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Gai'a, “Thalassitis” AssyrtikoSantorini, Greece 2019 (750mL)

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Gai'a, “Thalassitis” Assyrtiko Santorini, Greece 2019 (750mL)

Fruit
Earth
Body
Tannin
Acid
Alcohol

Perhaps one of the most fittingly titled wine estates in existence, Gai’a takes its name from the primordial deity of ancient Greek mythology, thought to have been the personification for all things Earth. And if ancient folklore is what you subscribe to, today’s “Thalassitis” Assyrtiko is the embodiment of it all, with its searing volcanic minerality and electric saline imprint.


I understand Greece may not be your first thought when discussing the world’s greatest white wines, but tasting a top expression of Santorini Assyrtiko will vault it towards the top of your list. This volcanic island has it all: exotic intrigue, extreme scarcity (barely more than a dozen producers on the island), ancient “bird’s nest” vines, and shocking ageability in the bottle. It’s one of the most unique, high-quality white wines out there, and the more time you spend with it, the greater its distinctions become. Quite simply, it’s a contemporary classic, and Gai’a is among its finest and most respected creators. 



Sometime between 1645 and 1500 BC, the volcanic eruption of Thera on modern-day Santorini became one of the largest seismic events in recorded history, leaving behind a crescent-like caldera in the midst of the electric blue Aegean Sea. Believed to be over 100 times more powerful than the 1980 eruption of Mount St. Helens, the blast, among other natural fallout, discarded megatons of ash and lava that now make up the volcanic, igneous soils of Santorini. I’m amazed that we’re able to offer wines like this—from places so extreme and remote it seems impossible that they’d be consumed, let alone known about, anywhere but their country of origin. That’s where Gai’a owners Leon Karatsalos and Yiannis Paraskevopoulos come in:  Although established in 1994, their continued advocacy for Greek’s modern-day wines helped put Santorini on the global map.
  
So here we are, offering up their evocative white from mythical Santorini, where seaborne breezes are so fierce that growers must fashion their “bird’s nest” vines into short, basket-like coils known as kouloura instead of training them on trellises. Vineyards on Santorini, rooted in infertile, ashy sands, look like rows of large nests, in which you might find dinosaur eggs instead of grapes. Many vines here are very old, sometimes well past 100 years, as Santorini is one corner of the world that never had to contend with the phylloxera louse that destroyed most of Europe’s vineyards generations ago (most of the places that escaped phylloxera had sandy and/or volcanic soils). 


Today’s comes from ungrafted 80-year-old Assyrtiko vines that are traditionally farmed and harvested by hand. At the winery, the grapes are de-stemmed and gently pressed before undergoing a cool, 12-hour maceration. After fermentation in stainless steel (no malo), the resulting wine continues maturing on its fine lees for several months. The 2019 Gai’a “Thalassitis” Assyrtiko displays a blindingly bright straw-yellow core with green and silver hues glinting out towards a clear rim. With a 15-minute decant, a barrage of explosive aromas fires out: crisp yellow apple, white peach, underripe pineapple, salt-preserved lemon peel, sea spray, crushed volcanic rock, honeysuckle, tangerine blossoms, and wisps of smoke. The medium-bodied palate is wonderfully fresh and simultaneously rich in texture with mouthwatering, thirst-quenching minerality. Massive waves of acidity, smoky-salty layers, and a churning core of taut citrus and tropical fruits leave your palate tingling after each sip. If consuming now, enjoy in all-purpose stems and serve around 50 degrees. As the wine opens, its aromatic charm, searing minerals, and rich texture emerge in great detail. As for your other bottles, stash them in your cellar and watch them develop a savory, honeyed quality over the next 3-4 years. Cheers!




Gai'a, “Thalassitis” Assyrtiko Santorini, Greece 2019 - SommSelect

  • CountryGreece
  • RegionSantorini
  • SoilVolcanic
  • FarmingSustainable
  • BlendAssyrtiko
  • Alcohol13%

  • CountryGreece
  • RegionSantorini
  • SoilVolcanic
  • FarmingSustainable
  • BlendAssyrtiko
  • Alcohol13%
  • Temp.Serve at 50° F
  • GlasswareAll-Purpose Stem
  • DrinkingNow-2025
  • Decanting15 Minutes
  • PairingGreek Grilled Fish w/ Citrus & Greens