A Survey of Savatiano

I’d say that the Savatiano grape has been saved from the glare of a certain limelight of in Greek wine. I label it a glare rather than a shine because it is the base grape of a highly polarizing wine style: Retsina. Savatiano is Greece’s most widely planted vine, too, so it isn’t too surprising that it is a productive one.

Yet, it the right hands, Savatiano has an impressive diversity of expressions. (And, for the record, there’s some very cool Retsina out there!) This trio of wines produced in a wide array of styles from Papagiannakos – a leading quality producer of the Savatiano grape, who also makes Retsina - is a prime example!

Papagiannakos 2016 Savatiano Old Vines 2016 12.5%
This wine’s aromatics remind me of feeding pelicans by the ocean: there’s the smell and spray of sea salt then, inevitably, those lightly toasted Wonder Bread crusts that end up floating on the water rather than being snitched out of fingers by “hangry” birds. The palate is vaguely more giving with the taste of yellow pear skin, chickpeas and blanched almonds. It’s a fun and savory wine with laser-like focus of steely acidity and light body. Bustling with energy, solid concentration and a firm finish, this will age nicely but drinks very well now.
Drink: 2017-22

Papagiannakos 2015 Savatiano 2015 12.5%
Bright and deep yellow at the core, this moderately aromatic wine smells of shriveled yellow plums and cracked white peppercorns. The palate is vibrant, despite the almost lackadaisical acidity. It’s the strictly dry attack and balanced, reserved 12.5% alcohol that together give this food-worthy white its zip. The mid-palate is pleasantly waxy with tastes of yellow plums, pain aux raisins and winter spices that turn almost abruptly into a lingering finish of salted Spanish almonds. There’s plenty of depth and complexity in this wine’s continuum to allow it to hold well and even age to benefit.
Drink: 2018-20

Papagiannakos 2013 Savatiano Vareli Skin Contact Markopoulo 12%
This is an unusual wine because it is fermented in stainless steel tanks then, unusually for a “skin contact” wine – a vinification technique that boosts a wine’s aromatics, the wine is aged in new oak barrels! The barrels develop plumpness in the wine’s mouthfeel and give it a rounder patina on the palate than its siblings above. It also imbues the wine with savory spices to accompany its innate white peach flavors. Skin contact wines are often all about the skin-derived aromatics, which tend to fade quickly. So, if you want to witness the pumped up aromatics, don’t delay enjoying this wine.
Drink: 2018-19