When I was invited to taste a vertical of wines from Goumenissa, I wasn’t initially sure if that was the wine region, producer or grape variety. Goumenissa turns out to be a tiny but highly rated appellation in Macedonia (Northern Greece), not too far from its bigger brother Naoussa.
Chatzivaritis Estate is one of five quality-minded producers in the region. Daughter and oenologist Chloi Chatzivariti took us through their range during a very enjoyable and relaxed evening at Olivity, Amsterdam West.
Goumenissa’s USP is Negoska, a local red variety which is typically blended with Xinomavro. Negoska produces a much softer more fruit driven wine than Xinomavro, so the resulting blend is theoretically more approachable, and at a younger age. The Goumenissa PDO strictly demands between 70-80% Xinomavro, and a corresponding 20-30% Negoska. Wines also have to be aged in oak for a minimum of 12 months.
An interesting piece of trivia (interesting to geeks like me, at least), is that Negoska is sometimes mistakenly positioned as a clone or close relative of Xinomavro. According to wine grapes and other sources, this is incorrect – the grape is not related in any way to its more well known stablemate.
Excellent and approachable wines
Chatzivaritis’ range includes the entry level “Mosaic” wines, described by Chloi as “vins de soif” – spot on I think. The Mosaic 2014 white blend (Assrytico, Roditis and Sauvignon Blanc) has a nice salty tang and fresh citrus/tropical fruit. Mosaic 2013 red (Negoska, Cabernet Sauvignon and Xinomavro) raises the bar a bit, showing just how attractive the fruit of these varieties can be when it’s shown “naked” and unoaked. There’s a nice bit of grip on the finish too. If you are in mainland Europe, you can order from this site at the bargain price of €6.95 – in the UK, try http://thelifegoddess.com/
Chloi showed us five vintages of the estate’s top wine, Goumenissa, which were surprisingly consistent despite very variable harvest conditions. There is no 2009 Goumenissa, as the harvest was not up to scratch.
A clear favourite amongst most of the guests was the *Goumenissa 2008, soft and fully mature, with dried thyme, tomato stalk and fresh tobacco flavours. Still plenty of fruit and lift, but I wouldn’t wait too long.
Goumenissa 2007 seemed much more monolithic, less evolved with a wonderful nose of raspberry leaf, black olive and herbs. One to cellar for a year or two.
My personal favourite was the elegant *Goumenissa 2011, a standout vintage in the whole of Macedonia. Very expressive and herbal nose, sweet fruit and a nutty, cherry-stone finish – and I’m sure, a long life ahead.
*Goumenissa 2012 already seems very accessible – the Negoska clearly allows these wines to be enjoyable earlier than their more tannic cousins in Naoussa. Bay leaf and other dried herbs, blackberry, mint and liquorice on the palate.
The only slightly disappointing vintage was Goumenissa 2010, apparently a rainy and difficult year. This still has a lot of unresolved tannins, and notable sourness. There is power and complexity, but I’m not sure if this will ever be as complete and enjoyable as 2007 or 2008.
These wines seem well priced for the quality, especially bearing in mind that the estate has been organically certified since its gestation in 2007. The 2011 vintage is on sale at Olivity for €18, or order it online from Wine & Nature for €16.95.
The existence of highly specialised and valued sub-regions like Goumenissa is a good indicator of Greece’s long and venerable history as a wine producing country. If it seems crazy that a mere five quality producers have their own “PDO” (Protected denomination of origin), don’t forget French obscurities like AOP Cérons (about 10 producers) and AOP Chateau Grillet (1 producer) – and on the basis of this tasting, Goumenissa can clearly produce great wines, which are subtly differentiated from Naoussa.
Chloi has ambitions to reduce usage of sulphur (So2) in the estate’s wines, having been inspired by her experience of the “sans souffre” or “vin natur” movement in Paris, where she spent some time living and studying. She already has a winning formula on her hands – the only challenge is to make them a little bit easier to track down for customers outside Greece.