Pateromichelakis, Chania Romeiko
Pateromichelakis, Chania Romeiko

Pateromichelakis, Chania Romeiko

Crete, Greece 2022 (750mL)
Regular price$29.00

Pateromichelakis, Chania Romeiko

It’s Greece time again! Yes, we preached the gospel all last year and we’re not stopping in 2024: There is no more exciting nation in the EU for finding deliciously obscure, often ancient, wines that offer world class complexity and value (okay, Portugal is a close runner-up). Case in point: Ever heard of Romeiko? No, neither had we until it crossed the tasting table recently, but we’re sure glad it did. With ethereal aromas of spiced cherries and rosewater, it looks like a soft, light-bodied wine. But then it comes roaring to life with a surprisingly powerful structure and rich, mouth-coating texture. The first comparison is to its Cretian neighbor, Liatiko, but the most apt one is Italian Nebbiolo and the often-used metaphor of an “iron fist in a velvet glove.” That combination of heady aromatics and textural richness had us all under the spell of this uniquely complex rarity. And the value ratio here is unbelievable, too. So if you’re ready for a wine adventure from the comfort of your table, look no further than Romeiko!

Romeiko is an ancient variety of unknown origins. The name is derived from romios, or “Roman,” which refers to the Greek citizens of the old Byzantine Empire, but the grape itself is almost certainly much older than that. This very under-the-radar vine is found only on a few Grecian islands, most notably on Crete, where it thrives in Chania on the western edge of the island, and in particular around the village of Kissamos, which is exactly where you’ll find the Pateromichelakis family farm. For many, many generations they have been growing olives, grapes, and other Mediterranean specialties, but it was only recently that they returned in full force to the production of wine. Indeed, the story of Romeiko and its recent resurgence is intricately interwoven with the story of the Pateromichelakis clan in the 20th and 21st centuries.

Not only is Romeiko obscure, it is also an oddball when it comes to its growth and ripening. It is notorious for berries that run the spectrum of colors, from green to yellow to gray-pink and purple-red, even when the bunches are fully ripe. Zinfandel in California behaves similarly, and indeed both varieties are known for their propensity to produce very high volumes, and for wines that have lots of fruit and alcohol but are low in tannin. In the 20th Century this led to Romeiko, which was once prized throughout southern Europe, to be used for bulk wine, resulting in its reputational decline. It was during this time that the Pateromichelakis family ceased making wine and began to focus entirely on high quality olive oil production, something that Crete has been famous for for many centuries.

In 2005, twin brothers Yiannis and Manos, the current generation at the helm, decided it was time to get back into the wine business. Several of the neighbors were starting to treat Romeiko more seriously, and they had the notion that if you drastically reduced the yields, farmed meticulously (they were already practicing organic) and selected the very best clusters you could make complex, distinctive wines from this unique terroir. Less than two decades later, they’ve already proven this hypothesis with stunning results. The brothers and their team are fanatical about vineyard management, and they make at least three careful passes through the vineyards during harvest to select only the best bunches with an optimal balance of ripeness and structure. 

Cellar work is simple and straightforward: The bunches are sorted, partially destemmed, and then fermented in steel tanks before being moved to mostly neutral French oak barrels to rest for eight to ten months before bottling. Serve this rare (their total production is about 2000 cases) and pleasingly wild gem in a Burgundy stem at a cool 55-60 degrees. The stunning, translucent ruby-rose hue suggests a light wine, but don’t be fooled: Aromas of spiced cherries, wild blackberries, rose petals, raspberry preserves, sagebrush, cocoa powder, and aged balsamic are followed by a surprisingly rich and impactful texture, with medium-firm tannins and a classic island wine finish of sea salt minerality. It’s a perfect pairing for some American classics like a smash burger or cheesesteak, but of course you can keep it traditional with some grilled Greek meatballs (Kofta), just use the recipe below. Whatever you decide, there’s no doubt that you will enjoy this deliciously distinct island obscurity any day of the week!

Pateromichelakis, Chania Romeiko

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