Kreta Wein

Watch out, Label Drinkers!

Niko from Crete – Private Cuvée 1982-2019

Actually, this wine doesn’t exist. It has no name and certainly no label. A friend brought me my own bottle from a trip to Greece, drawn from the tank. The wine comes from the vineyard of a certain Niko, in other words from friends of friends. Perhaps that’s why I’m not entirely unbiased, even though I don’t know much about how the wine is made. All I can say is that it comes from a solera started in 1982, made from grapes grown on autochthonous vines in a garden on Crete. My friend, who knows Crete well, says that every family there produces such house wines, but that the one from Niko’s family is the best he knows.

I find this wine fascinating because it has so little in common with almost any so-called natural wine that is commonly served. And this despite the fact that it is completely oxidized, shows no primary fruit and is thick and brownish in the glass. What distinguishes this timeless wine from fashionable natural wines is, metaphorically speaking, its elderly wisdom: powerful, heavy and edgy, but not over the top, not overpowering and not pretentious. Technically speaking, it shows no hint of acetic acid, ethyl acetate or hydrogen sulphide. I have rarely drunk a wine that seems less artificial. This raises the question of what all the so-called natural winegrowers are doing when wine that you simply leave alone tastes so completely different. In the mouth, bitter tones intertwine with alcoholic sweetness and a chewy acidity that preserves the wine’s balance despite its relentless passionate intensity. It seems as if it is always going at full speed, like a motorcycle, to keep its balance.

A few years ago, I wrote about a Chardonnay from Domaine des Miroirs that I myself would probably never drink this wine again. The same goes for Niko’s wine. Even if I could get my hands on another bottle, would it still taste the same? Would the level of oxidation be the same? Has the wine changed during the journey or has Niko even added new grapes in the meantime? So why write about a wine that is only a snapshot of a particular moment?

Well, there are two kinds of wine reviews. Some are recommendations, others are sometimes a source of information, but often just entertainment. My texts about the Rieslings from Gröhl or about Heinz Wagner are definitely to be seen as recommendations. If you are looking for good sparkling wine, you can even click on a link to the winery and order the sparkling wine. In my case, this is a reader service, not an affiliate link.

There are also texts – also on Champagne & Schorle – for which it makes no difference at all whether you have drunk the wines before or after or at the same time or ever. I would go out on a limb and say that the vast majority of wine reviews written worldwide will never be replicated in the glass by their readers. And that’s not a bad thing. I drink some wines so that you don’t have to. Natural wine from Penny, for example. Other aromas that critics describe make it possible for connoisseurs to experience them that otherwise would not be possible. For example, I love reading tasting notes from Romanée-Contis from the 80s, which I will never drink. I also devour restaurant reports from Tokyo sushi counters where you can’t get a seat without connections or expensive concierges. I find it bizarre not to write about a wine because it is impossible or difficult to get hold of. You can also laugh at Marcel Reich-Ranicki’s punchlines without ever having read a page of Martin Walser. I would be delighted if my lines help to marvel at Niko’s wine without ever having tasted a drop.

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