2017 Hatzidakis Winery Cuvée No. 15 Assyrtiko


Am I an expert in Greek wine? Regrettably, I am not. But I do know when I’m face to face with a wine that exudes brilliance. This bottle was kindly opened during a long-overdue visit to The Arches, the legendary restaurant/wine bar in Swiss Cottage, London. As is customary, proprietor Harry Gill leaned over and said, ’Ere, mate. I’ve got something for you. Try this. A glass was poured, and it was clear at first sniff that this was something special. The 2017 Cuvée No. 15 Assyrtiko from the Hatzidakis Winery is a world-class drop of vino and the best Greek white that I have tasted. It comes from organically cultivated vines in Pyrgos, Emporio and Messaria-Vothonas on the island of Santorini. It was fermented with natural yeasts and spent eight months on the lees in stainless steel tanks. Iridescent in the glass, the 2017 has a knockout bouquet of yellow plums, roasted almond and hazelnut; an undercurrent of basalt betrays its volcanic origins. You could just close your eyes and inhale this nose all day, imagining the azure Mediterranean water lapping on a Greek coast. The palate does not disappoint, offering stunning precision and pitch-perfect acidity and tension. A little taut at first pour, it gradually opens to reveal subtle but entrancing nectarine, white peach and underlying saline notes. The flavors aren’t especially strong – this is more about precision and energy. Imagine if Raveneau made Chablis on a sun-kissed Greek island! If that hasn’t got you trying to track this gem down, then I don’t know what will. 95/Drink 2020-2030.

There is a tragic backstory to this wine. Founder Haridimos Hatzidakis took his own life in August 2017, but his surviving family members continue to make wine with his right-hand man of many years, renaming the Cuvée 15 “Familia.” Harry Gill gave me a bottle of their latest release to try, and it is important to include it here, for Hatzidakis Winery’s story did not and should not end with its founder’s. The 2018 Santorini Familia has a sharp, precise bouquet of green apples and freshly cut pear, plus a faint whiff of sea spray. Maybe because it is a few months younger, that volcanic/basalt element is less pronounced. The beautifully balanced palate shows a fine line of acidity that feels a little stronger compared to the 2017 Cuvée 15 (though the crucial sense of tension and energy is intact) and displays excellent salinity on the finish. This is a superb wine that maintains the standard set by Haridimos Hatzidakis. I would give it a few months in bottle. 92/Drink 2021-2032.

The wines of Hatzidakis Winery are distributed by Dionysos Imports and Frederick Wildman in the United States, although neither of their websites appears to list recent releases. The importer in the UK is Eclectic Wines. See www.hatzidakiswines.gr for a full list of importers. Prices are around £30.00 a bottle for the Cuvée 15 and £25.00 a bottle for the Familia.