Moving away from the most famous wine regions, another small yet unique area of viticulture is waiting to be explored, through this excellent 2013 Icarus Black Dry Red Fokiano. In Greek mythology, Icarus, the son of the great craftsman Daedalus, fell into the sea close to a beautiful Greek island on the eastern Aegean Sea. This is how the island, Icaria (a.k.a. Ikaria) gained its name.
This seems to have set the tone for the viticulture and winemaking in the island: long history. Wine made in Ikaria was called the ‘Pramnian’ which is associated with the God Dionysus. In fact, archeological discoveries in modern days unveiled traces of the widespread Dionysian rituals in the island. This ancient winemaking method, did not use stainless steel containers or oak barrels but stored wines in huge clay jars which were buried in the ground. This tradition is still well-preserved in the world nowadays, and can be found in areas such as Georgia, where winemaking techniques have been serenely yet vividly passed on for several thousands of years.
In spite of this long history, however, it was not until the 1970s that the grape variety Fokiano was allowed to be cultivated on the island. The first geographical indication of Ikaria in wine came in 2006. To some extent, one could regard the story of winemaking in Ikaria as the Greek winemaking history in a nutshell: glorious history, late revivals lagging behind its Mediterranean peers, and innovative approaches attempting to adapt to the modern wine world.
The 2013 Icarus Black Dry Red Fokiano, as a PGI wine of Ikaria, is made from 100% Fokiano grapes grown on the island. Besides the benefits of the Mediterranean climate, the vineyards located on the Ikarian highland also make full use of the cool temperature for their vine growing. The winery still follows the traditional winemaking techniques of the island and ferments wines in their clay jars that are buried underground, giving visitors a “piece” of heritage to experience. Meanwhile, as we wrote earlier, winemakers in Greece are proactively seeking new ways to fit their traditional recipes into the international standards of the modern wine industry. Boutique producers, organic methods, small production and oak barrels, are all the trendy elements that have enabled the development of this wine so as to release its charm. The fact that around 800 bottles a year are produced definitely makes this one rare and quite special.
In the glass, this wine has a clear and bright pale garnet colour, indicating its development stage as a matured wine. On the nose, it firstly releases aromas of red berries, then toast and vanilla of the oak barrel, mingled with cigar, leather and slightly gamey notes. Let it sit for a few more minutes, and you will also get hints of soy sauce and sea wind, reminding you of some savoury notes that are usually associated with umami. In a word, perfectly developed. On the palate, this wine has high acidity, delicate tannins with a medium body. It is slightly gamey and savoury, yet more fruity comparing to the aromas on the nose (red cherries, white pepper and dried dates), with a long finish. Complex and well balanced, this elegant wine can be seen as a thin version of the aged French Pinot Noir.
The wine is probably at its best stage to drink, and I do not suggest ageing it. It is best served at 16-18°C, in a large globe Burgundy style glass, without decanting. Just like Pinot Noir, this one can be paired with a wide range of foods, from tuna, chicken, duck or rabbit, to lamb, pork and beef. On top of that, BBQ or roasted food with spices such as rosemary and thyme will also taste great with the wine.