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West End WineTour London

West End Wine Tour. London Wine Week

It was on a perfect Late spring day post London wine fair and during London Wine Week, that I found myself stepping out along St James Street, destination Berry Brothers Rudd.

London Wine week is an annual and collaborative event that takes place in May across London, and includes some of the top drawer merchants, hundreds of wine bars all over London and even the corner pub that keeps a small wine list can participate.

Wine is changing for the better. Nearly gone are the days of fussy, florid men in Burgundy-hued trousers and waistcoats looking down their noses and sniffing at corks in distaste while trying to read how much they could extract from your wallet for a rather average Bordeaux they had just discovered in France.




Should we want to spend a good morning searching out new wines for our collections or just to pair with our Sunday Roast with the in-laws, we used to be forced to either pop along to Sainsbury’s, or to risk crossing the threshold of a Wine merchant- that bastion of maleness, ill-disguised misogyny and snobbish foppery only rivalled by The City’s stockbrokers circa 1999.

Enter Geordie Willis, Brand Director for Berry Bros Rudd, who met me in the historic Shop premises for a cellar tour we had arranged. The shop reminiscent of Dickens and Pickwick papers, with its hand-made window panes, centuries of thicker-than-treacle paint on the shop-front and the smell of centuries of wood-polish, is a slice of London not to be missed.

Geordie in his early thirties recently returned from Hong Kong where he was growing the business and full of enthusiasm, led me down to the most iconic of wine cellars. As the appointed wine merchant to the Royal Family since King George 111, and a favourite haunt of Prime ministers, Parliament, and the well-heeled since records began, Berry Bros has met the wine needs of Londoners and people around the world. Now under the chairmanship of Simon Berry, Berry Bros have occupied this rabbit-warren of subterranean cellars and beautifully appointed rooms since 1698. Arguably the best address in London.  I can hear you say, yes fine if you can afford it and yes snobbery personified and Museum-like. Not so fast.

The  Cellars which are spacious and spread out over an acre, have recently been renovated to host a wine school, teaching tasting room, and some wonderful event spaces up small staircases to admire, marvel at and to simply luxuriate in the sheer beauty of the winemaking tradition, little changed  for  centuries.

Each year more restaurants and hotels employ a sommelier (no longer a male-only profession), and each year hundreds of people passionate about wine, enrol in WSET classes or are working towards a Master of Wine Qualification. Berry Bros wine school is instrumental in innovating and being an influence in wine education.

 Cellar highlights were very early Champagne wines dusty and waiting patiently for the cork to be popped and a magical vintage to be enjoyed. They had been cellared perhaps for a royal christening, or a retirement dinner for Churchill. I love the mustiness of cellars and the smell of wood crates, I took photos rather than notes, hyperventilating as I was with excitement at the range and depth of the collection. Beautiful early vintages of Bordeaux and Barolo all carefully catalogued. Cellar envy is felt by all who visit I’m sure. The clay bricks made in a kiln before anything was machine-made provide a safe, sturdy fortress for these cellars and the amazing collection of wine they hold. If you wanted to experience the history of fashion or beekeeping you might visit the Victoria and Albert  or the natural history museum, instead this is the history of wine but it’s not a museum, it’s alive and well and current. Little has changed Geordie tells me as he reconfigures the brand for todays wine enthusiasts, just a commitment to delight and surprise with wines. To sell wines to today’s generation of collectors and wine drinkers while respecting the journey and the traditions of Berry Brothers Rudd.



 Berry Bros have 4,000 wines on offer and were the first to open an online wine store in 1994. They also offer, fine wine investment advice, cellaring at a wine storage facility out of London, a wine club, wine school run by Rebecca Lamont and Anne McHale MW. Regular tasting events, wine appreciation courses and wine trading. The team at Berry Bros represent a huge knowledge base of wine. Cutting edge stuff.



Upstairs in the beautiful dining room used to host corporate and bespoke private events and boasting the talents of chef Stewart Turner, we taste a glass of Kings Ginger made for Berry Bros in Holland. Simply sublime to revive the spirits after a long days shopping or after a day filling in tax forms. Any mixologist worth their salt in London now knows The Kings Ginger.

In a small office, a snug lounge really, we sit to talk about the brand before a fireplace and what it means to Geordie and his family. In this room, Number three, an iconic room for Berry Bros, which overlooks the intimate restaurant below ,and where perhaps Lord Byron, sat and enjoyed a glass of Cutty Sark or two over a story, are lined up six wines Geordie has selected for London wine week tastings. The No 3 London gin brand from Berry Bros with a key on it, made in Holland, takes its name from this room, holder of many secrets.

It’s getting towards the Lunch hour and I must leave Berry Bros for a lunch date. Everything about the experience left me wanting more. I think the perfect place to browse in while your significant other shops for shoes, has a haircut, or your husband visits his accountant, a place to take people who are visiting London for the first time.

Berry Bros regularly host tasting events throughout the year, a perfect anniversary gift or a birthday surprise, perhaps to soften your boss up for a raise, or a nice treat for your mum who is in town for a week? Book in advance online via the events page on the website Berry Bros Rudd.

I left Berry Bros thinking that if the future of wine branding is in hands as safe as Geordie Willis we have nothing to worry about, and lots to enjoy.


And just around the corner was another established name, Fortnum and Mason, where I had a lunch date. Fortnum’s as it has been affectionately named for decades is a department store  established in 1707, in Jermyn Street  in  the Harrods, Selfridges class for the uninitiated, but has become synonymous with good food wine, chocolate, tea, perfume, all the little luxuries that make life worth living. Set out over five floors, head straight down to the wine area, tastings are regularly held, ask for the agenda, or just browse the wines from around the world, in extensive mahogany-wood-panelled-luxury. While your sister looks for a hat for Ascot, your mum buys her favourite tea, or your future wife is looking for a new handbag you could pop downstairs to wine browse. Lots of temptations from a picnic hamper you can order for a special occasion, a bottle of wine for tonight, or a mixed case of wine delivered.

 Fortnums in the heart of the West end, contemporary, high-end, established but something for everyone, not just those who spend hundreds of pounds on a creed perfume.


Head upstairs to one of two restaurant areas to enjoy a glass of wine or eat something light at the beautiful bar in The Fountain if you’re alone and prefer mingling. I think a perfect first date venue, or a great place to meet friends after work for an aperitif. Order by the glass. Then there’s the Wine bar  in the Wine shop where you could taste to your heart’s desire, with some snacks or a cheeseboard from the food hall, or splash out on some oysters.  I dined in the Gallery restaurant, always popular around lunchtime with everyone, bankers, tourists, and everyone’s mum, so get there early. The chef recently back from Dubai, really knows how to please the palate without breaking the bank.


Once you manage to get a table as I did, enjoy a simple lunch menu or a la Carte served with a lovely glass of chilled wine from their extensive wine list, I chose a glass of lovely French Muscadet, dry and lemony paired with a delicious pink Sirloin beetroot and crispy onion plate.  Superbly prepared, and rounded off with the most scrumptious pannacotta with pistachio I’ve ever had.  I contemplated a vintage Sauternes over dessert, but I had another tasting to go to in Chelsea later, so onward and upwards.


 Just divine, you can be in and out within an hour if you’re rushing back to the office, or you just popped in for some shopping and felt peckish. Meeting someone for lunch? Perfect get a bottle of wine to share, or separate wines by the glass if you can’t agree. Impeccable service and fast. I have long believed that the difference in price between a lunch served by well-trained staff, or a place with sticky tables and microwaved food is about eight to ten pounds.  In my opinion Fortnum’s offer real value for money and a great wine day out.

If you prefer a trendier venue that serves good wine and food and offers you all the wine choice you may need in one evening without exhausting your credit card, then head nowhere else but just up Oxford Street in Marylebone to Vinoteca near Marble Arch Tube. If you’re alone you will feel perfectly happy just sipping your glass of prosecco and enjoying a delicious choice of snacks at the bar, or join in on a feasting table where a group of  five to nine people will share a roast lamb with their choice of wine. Out on a date, the three course dinner with matching wines is a rather good idea. This is hearty, varied and well-executed cooking, with the wine being brought out for you to savour first. With 285 wines from small producers across the globe, Will Lauder’s team will be on your go -to list for a night out. It’s a place you will come back to whatever your age or wine tastes. Downstairs is a private venue with a dedicated chef if you have a special event. You can buy wine to take away from Vinoteca or order online too.

London Wine Week runs from the middle of May (2015 was the second edition) during and after London Wine Fair. Participating wine bars, pubs and bistros all over London.

Website www.LondonWineWeek.com 



Sithonia Porta Carras Greece where Malagouzia found its renaissance



After a week spent on a tour of the wineries in Northern Greece my interest in the Malagouzia variety had become deeper. So since I had two more days in Greece I decided to take a drive down the coast to Sithonia Halikidiki a very popular destination for many visitors to the beautiful beaches of Greece. The peninsula lies about an hour and a half south of Thessalonika and is easily reached by car. The other side of the bay is Kassandra also well known by holidaymakers

Having visited with Evangelos Gerovassiliou an Oenologist with his winery in Eponomeo, I came to hear of the work that was carried out in the past to prevent the indigenous grape Malagouzia one of hundreds of Greek varieties) from going extinct by the viticulturalists at Sithonia.

I was met on the outskirts of thessalonika by the Agronomist- Enologist at Domaine Porto Carras and we set off on the drive down the coast while he told me the story of winemaking at Porto Carras.

We stopped off to see the sea view from up top looking out over the sea to Kassandra and to the port of Carras.The turquoise blue water and white beaches set in such a natural paradise are breathtaking.

In 1965, the first vineyards and olive groves were planted. At the same time, work on the innovative tourism Resort, which is associated with Domaine Porto Carras, began. At the time, this created a real revolution in the hotel and wine making sector in Greece. On the western side of Chalkidiki's Sithonia Peninsula, where the verdant slopes of Mt. Meliton stretch down to mingle with the crystal clear waters of Toroneo Bay, 4500 hectares of the largest organic Greek vineyards lie in amphitheatre-like formation. These vineyards are some of the largest in Europe.

The vineyards were designed by university professors from the Thessaloniki School of Agronomy and Athens Vine & Wine Institute in an exemplary manner. For the first time a systematic study was carried out on the suitability of foreign varieties in Greece. The Domaines people have respected the magnificence of this unique environment. Wherever there were forests, they have been left untouched. Thus the trees today still constitute a natural barrier, trapping the evening atmospheric moisture which helps the vines withstand the hot days of summer.The winemaking team today that I met with and tasted with are Dioni Samara and Efrosyni Drosou with a consultant in Professor of Enology in Athens Mr. George Kotseridis. The viticulture is accomplished by Dr.Leon Zikas and Stergios Giannos the Agronomist for the Estate.

In 2000 Porto Carras Grand Resort was acquired by the Technical Olympic Group of Companies. The Chairman Konstantinos Stengos, made it the purpose of his life to bring Porto Carras to the foremost of resorts and wineries, along with Yliana Stengou Vice president  who today manages the operation.

The "Slopes of Mt. Meliton" vineyards are a model of organic viniculture, in line with modern international trends, respecting the consumer and the environment.

Thanks to the exceptional climate conditions prevailing in the area, the Domaines vineyards are one of the rare cases where most vine diseases are confronted using organic processes.
Plant protection is achieved solely by using sulphur and copper so that cultivation can be certified as purely organic, moreover only organic fertilizers are used. The yield per 1000m2, which does not exceed 800 kilos, demonstrates that the viticultural potential of the area is extremely high.

The hilly areas in the region create excellent ecological conditions for cultivating the 22 select varieties that thrive on the south-western slopes at an altitude of 200-300 m. These conditions allow the Asyrtiko, Athiri, Malagouzia, Sauvignon Blanc, and Rhoditis varieties to produce the highest quality white wines.

 Malagouzia, an almost extinct variety and one of the most ancient white varieties of the world, was revived at Domaine Porto Carras. After experimental plantings, the possibilities of the variety were recognized. Thus the production of high quality and balanced wines, with high aromatic potential, began. Today about 10 hectares of Malagousia are cultivated at around 100-400 metres.
Among the red wines, the famed Greek Limnio variety, the most ancient variety in the world, referred to in texts of Aristotle, stands out accompanied by the International varieties Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Sauvignon Blanc, Merlot, and Syrah. Which grown at altitudes ranging from 300 to 400m, have adapted well to the cool north-eastern slopes of the region.

The winery produces 1,200,000 bottles per year with 18 labels and exports to 15 countries.

The wines, I have focused on four here.


Type: Red Dry, P.D.O. Meliton Slopes.
Varietal Composition: Limnio.
Style: Ruby red color with spicy aromas of pepper and cinnamon. Full and easy mouth, with flavor of ripe black berried fruits, delicate tannins.



Altitude: 150 - 300 m
Soil: sandy clay.
Yield: 5.000 kg/ha.

Method of Production: Classic vinification process for red wines in controlled temperatures. Aging in French oak barrels for 12 months.






Type: White dry, P.G.I. Halkidiki.
Varietal Composition: 100% Athiri.
Style: Bright light gold color, aroma of white flesh fruits,white Peach. Fresh and fruit forward.

Altitude : 200 - 300 m.
Soil: sandy clay.
Yield: 7.000 kg/ha.
Method of Production: Skin contact for few hours and classic vinification process for white wines, fermentation in stainless steel vats at temperatures of 16° - 18 °C









Type: Dry White P.G.I. Sithonia.
Varietal Composition: 100% Malagouzia.
Style: Greenish yellow color, blossom and exotic fruits with notes of mint. Rich and round mouth, with apricot and peach flavors.


Altitude: 100 - 150 m
Soil: sandy clay.
Yield: 8.000 kg/ha.
Method of Production: : Skin contact for few hours and classic vinification process for white wines, vinification in stainless steel vats at temperatures of 16° - 18 °C.
















Type: White dry, P.G.I. Halkidiki.
Varietal Composition: 100% Assyrtiko.
Style: Intense citrus aroma, minerality, high acidity a characteristic of the Assyrtiko variety, refreshing aftertaste.


Altitude: 200 - 300 m
Soil: sandy clay.
Yield: 7.000 kg/ha.
Method of Production: Skin contact for few hours and classic vinification process for white wines, fermentation in stainless steel vats at temperatures of 16° - 18 °C.







The area of Porto Carras Sithonia with its elevated positions and its beautiful forests, aquamarine sea edged with world class beaches and leading winery offers so much to explore both for the dedicated wine enthusiast or the casual holidaymaker who can taste the wines at the winery.

The resort boasts five star hotels and a range of different accommodations. As We stand on the pool deck of the beautiful villa Galini built by the architect Kapsampelis for Giannis Carras and which hosted distinguished guests like Salvador Dali, presidents and Royalty regularly, I realise I will certainly be back.

Villa Galini is now a boutique hotel with one of the finest views anywhere in the world.


A note of serendipity once back in London. I realise that as I do each year, I trust the chief buyer of Hallgarten Druit at London Wine fair to let me blind taste a wine that he selects randomly. Going through my photos and notes I find that last year the wine he selected for me to taste blind was none other than the Organic Porto Carras Malagouzia. A wine I knew little of at the time, but loved.








Northern Greece part 4 Naoussa and Kir.Yianni wines.

On the last part of the Greek tour 

We come to the evening with the co-operative winemakers of Naoussa, the region that lays claim to the Xinomavro grape. There were 13 producers all displaying four or five wines each. When we arrived at the beautiful boutique hotel housed in an old building in Naoussa with a lovely courtyard where we would have a dinner with the winemakers. I could not image how I would be able to taste all these wines and do justice to Xinomavro. At present they export to 22 countries and produce 8,000,000 bottles of wine collectively. So Xinomavro has no shortage of fans. They also grown Syrah, Merlot to blend with and Roditis too.


I started with the strategy that I would taste one of each suggested by themselves and then see, how I felt. Some were muscly aggressive wines that were so tannic I was taken aback. I did my first round.

Then I started to warm up to Xino and did my second round with a second wine of the favorites I had spotted, among the tomato leaf and herbaceous tannic wines.  Along the way I met Nana  Chryssochoou a viticulturist –oenologist  who had studied in  Piedmont Italy and it was from one of her aged 90s vintages that I started to see how it could be compared to an aged Barbaresco, and a distant relative of  the Nebbiolo Grape. These wines need age or skilful blending, or both. As for a xinomavro wine I would approach over dinner, I would choose Tsantalis Naoussa old vines wines. Smoother and food-friendly I thought.


The dinner was abundant with tomato and cheese featuring broadly and rich with mushrooms.   Robust plates of food, designed with the wine in mi kept coming. It was lovely to be outside under the moon and to chat with the winemakers about the future of Greece and the future of Xinomavro.

We fell into our beds at the hotel Esperides and woke to a pretty view over the plain in an orchard of peach trees .Fruit was and still is a major income producer along with wine in Naoussa. Ted told us he had arranged our group of wine writers to meet the Mayor of Naoussa, so we made a stop off at the mayor’s office on the way to our tasting at Kir.yanni   Estate nearby. The mayor presented us all with a book and we shared some news about our trip. It was a nice round off for our Naoussa visit.


We arrived at Kir.yanni mid-morning on what was to be our last day. In fact one of the group has a flight to catch so to Amsterdam so Ted and the Kir.Yianni staff kindly tailored our vineyard tour and tasting to be completed before noon.


Kir.yanni lies nestled between the mountains, a really beautiful estate. The photographers amongst us went crazy! We were introduced to the estate by Yorgos Anastasopoulos general manager. The vineyards are overlooked by the winery and a wonderful tasting-room perched above the slopes.

Kir.Yianni was founded in 1997 by Yianni Boutari.  His son Stellios now runs the company. The company has vineyards in Amynteo and Naoussa in western Macedonia Greece. In total they cultivate an area of 75 hectares with the varieties Rhoditis, Sauvignon blanc, Xinomavro, merlot, Syrah, Chardonnay and Gewürztraminer.  They produce 800,000 bottles produce 10 labels and export to 15 countries. The viticulturist for the Estate is Dr. Haroula Spinthiropolou and is the author of the book Grape varieties of Greece. After a very inspiring walk around the vineyards we tasted the wines with Yorgos.

The whites were well structured and refreshing with a nice acid component. Among the three we tasted Iliked the Petra Malagouzia and Roditis blend. I like its citrusy freshness.

We went on to taste the reds which were all well made and I particularly like the Kali Riza made from  100% old Xinomavro vines a 2009 with good aging potential and the Diaporos a Xinomavro select block blended with a little Syrah 13% and aged 22 months in oak and a further 6 in the bottle.  A good rounded black fruit and dark chocolate nuanced wine. But the real surprise for me was the Akakies 100% Xinomavro Dry Rose, I loved its rich raspberry, pomegranate and wild strawberry nose and the lovely way it develops on the palate with a long dry finish, not being a great lover of pink wines, (strike 2) I was so impressed by this version of Xinomavro that I took home a bottle and had to pay for the extra bag on the plane. When enjoyed with a salmon cucumber and rocket salad back in Italy, I was as impressed with it and couldn’t get enough of it,  it paired well with the strawberry dessert too.


Kir.yianni now make a sparkling version of this pink wine and that’s sure to be a hit with many people who don’t favour Rose’.




The tour officially now over we went into Naoussa and had a typical Greek lunch sitting outside on the promenade under the trees. The Greek mezze turned into a Greek feast with course after course of meats, gorgeous fresh Greek Salads and we all spent a happy 2 hours saying goodbye to Ted.

The entire trip was a delight and I saw and learned so much I will simply have to go back to Greece as I only scratched the surface.

I returned to my hotel in Thessalonica ready to further explore Malagouzia alone, in the place of its renaissance at Haldikidi Sithonia at Porto Carras an organic winery.

Thats the next post.


Greece part 3-Amyndeon Northern Greece

We drove to the Amyndeon-Florina region of Northern Greece with a tasting at Alpha estate on the agenda, followed by Lunch and another tasting at the Kontosoros Restaurant in Xino Nero Florina with a winery from Kozani region Voyatzi Estate on Polyphytos Lake.

Alpha Estate was established in 1997 by the Oenologist Angelos Latridis and the viticulturist Makis Mavridis. The 69 acre vineyard is one of the largest we visited and the coldest and lies at an altitude of 620-710 metres with gentle slopes and a North West exposure with the influence of lakes Petron and Vegoritida. The systems from plantings to vineyard management are carefully monitored and managed all the way through to the winery which is a state of the art, spotless modern winery with a new robotic bottling plant and a large cellar set to double its capacity in the near future. At present the winery produces 500,000 bottles. We went on a vineyard tour with export manager Kostas Arvanitakis, who also took us to see ninety year old bush vines they have bought and cared for nearby from a farmer[DJ1] .  Used for their flagship Alpha 1 wine 2008 vintage, a really good wine with black fruit, cassis and a good long finish. Alpha one is made from the winemaker’s best block and only 17 barrels each harvest. 18 +18 months aged in new Allier oak and twelve months in the bottle.

And so to the tasting which most of us agreed was the best organized and well run tasting ever at a Winery. Before us were placed the whites the estate produces and then the reds on a placement mat to keep track with the tasting notes and  a sheet to record notes, God is in the details. Very well done. 

The whites were interesting and the standout for me was, the Malagouzia single vineyard Turtles (I was by now keeping an eye out for it), I also enjoyed the rose' (not normally my forte) made from a blend of Xinomavro and Syrah with its strawberry notes and deep Salmon colour. The Sauvignon Blanc which was tasted again over lunch, was juicy and fresh and as a regular taster of Sauvignon Blanc around the world I found it interesting.  But the triumph on the whites was the late harvest Omega, made by drying Gewurztraminer and Malagouzia grapes on the vine to intensify the flavours of pear and the spicy floral gewürztraminer, whilst keeping a good balance between the residual sugar and acid. It was refreshing with a long finish. As for the reds, the Red entry level blend of Xinomavro, Syrah and Merlot was very approachable and may get a new generation of Xino drinkers who may have found the traditional Xinomavro tannins too aggressive. The estate also makes a decent Pinot Noir and a Tannat.


Winemaker Angelos Latridis and his team have a string of awards on the walls an he was nominated winemaker of the year by The Wine Enthusiast in 2014. The estates philosophy and investment into making approachable wines for the international market whilst still maintaining the attachment to indigenous Greek varieties, seems to be working. They presently export to 32 counties. The consumer and his needs seems very high on the list of the daily workflow at the estate from flavour profiles to QR codes on all the wine bottles, and I like that approach. It seems the future of Greek wine really is bright.






And so to our tasting Of Voyatzi wines at the Kontosoros award winning restaurant in Xino Nero, followed by Lunch with [DJ2] the winemakers at the restaurant with the wines of Voyatzi and Alpha.

Voyatzi Estate is located in the Valvento Kozani PGI area on Polyphtos Lake. At an altitude of 340 metres. Assyrtiko, Chardonnay, Malavasia Aromatica, Xinomavro, Moschomavro are the main varietals of the estate. The estate is managed organically with a total production of 100,000 bottles on 8 hectates. The original estate was part of the Voyatzi family’s extensive vineyards who were well-known wine merchants in the area in the 20th century. The wine labels are innovative and fresh and all of our group agreed how good they were. The Oenologist Irene Zande together with the agronomist presented the wines and lunched with us. They produce 5 labels and export to 7 countries.

The Ktima Voyatzi Valvento White, a blend of Assyrtiko, Chardonnay and Malvasia Aromatica, was crisp and intense with a very present acidity. Next was the 2011 Ktima Voyatzi Red a blend of Xinomavro, Merlot, and Cabernet Sauvignon, aged one year in the barrel. Ripe, red currant fruit with firm tannins. The most interesting wine for me was the Frog Prince label. The Tsapournakos the variety Tsapournakos a PGI of the Valvento region, is said to be very similar to Cabernet Franc and legend has it may in fact be Cabernet Franc that the locals could not pronounce, whether or not this is fact is unproven and perhaps DNA research should be done. The wine however 100% Tsapournakos, dark red in colour, red fruit and spice on the nose, is intense, complex round and rich in character with a persistent finish. On to the Xinomavro ( the reindeer label) which is a particular clone of Valvendo  PGI. Only 5,000 bottles of the wine are produced each year. A deep purple wine with a herbal character and sun-dried tomato with a distinctive character and long finish.

So onto a wonderful lunch presented by the chef patron Nikos Kontosoros. His restaurant which also has rooms above, is a must do if you visit the Florina region of Greece.

The Menu,

Bruschetta Anchovy, Florina Red pepper,

Asparagus Veloute

Florinela Cheese and Tomato

Salad or grilled and fresh vegetables with feta cheese

Port fillet with Sun dried tomatoes and Florinela Cheese

Wild mushroom Risotto

Lazy Pie, Phyllo pastry with crème Anglaise. (A favourite of Ted Lelekas who dines here often)

Ktima Voyatzi white 2014

Alpha Sauvignon Blanc 2014

RED Ktima Voyatzi red 2011

Alpha Xinomavro Reserve old vines 2010

Dessert Alpha Estate Omega Late harvest 2012.





Greece part 2- Vergina and Metsovo 

I woke to the incessant calling and chatter of swifts as they darted and dived all around my hotel suite, which gave out onto a veranda and when I turned around in the bright sunlight there it was as large as life, you could almost touch it, snow-covered Mount Olympus. I decided to skip breakfast and to instead go for a walk. I'm not sure anyone told me we were on a beach, but there it was a long beach with gentle waves lapping and miles of nothing but sand and a line of white beach loungers. In the distance a small fishing boat on the beach with some fisherman but apart from this I was alone and could have walked for ever along that beach but we had an 8.30 departure time, we were heading north, so I satisfied myself by taking a lot of photos for my wine and destination portfolio and dug my toes into the wet sand and watched the waves cover my feet. I was touching the Aegean sea for the first time, behind me all the many aquamarine pools of the spa and Mount Olympus and in front of me the sea stretching to the horizon.






I ate a hasty fruit breakfast while some of the group were mulling over the coffee machine. Our plan for the day once we got in the bus was to head north stopping along the way because Ted had a treat for us. It was as he said, after his coffee stop, the only non-wine part of the trip, we were going to the tombs of the Macedonian Kings and Queens at The Palace of Philip the second (359-336 BC) at Aigai, Vergina. After the Parthenon the most important building of Classical Greece.

Our group was led by an expert on the tombs and we got to see the actual preserved tombs and the sealed doors after the discovery, the excavation was carried out in the seventies by the discoverer archaeologist. With a throne room and a classical style room of 280 metres square, the palace was inhabited and undisturbed for two centuries. After visiting the tombs we went on to view the magnificent crowns of gold oak leaves the golden burial casks, silver and bronze utensils, swords and tools, amphora and silver wine vessels. Really worth a visit and I consider myself very lucky to have seen this. Note: no photos allowed inside.

From here we filed onto the bus and hit the high road towards the mountains at Metsova on the border with present day Macedonia, Albania and Bulgaria. It was a good long drive and we arrived At the Katogi Averof winery and hotel high in the hills in the afternoon ready for a walk to the nearby monastery.

The Katogi Averof story begins with planting the first Cabernet Sauvignon vines in Greece which were brought from Chateaux Margaux in France by Alex’s grandfather Evangelos, on the steep slopes of Mount Pindos. The privately owned vineyards at Giniets are the most mountainous in Greece at an altitude of 1100 metres. The varieties cultivated in the 12 hectares presently are Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Cabernet Franc, Pinot Noir, Traminer, Vlachiko, Xinomavro and Debina. The winery operational since 1973 now has a production capacity of 1,000,000 bottles. The cellars which Ted and Alex the grandson of the founder, whose capable hands the estate will now pass to, led us in a tour of, were simply amazing. They house 1200 oak barrels and events are hosted regularly there in the tasting rooms. The company produces 14 labels and exports wine to eleven countries.



Alex led us on a fascinating tour of the nearby local chapel and monastery his family helped restore and maintain when it was deserted during the troubles, is truly worth the walk down a thousand stone steps to get into the valley with a vineyard of old vines. Passing through the village to the path we met a shepherd with his flock of sheep, he is one of the suppliers of sheep’s milk to the cheesemakers in the valley whose artisanal cheeses we had tasted at the hotel. We watched him and his black faced ewes skipping off after him down the valley. Pastoral Greece a slice of times gone by. The backdrop to this scene was the soaring mountains and the recent arched bridge spanning the entire valley built with EU money. Along the path with waterfalls we stopped on to take photographs and drink in the peace, I spotted a sign attached to a tree, a single large paw with claws, the brown bears live here.


Alex then led us to a precipitous edge over which the high altitude slopes below, were laid out the neat patchwork of vineyards. I stood with him on that ledge for a photograph while the acrophobic in the group gasped. What a view, and it seems the winery could not have passed more safely into the hands of the next generation of winemakers than the young Alex whose passion for his family's legacy, the amazing family museum of local history he guided us around and his natural flair for hospitality made us feel very welcomed and inspired. A tasting of the wines in the tasting room was really interesting, they recently introduced two screw-top wines from a sister winery a dry white, called White dot and a red called Mountain Fish that are ready to enter the UK market. We tasted the whole range from the Malagousia and the Tramier,through to the reds. Later that night we dined together with the winemaker Dimitri Ziannis on local specialities and roast lamb and potatoes, with some very drinkable wines all rounded off with a lovely local apple dessert. Next morning our last view of the pretty setting from the lovely rooms all with a fireplace and lounge for those winter nights. We breakfasted on the famed thick Greek yogurt and preserves and tasted a sparkling wine from Santorini by Tsantali with breakfast. Our third day had begun and it was to be action packed.


Rates at the 4 star boutique hotel and winery Katogi Averoff  start at 55 Euro the hotel has exclusive suites for couples and familes and all the rooms are original, with fireplaces and are spacious. The breakfast is amazing. Full board can be arranged. 

website Katogi Averoff.