Have been fortunate in my travels to experience carpe diem moments and some. As wine is culturally part of the broader picture including history, geology, climate and in places industrious religious orders. Stand outs include fog shrouded Romanesque churches in France. The ruins of Cluny and their once position of importance on a grand scale left a lasting impression. It was the Cistercian monks who mapped Burgundy’s vineyards. The mosaic like accuracy of the Clos never cease to amaze. In one’s glass one does not ‘see’ just a plot of land, so much more comes with it when tasting a NSG Les Argillieres or a Mazis-Chambertin. On western Crete, near Chania, lies the imposing Holy Trinity Monastery. Of Venetian-Cretan ancestry, brothers Ieremias and Lavrendis Zangaroli started reconstruction in 1611 of this one of a kind fortified monastery. The vineyards and citrus orchards sit in a sea of green counting 7.000.00 olive trees. More on this later.
My first visit was in another life. The wines back then were old fashioned oxidative with only one novelty: the introduction of French grape varieties. On subsequent visits I kept watching for any developments as we know little of the potential of these red top soils of Akrotiri, more famous for their prized water melons. Well there are changes afoot. The French varieties are still there, though older and wiser in their uses such as adding a much in demand rosé from a highly thought off Cabernet Sauvignon vineyard. The wines are no longer unstable as a new pro-active management is in place. Enter Alkis Tsina whose life story is as remarkable as other personalities tied to the fortunes of the monastery. As a contractor he built a state of the art olive press which mills and packages the Monastery’s olive oil. More recently he has taken over the running of the vineyards and winery. He uses the consulting services of Ioannis Galanis in the vineyards and Kostantinos Galanis who has previous experience with Romeiko in the cellar. During my visit vineyard trellising was been upgraded with further improvement changes scheduled over a 3-4 year period. The grape mix has seen the addition of rising star Vidiano. The most attention grabbing wine is the reviewed Romeiko a PGI Chania. It is also stylistically rare due the grape variety and location. It is a new departure. Not that we know much about Romeiko other than the large quantities farmed in the past. There is marked berry colour variation with in a cluster of Romeiko with green-white to pale red berries. There are many biotypes to explore. One shown to me was precious 150 year old darker skinned bush vines. How lucky Crete is to still have these heritage vines unlike the uprooted Xinomavro in Xino Nero, Amyndeo. DNA research on this little seen and other unique to Crete grapes is now underway. A new era is upon this once sleeper historic estate. Where ever the founders are, their spirit may not quite understand all the techies obsessions of the 21st century like climate change issues, canopy management, yet, they must be bemused or even allow a wry smile on their faces that the fortress monastery is still going strong 407 years later.
500ML. Natural cork closure. 10% ABV. Pale pink-grey colour. Peach toned. Fresh light juicy fruit. Smokey. Precise not cloying melon like silky mid-palate. Clean and vibrant botanical lift on the finish. A wine of it’s time: a fragrant light bodied digest dessert wine. QPR is a steal. Not a shouter. Nothing quite like it on Crete or anywhere else in Greece. We are going to hear more of this under discovery age old local speciality. The beauty of it that it is now made in distinct different styles. Drink 2018-2023.