The rare grey-black marble that is found on the floors of Buckingham Palace and the Louvre comes from Tinos, a rugged Greek island in the Aegean Sea. So sought after, this marble is now UNESCO protected – which is the reason you will see giant boulders in the middle of vineyards, with rows of vines respectfully stopping at their edges and continuing on after.
Tinos is full of unique quirks like this which make it special – and difficult – to make wine here; and we all know that ‘difficult’ means ‘expensive’, not only for the consumer but for the grower, too. It has taken Alexander Avatangelos and Gérard Margeon eighteen years to get their wine to where it needs to be, to go beyond the expectations of local wine and into the realms of fine wine. Now, their Assyrtiko wines are expressing the purity necessary to compete with some of the most beautiful Burgundies and Rieslings in the world. ‘This wine is not just from Greece,’ Guillem Kerambrun tells us, ‘it’s from Tinos Island.’
Guillem is hosting a lunch, where he is showing us three of Alexander’s T-OINOS wines. As the Director of Fine Wines for Berkmann Wine Cellars, he has visited top vineyards all around the world, but had never before experienced the sensation he felt in Tinos. There is an energy there that people talk about and it seems to have a profoundly uplifting effect on all those who visit.
‘It was peaceful, no noise, nothing – I felt happy and relaxed,’ says Guillem.
The site has been described as something magical, where the vines have had to fight and struggle in the wild, sometimes rough, climate. ‘The terroir is too strong for any other grapes than Assyrtiko and Mavrotragano,’ Guillem says. ‘I’m a big believer that wine for me is the connection between the soil and the grape and the winemaker is here just to make the link and adjust.’ It has been worth the challenge and Alexander and Gérard have been rewarded with a collection of distinctive and rare wines, which have made it onto some of the most highly regarded wine lists in London (Ducasse, Annabel’s, Scott’s, Sexy Fish and Trade).
Clos Stegasta Asyrtiko is the first wine we taste and we are seduced by its full, fragrant nose of blossom and citrus. Lemons, lime and peach come through on the palate and they are all held in place with a robust scaffold of saline minerality. A refreshing acidity brightens all corners of the mouth and its generous texture ensures a long finish.
The Rare version is Assyrtiko grown-up with a leather briefcase. It’s stylish, it’s smooth, it’s even a little spicy, thanks to the touch of oak. All of the citrus zestiness and savoury minerality is still there, but the acidity is rounded with a subtle creaminess. In a word: opulent.
We finish lunch with the Clos Stegasta Mavrotragano, T-OINOS’s signature red wine. It possesses a vibrant nose of red and black fruits, the most intense being black cherries. Gorgeous soft, smooth tannins coat the palate and coffee and cocoa notes add to the brooding complexity, creating a long and delicious finish.
If wine is liquid energy, then it’s a privilege that whatever Tinos has can be bottled. Time has enabled the purity and intensity of the terroir to be expressed with absolute precision and now T-OINOS has a collection of wines that possess drinkability, complexity and prolonged ageing potential. Will we soon see Tinos on the fine wine world stage amongst the greats? ‘Between you and I,’ Guillem says, ‘this is the future.’