Cyclades Log: T-OINOS

By Panos Kakaviatos for

23 September 2019

French-Greek cooperation had been part of T-OINOS Winery since initial vine plantings in 2002 made T-OINOS a pioneer for Assyrtiko production outside of Santorini in Greece’s Cycladic Islands. Located  some 460 meters above sea level on the windy island of Tinos, the winery thrust Tinos into the modern wine-producing era, even if people have made wine there since ancient times.

Extending nearly 200 square kilometers, this northern Cyclades island, with over 50 villages, is far more relaxed and discrete when compared to the chic and expensive Mykonos Island nearby. Its intense northern winds, dubbed “Meltemi”,  explain why Tinos is home to the god Aeolus, as I outlined in my more general post about the island earlier this month. As you will discover in this text, the wind matters also for viticulture.

The Stegasta name 

The island’s dramatically terraced landscape illustrates historical agricultural activity, with wine production dating back to Prehistory through to the Middle Ages and today.

Brought back to life in a different way: Stegasta (photo courtesy of T-OINOS Winery)

By the 18th century, Venetian inhabitants were making 20 different wines on the island, as evidenced by remnants of stone huts, where workers had pressed grapes and fermented wine on the spot, to protect themselves from the strong winds and because it was impractical to haul grapes down the island’s villages. These stony habitats are called “Stegasta”, which means “covered” in Greek, and they explain the name of T-OINOS Winery’s top terroir: “Clos Stegasta”.  Read More

Leave a Comment

Cyclades log: Tinos

Windswept island, great food, superb winery

By Panos Kakaviatos for

11 September 2019

After several hours cruising from the port of Piraeus near Athens, I arrived to the gusty environment on Tinos Island, whose barren and hilly landscape seems perfect for dystopian cinema. Its beauty is evident from the many windmills and over 50 villages, some among the most charming in Greece, like Pyrgos, dotting the landscape.

With a land area of 194,464 square kilometers (over 75,050 square miles) and about 9,000 year-round inhabitants, this Cycladic island is rather large, but more discrete than the jazzy, jet set Mykonos, just a 20 minute boat ride away, which is lit up like Taj Mahal by night.

The strong winds – gusts of 40 kilometers an hour are normal – explain why Tinos is known as the island home of Aeolus, the Greek god of the winds.

In more recent times the island is special for the Virgin Mary, as Our Lady of Tinos church houses a miraculous icon which, according to tradition, was found after the famous Virgin once appeared to a nun Pelagia and revealed to her the place where the icon was buried. A rug wide enough for pedestrians is parallel to the road from the port leading to the church, and some pilgrims still insist on getting to the church to see the icon on their knees, although most use their feet to light a candle and kiss the icon.

A veritable grand cru in Tinos

Starting at about 400 meters above sea level and up to 460, the island boasts a unique winery on an almost lunar landscape of enormous granite boulders. Many Assyrtiko vines of the T-OINOS winery are planted on thick sands over this rock and the estate, in operation since 2002, is justifiably highly prized for its high altitude, cool terroir.

Its wines wet stone like flavors emanating from these soils are so impressive that famous Bordeaux wine consultant Stéphane Derenoncourt has been the consultant winemaker here since about five years, and he travels to Tinos almost once a month to focus on new plantings. A new winery will be built by 2021.

I caught up Bordeaux-based assistant to Derenoncourt Julien Lavenu over dinner, and we spoke at length of the qualities of this wine, which will be the subject of my next blog entry.

Suffice to say that T-OINOS has been getting loads of positive press from critics and writers around the world, from FAZ in Germany to Julia Harding and Jancis Robinson. As I was leaving, PR manager Eleni Blouchou told me that a Financial Times correspondent was coming to visit next week.

Stay tuned for more details in the next Cyclades tour blog entry…

A gorgeous setting: Aeolis Tinos Suites 

While I paid my own way to get to Athens, it is important to point out that the visits to Tinos were part of a media tour, and the T-OINOS team covered my travel expense from Athens to the island and two nights stay at a most gorgeous luxury hotel, aptly named the Aeolis Tinos Suites. Read More

Leave a Comment

Krug on Air France

But SAS remains my overall favorite Euro business experience

5 August 2019

By Panos Kakaviatos for

Tis the summer holiday season, and in a recent trip I flew with Air France Business Class to and back from the United States. It was interesting to compare the airplanes: on my way over, it was in a Boeing 777, which had an appealing 1-3-1 row seat configuration, so when traveling solo, you can get both an aisle and window seat at once, which is what I chose. The plane is comfortable although the table area was to my right, so seeing out the window was more of a stretch.

The service was very good, and I enjoyed the wines, which included a Louis Jadot Santenay 2017 red that was tasty enough. The Deutz NV bubbly was fun to drink, as well, and it went well with both the nuts (served cold), the beet mousse and a cheese crumble (tasty) and the excellent ending with cheeses. The main course – “pan fried shrimp with a butternut squash puree” – was kind of average. Read More

1 Comment

Heady wines, heady times

Climate change and the enduring appeal of Châteauneuf du Pape

By Panos Kakaviatos for 

26 June 2019

A joyful ceremony earlier this month to induct 15 new ambassadors to the official fraternity of Châteauneuf-du-Pape – the Eschansonnerie des Papes – ended with soulful singing in the local Occitan dialect.

But not before participants gathered in the restored cellar section of the ancient Châteauneuf du Pape castle to enjoy a delicious dinner with opulent reds from the famous southern Rhône wine region, served Middle Age style from amphorae (see video).

Established in 1968, the Eschansonnerie des Papes now counts some 3,500 Eschansons, or ambassadors, who are not only wine industry representatives and restaurateurs, but also individuals from all walks of life.

They are chosen for induction into the club, after proving their passion for Châteauneuf du Pape, which is known partly for permitting a blend of 13+ different grapes (see section below on authorized grapes) that have been authorized for the appellation since the 1930s. The ambassadors include artists and athletes, musicians and entrepreneurs. Last year for example, Yahoo founder Jerry Yang was inducted. For the 15 June ceremony this year, Wine Advocate critic Joe Czerwinski and Costco wine buying director Annette Alvarez-Peters (both pictured below) counted among the new Eschansons. Read More

1 Comment

Critics Wine Challenge turns 16

By Panos Kakaviatos for

11 June 2019

For the third year in a row, I joined several judges in an intense, yet well organized and friendly one and one-half day tasting experience called the Critics Wine Challenge this past weekend, under the direction of Robert Whitley and Rich Cook.

This year, 13 judges assessed over 1,200 wines from all over the world. I was paired with writer Laurie Daniel and Joe Roberts, the one and only One Wine Dude. At our table, staff poured some 200 wines for us to evaluate, which we did using an Excel sheet. Wines that did not make at least 90 points we classified as “silver” or “no medal”, while top wines were either gold or (rarer) “platinum”. 

As you can see in the list above, judges included many fine wine tasters, from Travel & Leisure Magazine wine columnist Bruce Schoenfeld and wine writer Michael Apstein (including Boston Globe columnist) to The Robb Report wine columnist Sara Schneider.  Read More

Leave a Comment