When I was little, I remember watching my uncle, Costakis Nitsiotas, working on the wines and an image forms in my mind of him tasting vintages ageing in different vaenis, as we used to call the big oak casks.
Back then, we did not use small containers, but 2, 3 and 5 tonne vaenis. The idea of ageing the wine in barrels belongs to another era. What we are working on now is not only the age and the quality of the oak, but also the size of the barrel.
On every tasting he would say “we should leave this for later, it’s still young”, or “this one is ready now”. I remember that all of his comments were about whether the wine was mature enough or not.
Years later, when I had all the necessary scientific knowledge, I tried to interpret my uncle’s behavior based on scientific evidence. Estimating the degree of maturity and the various ageing times can open new horizons in the life of a wine.
A young wine can be highly reminiscent of the vine, and of the flavors and the aromas of the grape. It brings to mind the morning dew, the countryside, the breeze of the mountain or of the sea, happy voices, and the beauty of youth.
Later on, the wine gains beautiful wrinkles and gives flavors and aromas reminding of dark vaults, slow procedures, treated leather and soft fabric, sunset light, or talking about memories and not about expectations. These are the past vintages and their qualities.
At Ktima Kir-Yianni, we try to make past vintages a part of our life. This is the calling of our vines, this is what the lives of our people give.
22 November 2004
“Ramnista” is the first wine that Yiannis Boutaris launched when he left the family business in 1996 to create Ktima Kir-Yianni.
Since then Ramnista has become a benchmark for the Xinomavro friends in Greece and – mainly – abroad; it is worth noting that 70% of the production of Ramnista is sold in the international market.
Our relationship with Xinomavro can be described as a love-hate relationship. This noble grape variety has given us many joys but also a lot of frustrations in our hard efforts to tame its fickle nature. We still have a long way ahead of us, but we are beginning to see light at the end of the tunnel.
Our adventure with Xinomavro can be divided into three separate periods:
The evolution of the Grande Reserve
1997 was the first year that the harvest process was made at Ktima, using the new equipment inside our farm machinery warehouse. The mere fact that a smaller group of people were involved, that the grapes were pressed in smaller containers, after having passed through a selection table, as well as the sense of handmade craftsmanship that prevailed gave a different quality to our wines. As for the rest, we used the same winemaking and ageing protocols: long extraction, old casks, no selection in the vineyard etc.
Ramnista 97 – Ramnista 98 – Ramnista 99
Experimentation and Research
In 1999 my brother, Mihalis, returned from the USA after his studies in UCDavis, and decided to stay at Ktima. This was the start of a period of intensive research. Uncompromising, analytical, ready to break with his past, hardworking and knowledgeable, Mihalis laid the basis for Ramnista as we know it today. He studied and defined the different vineyards of the Estate, replaced all the old casks, implemented new winemaking protocols, harvested the Xinomavro grapes late, at the end of October (making kir-Thomas shake his head in frustration), he made an endless series of experiments, in other words, he pushed us to exhaustion! It was also the same period that the last vineyard replanting scheme started, and this was how we entered the 21st century.
Xinomavro Single Vineyard 1999 – Ramnista 00 – Ramnista 01
Note: 2002 was one of the rainiest years and one that every winemaker would like to forget. That year we decided not to bottle Ramnista.
Light at the end of the tunnel!
Based on the results of our experiments, we entered into the new Xinomavro era. Strict selection both on the vine and on the double selection table, separate vinification of the different vineyard blocks, clonal selection. cold soak, malolactic fermentation in new oak, pigeage, these are only a few of the changes that we introduced. Only future will tell whether we were right or wrong. But we can be sure of the fact that a new era has begun.
Ramnista 03 to Ramnista 10
The Past Vintages
The reason behind Past Vintages
At Ktima Kir-Yianni, it is our philosophy to reserve in our cellar a part of our production, up to 10% depending on the vintage, for future use and selling.
The purpose of this practice is twofold:
It gives us the possibility to examine the way our wines mature under optimal conditions. By tasting these wines on a regular basis, we can monitor their development, taking valuable lessons for the future.
It also gives the consumer the opportunity to enjoy and appreciate the products of our Estate during various phases of their lives and to taste the graceful traces that time leaves on the wines.
Maturity curve – Ageing
Depending on the variety, the winemaking practices and, of course, the character that the winemaker wants to assign to them, the wines present a maturity curve, as shown in the following diagram. This specific curve has a general form and represents the ageing potential of our wines the way we make them in our Estate.
This curve can change depending on the year, the winemaking method used and the style the winemaker wants the wine to have.
For example, a bad year, like 2002, is not suitable for the production of wines with ageing potential, because the raw material is not appropriate for a winemaking process where long extraction times are required in order to create a wine with good body and volume.
The same varieties used for the production of wines with ageing potential can also be used for wines that will be consumed fresh. These wines have no ageing potential because they are made using a different winemaking method.
Sealing a bottle with a cork of good quality is one of the most important elements in the ageing process of a wine. A poor-quality cork can reduce the wine’s ageing potential.
A high-quality cork gives the wine the possibility to live longer and preserve its character. Undoubtedly, no matter how good the cork is, it should be checked and changed if needed.
In Kir-Yianni Estate we offer the possibility of changing the corks after 8-10 years of ageing.
Consumers have different tastes and preferences that change depending on how, where and when a wine is consumed.
A true lover of good wines is thrilled by merely experiencing the process of choosing a bottle, since each occasion calls for a different wine!
There are times when we fancy a young and powerful wine, and times when the occasion calls for an old and mature one. The proper order for drinking wines of different ages is to start with the younger and finish with the older ones. Moreover, an aged wine can be more easily appreciated when it is paired with “clear” tastes, e.g. cheeses, and not with a complex dish.
Unique and Rare
What happens when a wine goes beyond its “life limit”? This is the moment when a new dimension of the wine opens up: its unique and rare character.
Many wine consumers, especially the Bordeaux or Burgundy enthusiasts, see the wines of some Chateaux and Domaines as “antiques”.
Very often, a wine that, from an oenological point of view, is “finished”, can acquire value for sentimental reasons or because it is rare and unique.
Wine as an investment
Time adds one more quality to the wine. Many wines, like the ones from Bordeaux or Burgundy, Vintage Ports from Portugal, Italian Super Tuscans and Barolos, and some American California Cult Wines, have been widely used lately as an investment.
There are even banks that have created special Wine Funds investing exclusively in wines of this type!
These wines are usually sold at official auctions carried out regularly, creating a healthy secondary market, where prices are shaped on the basis of offer and demand.
1994 can be characterized as a particularly hot and dry year.
The heavy drought occurring during the summer months and in September, in combination with the high temperatures of the same period and the intense sunshine conditions of August and September, led to a great deal of stress on the vines, and finally to the overripening of the grapes.
The wines are considered to be typical of the variety, with intense, distinct aromas of tomato, dried fig, tobacco and leather on the nose, a full mouthfeel and a long aftertaste
1995 was a year of increased rainfall until the time of the harvest, resulting in the infection of the grapes by diseases, such as botrytis and acidic rot, but also in a delay in harvesting compared to the previous years.
The mean temperature during June and July was high, whereas during August and September, the most crucial period for the ripening of the grape, temperatures where relatively low.
The 1995 harvest clearly revealed which of the vineyards of the zone of Naoussa have a real quality potential, and which don’t. That year, our only complaint was about the quantity of the harvested grapes.
1996 was a year characterized by a low rainfall at the beginning of the growing season, which became intense by the end of summer.
Especially during the months of August and September, which are the most crucial for the ripening of the grape, the large fluctuations in mean temperature and sunshine, in combination with high rainfall, had a negative effect on the quality of the grapes. In general, during 1996, the ripening of the raw material did not follow its normal course, with unsatisfactory results in terms of quality.
That was the first vintage that was vinified at the newly built winery of the Estate. And this is reason enough to mention it.
This was the first year that the entire quantity of the harvested grapes was vinified at the Estate. The end product has a discernable quality because the grapes were vinified directly after they have been harvested.
1997 is characterized by high temperatures, an increase in the hours of sunshine and intense rainfall during the growing season. September, though, was a relatively dry period, resulting in a harvest of healthy grapes of good ripening.
This year’s wines are high in alcohol, a feature that opened a whole new page in the chapter of viticultural methods and selective harvesting.
The result was the production of wines with rich, mainly secondary aromas, good body, long aftertaste and mouth flavors that are typical of the variety.
1998 is considered to be a moderate year, with difficulties in the ripening of the grapes throughout the whole area of Naoussa.
This year started with an increase in rainfall, mainly during February and May. Then followed a period of high temperatures during the day, but also during the night, especially from mid-July until the end of August. The combination of low water reserves in the soil -due to the reduced winter rainfall- with high temperatures during the ripening period of the grapes shocked the vines and led to the reduction of their photosynthetic activity, resulting to the delay of the ripening by 10 days, despite the fact that two irrigations had been applied. The rains that occurred by the end of August led to the occurrence of scattered botrytis problems. The rains that followed in September, made this year even more difficult.
The taking of the right plant protection measures in the Estate in combination with the production of very low quantities of Xinomavro (only 1.5 kg/vine), have contributed to the production of healthy grapes with a high sugar index and good concentration of phenolic compounds -despite the late harvest- and, finally, to the production of a typical and good Xinomavro.
In our ongoing “conversation” with Xinomavro, we have decided to late-harvest a couple of the vineyard’s blocks. The weather was a great help because it just wouldn’t rain.
The older winemakers were smiling with satisfaction. In this way we used to make the sweet brousko wine of Naoussa, a red wine high in alcohol, with a great amount of residual sugar. 1999 started with some signs of early production. The germination occurred rather early, due to the favourable weather conditions during March and April (air temperature higher than 10oC, with no intense rains). After that period, the flowering of the vine during the month of May was made under normal conditions and favorable temperatures (20oC to 27oC). But during summer, and especially in August, high temperatures were registered (rising up to 40oC), especially in night-time, shocking the vines and leading to the delay of the harvest by 15 days, although this was the rainiest August of the last 8 years.
The health of the grapes, despite the increase in rainfall, was satisfactory due to the low production of the Xinomavro (1.7 kg/vine), which led to the good ripening of the grapes.
The year of all years! The one for which all the wine makers around the world are rubbing until today their hands with satisfaction, thanks to the prices they achieved.
We did a selective harvesting under the best possible conditions. Skin contact was performed as usual, the malolactic fermentation was completed in the tanks and the wines were put in the casks. The wines evolved exactly according to our expectations after harvesting. That was a year of delight both for the winemaker and the consumer.
In 2000, the whole cultivation period was generally dry. The germination occurred a bit later in relation to 1999, because of the slightly lower temperatures. The flowering of the vine during the month of May was made under normal conditions and favorable temperatures (20oC to 27oC), giving the first signs of early harvest.
Summer began with high temperatures (up to 38oC), especially during the night, causing a shock to the vines. As a result, the shoots stopped growing at a very early stage and the plants started to “work” on the ripening of the grapes. The ongoing draught conditions and the high temperatures led to less threat from the various enemies and diseases of the vine. This resulted in a reduced release of plant protection products in the environment, with all the positive consequences that this may have on the ecological balance of the vineyard and on the health of the personnel working in it.
In order to prevent shock to the plants due to the high temperatures, two irrigations were applied, the first in the last third of June and the second in the last third of July. A hot, without extreme temperatures August, and a “dry” September led to the normal ripening of the Xinomavro. The grapes were in perfect health, with a small berry size, high in alcohol, rich in phenolic compounds. The excellent quality of the grapes in combination with the selection that is now performed regularly in the Estate, give us the right to declare 2000 the “year of all years”!
2001 was wet and hot at the beginning.
July rains prevented the stress of the plants, while hot temperatures and relative lack of rainfalls during August and September, which is the crucial period for the ripening of the grapes, led to the good ripening of the Xinomavro.
Thus, the wines of this year are high in alcohol, with good acidity and a fair quantity of phenolic compounds.
This was a particularly rainy year, characterized by high levels of atmospheric humidity, which led to the development of botrytis and acid rot.
Increased rainfall during the time of ripening, in combination with the relatively low temperatures during the same period, led to a moderately ripe Xinomavro.
Thus, we decided not to produce Naoussa wines at the Estate for this year, because they would not reach our quality standards.
At the beginning, and until midsummer, this year was relatively dry with cool temperatures and good rainfall levels.
The application of the right plant protection methods contributed to the production of healthy grapes and permitted a late harvest.
This resulted in a harvest of healthy, ripe grapes, which, thanks to the careful selection and the application of the cold soak method, gave particularly aromatic wines.
In the beginning, 2004 seemed as an early harvest year. But the relatively high precipitation rate, the relatively low temperatures and the, unusually unstable sunshine levels led to the delay of the flowering period, as well as of the veraison and ripening stages.
The moderate temperatures and the relatively low rainfall levels during August and September, in combination with the increased levels of sunshine, led to an unusually high concentration of phenolic compounds and a good aromatic intensity.
A very good year, with cool weather conditions. It started with low temperatures and relatively little rain until June. Then followed a period of temperatures lower than the expected average, but with significant rainfall. The relatively hot and dry weather conditions of September led to a very good ripening of the grape.
According to Damos, the “nose” of the Estate, the typical aroma for this year’s Xinomavro is tobacco. The combination of favourable weather conditions and good phenolic ripening offer a promise of a great year.
This was a difficult and unusual year for Naoussa, with low temperatures in spring, intense rainfall throughout the whole year and a heat wave occurring in August. These conditions led to a delay in the bud break and blooming of all varieties.
In addition, intense rainfall in spring and in the beginning of summer caused the overgrowth of shoots and increased the size of the berries in most of the Xinomavro blocks. July and August were two extremely hot and dry months, with temperatures rising to 40oC, and staying above 32oC for 50 days in total. These conditions inhibited vine growth, allowing the ripening of the grapes to start normally for all the varieties, and creating conditions of moderate stress, which is desirable for all the late-ripening varieties such as Xinomavro.
These conditions resulted in a prolonged ripening period for all these varieties, helping them to develop intense colour and good aromatic potential. Finally, heavy rain occurring during the ripening period of Xinomavro did not have a negative impact on the quality of the final product, thanks to the use of selective picking methods.
The first months of the year were particularly hot, among the hottest of the last 25 years, with reduced rainfall causing early bud break, while the hot weather and rains occurring in April led to a rapid growth rate. Rainfalls in May and June gave signs of an early production, but the high temperatures that followed, rising up to more than 40oC, caused early stress on the vines. Prolonged hot weather conditions until the end of August resulted in the dehydration of the grapes, especially in the dry-farmed and heavily trimmed vineyards.
Perfect ripening conditions in September led to a balance between sugar and acidity levels, good phenolic ripening, and also good ripening of the grape seeds. Vineyards with soils of medium mechanical composition gave intensely fruity, dark-coloured, medium-bodied wines, while vineyards with heavy soils gave wines with deep colour, intense and complex aromatic character, well-structured tannins, good volume and a potential for long time ageing. Especially vineyard block #5, which is used for the production of Diaporos, actually demonstrated the potential of this variety for the production of great wines, while the wines produced from the V6 and V3 clones showed equal colour intensity, but also a higher pH, offering a velvety mouthful. Overall, this was a great year for Xinomavro.
The 2008 vintage was difficult and unpredictable confirming the theories about climate change. Although the year began with relatively low water reserves, normal weather conditions through to July led to a regular growth rate. However, ripening raced through the month of August, which was particularly dry. High nighttime temperatures raised sugar content at a much faster pace than phenolic concentration and ripeness in some of the vineyard blocks. Τhe harvest started on September 10, about two weeks earlier than normal and the earliest ever remembered. In fact, Xinomavro’s veraison shrinked to 36 days! The new Xinomavro clones showed a better match of growth between sugars and phenolics and were harvested first giving exceptionally good quality. For Xinomavro, 2008 seems to be similar to 2005, better than 2006, but not as good as 2007.
After two consecutive years of extremely hot and dry conditions, the year of 2009 came to replenish the water shortage. Atmospheric humidity during the growing season was the highest observed over the last thirty years and summer temperatures did not rise sufficiently to check the outbreak of downy mildew. Nonetheless, disease did not reduce crop load, as timely disease control ensured proper vine health. On the contrary, water excess raised crop loads relative to the last two years. Xinomavro was picked mid-October. For the most part, the very slow and late ripening allowed continuous berry enlargement with subsequently lower maturity and acidity levels, yet satisfactory phenolic profile. The new blocks planted solely with the preferred Xinomavro clones demonstrated once again their superiority. Meticulous selection process proved to be even more useful during this difficult year. Sorting out grapes not bunch by bunch, but berry by berry, we managed to retain our highest quality standard constant, albeit at an extra cost. So despite the challenges of the year the wines show intense and fine aromas, medium color intensities, full-body, and a surprisingly charming harmony.
A year that was rather peculiar, full of changes, filled with hope and despair, with beneficial rains in spring and hot days in summer and rainy again by the end of the harvest! Patience, close monitoring of the vineyard and careful selection on the vine and then in the winery were the main features of a vintage that started out with the best of omens, developed as a moderate year in terms of quality, but, overall, a very promising and full of surprises one.
After three consecutive years of rather average quality, it looks like in 2011 Xinomavro came back to its very high standards. This year the weather helped the grapes to reach good levels of phenolic maturity with relatively low potential alcohol, which is one of the things that we try to achieve during the last years. After a rainy month of May, the long period that followed was dry but with no extreme temperatures. As a result, the grapes ripened well, while the absence of heat waves during summer resulted in grapes with very good levels of acidity, which, in their turn, gave wines with long aging potential. It seems that 2011, just like 1994 and 2001, is one of those years that only come once in a decade!