You may have already read the account by my friend, Yiannis Karakasis MW, of the latest release of Vouni Panayia’s microvinifications and here are my impressions on this, their thought-provoking fourth release.
These are wines that observe and explore the sense of place arising from the elevated, arid limestone and schistolithic soils of north west Cyprus, as well as the optimised expression of Cyprus’s native grape varieties brought about by experimental vinification techniques. Viewed from left to right in the accompanying photograph, the labels, rendered by local artists, possess their usual soul and good humour.
- 2020 Goddess
Grape: Vasilissa (Queen) though often known as Aspri Fraoula (white strawberry)Vineyard: Ayios Ilias at 1,100m
Harvest: 30th October 2020
Winemaking: Cold soak, spontaneous fermentation in steel, followed by 10 months on fine lees. Just 11.5% abv and only 400 bottles produced
Sour, bruised apple, attractive cider notes, and a yeasty minerality all jump from the glass. A superbly savoury wine with marked gastronomic potential. I could (I will) drink a lot of this. That such wine comes from what looks like a rotund table grape is quite something.
- 2020 Untitled
Grape: XynisteriVineyard: Old Bush Vines from Kampos Tis Alinas at 1,050m
Harvest: 11th October 2020
Winemaking: Cold soak, spontaneous fermentation in steel, followed by 14 months on fine lees. 13.5% abv and 650 bottles produced
Cyprus’s workhorse white grape variety, often simply called ‘Aspro’ (white), goes from strength-to-strength. This iteration delicately evokes peach and beeswax, followed by a mounting chalky minerality and sweet almond finish. An ethereal lemon twist glimmers and glows on the finish. Xynisteri can be many things and, in this guise, can surely age, producing something akin to the TDN flavours of mature Riesling following a few years in bottle.
- 2019 Katsoshiros
Grape: MorokanellaVineyard: Sirizas vineyard at 800m
Harvest: 17th October 2019
Winemaking: Cold soak, spontaneous fermentation in steel, followed by 7 months on fine lees. 13.5% abv and 333 bottles produced
Cypriot hedgehogs (Katsoshiros) are furtive little creatures with longer legs (and ears) than their Northern European cousins, and a surprising turn of speed!
Cinnamon and gum cistus announce their presence here. Textured and mouth filling, showing a hint of furry grip. Fragrant mandarin appears, as do a seam of lemon juice and notes of oyster shell. This is their most balanced and expressive Morokanella yet. A pungent and moreish wine for drinking on its own or with a variety of highly-flavoured cuisine.
- 2019 Ancestors
Grape: Maratheftiko Vineyards: selected old vine vineyards between 1,000 – 1,100m around the village of Pano Panagia
Harvest: 21st October 2019
Winemaking: As for the whites above, but also malolactic fermentation and maturation on the fine lees of Xynisteri for 6 months. 13% abv and 333 bottles produced.
A surprisingly pale though limpid ruby for Maratheftiko. Fragrantly black cherry – almost Italianate. Fine grained tannins explore the palate, as does a refreshing tartness. Both firmly austere and sweet-fruited in the vein of some Sangiovese and Nebbiolo. Accessible but forever changing on the palate. This takes the exploration of the quality potential of Maratheftiko to new heights. No obscuration from oak; just pristine fruit and textural refreshment. One for now or the cellar. Delightful!
- 2018 Tango
Grapes: Maratheftiko (50%) and Yiannoudi (50%)Vineyards: Selected old bushvines from 1,000 – 1,050 around Pano Panagia for the Maratheftiko. Young vines from the Allama ton Genekon vineyard at 1,050m for the Yiannoudi.
Winemaking: As for the wines above though here the Yiannoudi was matured separately in 300 litre used oak barrels. Weekly battonage for the final blend. Just 12.5% abv and 820 bottles produced
This wine tastes fuller and bolder than its modest 12.5% abv would have you imagine. Kirsch notes and sour black plum abound and, as before, the fruit rendering of the wine is unobscured by any new wood. Remarkably velvety and ripe, though not without some tannic bite and correspondingly balancing freshness. There’s something of the old Cyprus here, as very slight notes of raisin add some real charm to the wine. I think I’d decant this, as its layered complexity needs a bit of air to show the best of itself. Again, there’s lots going on right now and you would definitely appreciate some interesting evolution in years to come.