and dry summers. Two nearby lakes further moderate the temperatures in both summer and winter.


Soils are generally well-drained sandy-clay, with some alluvial deposits. Some of the sandiest areas are home to own-rooted Xinomavro vines, descendants of pre-phylloxera plantings. Given the temperate, dry summers, and the high altitude that fosters cool summer nights (with temperatures that fluctuate on average 15°C between day and night), maturation is slow and measured, allowing phenolic ripeness to fully develop while preserving high natural acidity.

All PDO wines must be 100% Xinomavro, although the styles allowed include dry red table wines, rosé (currently the only PDO rosé in Greece), as well as sparkling dry to semi-sweet rosé (again the only PDO sparkling wine in Greece apart from PDO Zitsa). The fact that rosé and sparkling wines are included in the PDO justifies the claim that Amynteo is a cool climate growing environment, and while Xinomavro is known as a red variety with natural high acidity and high tannins, Amynteo fosters wines of particular purity and elegance. Of course many other grape varieties are grown within the PDO boundaries, but they must be classified as PGI Florina.

Alpha Estate winemaker and co-owner Angelos Iatridis
Alpha Estate winemaker and co-owner Angelos Iatridis (photo courtesy Apostolos Gerakinis)

Alpha Estate was founded in 1997 by viticulturist Makis Mavridis and oenologist Angelos Iatridis. They purchased and consolidated many small vineyards into a contiguous estate of 69 hectares. The estate vineyards are located in a higher area of the plateau (620 to 710 metres in altitude), and have a north-west exposure, both factors that further enhance the cooler climate credentials of the estate. In addition to Xinomavro, they have planted Mavrodapnhe, Syrah, Merlot, Pinot Noir, Tannat, Montepulciano, Negro Amaro, Barbera, Malagouzia, Sauvigon Blanc, Chardonnay and Gewürztraminer.

Angelos is a passionate promoter of Amynteo, as well as of his own wines. His portfolio illustrates the characteristics of the region as he describes it: his grapes achieve phenolic ripeness without sacrificing attractive acidity, and his deft winemaking allows the terroir to shine through. While Alpha Estate certainly promotes international varieties, and winemaking is technically sound and modern, the resulting wines are definitely not in what I think of as the commercial, international style: over-ripe and over-oaked.

I have added some brief notes on the wines tasted. Several of these wines have been released through Vintages in Ontario, with small amounts of stock remaining, and several more are available for purchase through the LCBO online in cases of 12. All are available through the agent, Eurovintage. As these wines appear in retail stores in the future, I will provide full reviews.




Alpha Estate Malagouzia "Turtles" Vineyard 2015, PGI Florina

Vintages #0 • $19.95 • 750ml. • WD Score 89/100
Malagousia (or Malagouzia) is an aromatic white grape that was rediscovered in western Greece, and revitalized and propagated by Evangelos Gerovassiliou, then at Domaine Carras in the 1980s (see Wine Grapes, Jancis Robinson et all). The grape tends to attain higher alcohol levels and lower acidity, but growing in the cooler, higher altitude Amynteo region fosters balanced acidity and alcohol. The wine is fresh, with dominant white flowers and rosewater notes, and more subtle lemon, lemon zest, melon and peach aromas with a spicy undertone. The wine is dry, with enough acidity to balance elevated alcohol that generates a relatively full body without excess heat. There is a hint of phenolic texture from modest skin contact, and the slight creaminess suggests time on lees, with a pleasant, slightly bitter finish. A satisfying, richer white wine. Available from the agent through private order.
Tasted 31-Oct-16 • EUROVINTAGE INTERNATIONAL INC (Agent) • • Share Review


Alpha Estate Sauvignon Blanc 2015, PGI Florina

Vintages #276831 • $22.20 • 750ml. • WD Score 89/100
This is an interesting expression of Sauvignon Blanc. It is very aromatic, but the focus is on white flowers, grapefruit and yellow apples — ripe but still fresh fruit — with a hint of green herbs, but absolutely no vegetal component. The wine is dry, with brisk acidity, balanced alcohol, a medium body but with a creamy texture from extended lees contact and battonage. Fruit on the palate expands to include riper peach notes, while pink grapefruit and grapefruit pith dominate the finish, that also picks up a firm, stony minerality. This is a lovely, ripe expression of Sauvignon Blanc that maintains excellent acidity and structure. Available from the agent through private order, and online through the LCBO.
Tasted 31-Oct-16 • EUROVINTAGE INTERNATIONAL INC (Agent)Find it at your nearest LCBOShare Review


Alpha Estate Rosé 2015, PGI Florina

Vintages #276971 • $23.20 • 750ml. • WD Score 89/100
This rosé is a blend of 50% Xinomavro and 50% Syrah. The wine is light salmon-pink, slightly savoury, with dried herb and light grassy notes, and then a core of strawberry, raspberry and lemon fruit. The wine is dry, with pleasant acidity, balanced alcohol, and a light creamy texture from lees stirring. The palate is fresh and crisp, with a wedge of citrus driving through the lighter berry and herbal notes, and drying nicely on the finish. Very good indeed. Available from the agent, or online through Vintages.
Tasted 31-Oct-16 • EUROVINTAGE INTERNATIONAL INC (Agent)Find it at your nearest LCBOShare Review


Alpha Estate Axia Red 2012, PGI Florina

Vintages #392282 • $17.45 • 750ml. • WD Score 89.5/100
This is a blend of 50% each Xinomavro and Syrah. The wine is medium ruby, hinting at garnet. The nose is nicely aromatic, with lots of red and black fruit — raspberries, cherries and blackberries — then a floral-blossom note, backed by dried herbs, pepper and spice. Fresh acidity balances elevated alcohol, with sandy tannins that build and linger on the finish. Juicy, fresh, tannic, and well-structured, with some real elegance. What a great value! I believe that the 2011 is currently available through the agent, or online at Vintages, in cases of 12.
Tasted 31-Oct-16 • EUROVINTAGE INTERNATIONAL INC (Agent)Find it at your nearest LCBOShare Review


Alpha Estate Syrah "Turtles" Vineyard 2011, PGI Florina

Vintages #115295 • $21.95 • 750ml. • WD Score 89/100
This 100% Syrah shows rather deep ruby red, with a violet tinge on the rim. Ripe cherry, blackberry and blueberry fruit dominate the nose, with just a little herbal-pepper and spice. But on the palate, the fruit pops, a peppery note jumps out, and oak-derived vanilla and chocolate appear in the background. While the alcohol is elevated, the firm acidity and pleasant tannins offer a well-balanced structure. This is a very well-executed modern Syrah, tipping its hat to the new world while remaining planted in the old. Some current availability at Vintages.
Tasted 31-Oct-16 • EUROVINTAGE INTERNATIONAL INC (Agent)Find it at your nearest LCBOShare Review


Alpha Estate Red S.M.X. Blend 2013, PGI Florina

Vintages #276948 • $30.30 • 750ml. • WD Score 90/100
"SMX" stands for Syrah, Merlot and Xinomavro, in proportions of 60%, 20% and 20% respectively. The wine is a rather deep red. The nose exudes dense, rich and ripe (but not over-ripe) fruit: blackberries, black currants, blueberries and cherries, backed by hints of dry earth and leather. The wine is dry, with firm acidity, elevated alcohol and fine, grippy tannins. The fruit builds on the palate, and the tannins carry the fruit into a lingering finish. Complex, dense, and yet some elegance here. Available online through Vintages, or from the agent.
Tasted 31-Oct-16 • EUROVINTAGE INTERNATIONAL INC (Agent)Find it at your nearest LCBOShare Review


Alpha Estate Xinomavro Reserve Vielles Vignes 2012, PDO Amynteo

Vintages #0 • $32.95 • 750ml. • WD Score 92/100
This wine is 100% Xinomavro, from 91-year-old own-rooted Gobolet vines, growing in sandy-clay soils over a limestone base. The wine is a deep ruby red, showing aromas of both fresh and ripe blackberry and cherry fruit with a dusty edge and a light floral lift. The palate is big and bold, with brisk acidity, elevated alcohol, a full body and powerful, fine but chewy tannins. The fruit is front and centre, but savoury elements grow, as licorice, spice, black olive, dry earth and leather appear, and light oaky-resin notes nestle underneath it all. This is intense, concentrated and quite a tour de force! Available from the agent.
Tasted 31-Oct-16 • EUROVINTAGE INTERNATIONAL INC (Agent) • • Share Review


Alpha Estate Utopia Red 2011, PGI Florina

Vintages #276922 • $33.35 • 750ml. • WD Score 90/100
This wine is 95% Tannat, one of the most tannic grapes we know, and 5% Xinomavro. The wine is deep, dark ruby-purple, with ripe to very ripe blackberry and black currant fruit aromas, with just a hint of crème de cassis, and a light menthol lift. High, fine and mouth-coating tannins define the palate, which has heightened acidity and alcohol that provide a satisfying balance. There is enough fruit and acidity to give the tannins a chance to integrate, if you have the patience to tuck this away for five to ten years. I would like to try it then! Available on line through Vintages, or from the agent.
Tasted 31-Oct-16 • EUROVINTAGE INTERNATIONAL INC (Agent)Find it at your nearest LCBOShare Review



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