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Details for Alpha Estate, Malagouzia, 'Turtles Vineyard'

Macedonia (Greece)
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AppellationFlorina IGT

Macedonia (Greece)

Not to be confused with the ex-Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia which lies just to its north, Macedonia is the north-central portion of Greece.  It’s usually regarded as including Thessaloniki and the Halkidiki peninsula, but we have a separate entry for that region here.
Most of the rest of Macedonia is an inland region with a continental climate best suited to red wine, made largely from the local Xinomavro (“acid black”) variety.  Náoussa in west-central Macedonia is best-known for this, and was Greece’s first defined appellation in 1971.  Náoussa is tough when young but can age well, and has been likened to Barolo.  Gouménissa to its northeast produces more approachable Xinomavro.
In the north-west corner close to the border, high-altitude Amyndeon produces cool-climate Xinomavro reds and rosés, and even fine aromatic whites (which don’t qualify as PDO Amyndeon but go under the PGI Florina).  Alpha Estate are the biggest name here.
In the far northeast there are a cluster of exciting wineries around Dráma; look for Wine Art, Lazaridi and Pavlidis.  Due south from Dráma near the coastal town of Kavála, another group of estates including Biblia Chora produce impressive wines largely from international varieties.

Alpha Estate

Less than 20 years after releasing its first wine, Alpha Estate has already joined the first rank of Greek producers.  It’s a collaboration between winemaker Angelos Iatridis and viticulturalist Makis Mavridis, each with many years experience as consultants throughout Greece, who chose Amyndeon as the ideal location to create their own wines.
Beginning in 1997, they started to buy up patches of land from small-scale growers in this high plateau between the lakes Vegoritida and Petron, in order to create a single substantial vineyard.  It took 75 separate purchases to create the first, 49-hectare block, with negotiations gradually becoming more protracted and expensive as the patchwork neared completion!
Meanwhile they built a state of the art, gravity-fed winery, releasing their first wines for public consumption in 2003.  Expansion has continued and they now own 120 ha of vineyards, planted with an array of local and international varieties.  Xinomavro is the main black grape, used both alone and blended with the Greek Mavrodaphne and international varieties Syrah and Merlot.  They also produce varietal wines from Pinot Noir and, unusually, Tannat.
Whites are just as important, with varietal dry wines from Sauvignon Blanc, Chardonnay and Malagouzia, along with a late-harvest blend of Gewürztraminer and Malagouzia.

about this wine About this wine

This wine comes from the Turtles… no, Tortoises… er, the Chelónes vineyard, which lies on the south side of Lake Petron, sloping slightly north-west toward Mount Voras beyond the lake.  The soil here is very sandy clay over limestone, so it drains extremely well.
So well, in fact, that a very expensive underground pipe system is used to deliver precisely timed and measured quantities of water to each vine.  This system, known as regulated deficit irrigation, is a useful brake on Malagousia’s tendency to grow new shoots rather than ripen grapes.  Near-constant winds from the mountain dry the vines after any rains that do fall, keeping the somewhat disease-prone Malagousia in excellent health.
You may have noticed that I’m not being entirely consistent in spelling the name of this grape variety, but then, nor is anyone else!  Gerovassiliou, who saved the grape from extinction and produced our last example, calls it Malagousia, while Alpha Estate label theirs Malagouzia.  In the Greek alphabet the spelling is of course consistent, Μαλαγουζιά, but there’s no universally-agreed way to transliterate that into the Roman alphabet.
Yields for this Malagouzia were further reduced by a green harvest, picking and discarding some bunches early in the season to force the vines to concentrate their energies on those remaining.  2015 was an excellent vintage, and the grapes were picked by hand a little earlier than usual, on September 4th.
At the winery the grapes were destemmed and lightly crushed, before undergoing a low-temperature cold soak to extract aroma and flavour from the skins.  The juice was then run off into stainless steel fermentation tanks with cooling jackets, and fermented at gradually increasing temperatures.
After fermentating to dryness the wine was aged on its lees for two months, with regular batonnage (lees-stirring) to add texture and complexity.

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