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Domaine Karanika

Karanika was founded by couple Laurens Hartman-Karanika, and Annette Van Kampen. The pair spent their lives in Holland. They were drawn into the wine in pursuit of something unique and typically unavailable. Their vision was very focused and simple; they wanted to create organic, traditional method, sparkling wine. With time, they trained as winemakers, oenologists, and vineyard managers. Throughout their training and travels, they sought exposure to myriad styles of wine, methodology, and grapes. And yet, they ended up becoming enamoured with a uniquely Greek variety, Xinomavro- the bitter black.

 

Minimal intervention is at the heart of the philosophy. By allowing the grapes to be their best self, they start the wine making process with the best raw materials. This philosophical approach begins in the vineyards. At Karanika, they observe and listen to what the vines have to say. They are practicing Biodynamic in all areas of the operation from a vineyard deprived of chemicals, to a winery deprived of additives. These are very serious individuals, with an intense passion for what they do, why they do it, and the absolutely brilliant wines that they make. This is not hyperbole, Karanika is named throughout their history, by myriad reputable sources, as the best sparkling wine producer in Greece.

 

West of Naoussa, the very heart of winemaking in northern Greece, lies the remote region of Amyndeon. This is mountainous Greece, with vineyards planted and thriving at elevations well over 2000 feet above sea level.  Although there is nowhere in Greece where you are more than 80 miles from the sea, this is not the Greece one thinks of; clear skies, white buildings with vibrant blue trim, beautiful sun bathers. This is alpine Greece, the foothills of the Balkans, a stone’s throw away from Albania. Here the cuisine is more about eggplant, broccoli, and wild boar. Wines of the north are typically bold, rustic, chewy. However, if one is endeavouring to make world class sparkling wine, high in the mountains is a great place to start. The massive diurnal shift alone will give the producer an inerent advantage, as the retention of natural acidity is a given. Additionally, the indigenous variety, Xinomavro, is the massive curve ball in this equation. This is a grape that offers striking similarity in its functionality and behaviours as Nebbiolo, despite there being no genetic nor historic connection, apart from them both being Vitis Vinifera, and from the reasonably similar part of the world. Greek importer and wine advocate, Sotiris Bafitis, once explained that these similarities are likely the result of thousands of years of cultivation, selection, and grafting, in a region geographically similar to Piedmont, Italy, the birthplace of Nebbiolo. The assumption is, that wines would be made in a way that is a natural companion to the region’s cuisine, and is complimented by the climate throughout the year.

 

Xinomavro is a very black-fruited grape, with intense tannins, high alcohol, and high acid. Truly the only distinction between it and Nebbiolo is the tendency to offer black licorice notes, and often what I can only describe as stewed, candied, sun-dried tomatoes. No other wine has this latter attribute. However, when picked early (it is a very late ripening grape anyway) and kept away from its skins and seeds, it is as if it were put on this earth for sparkling and indeed white wine. The naturally high acidity is the tree trunk, for which branches of savoury accessories, floral accoutrements, and indeed exotic fruits all display themselves, and do so with opulence and unabashed pride.

 

Karanika does make non-sparking wines of Xinomavro and Limniona as well. While big reds from the hills tend to be the polar opposite of high-tension sparkling wines, there is a common thread throughout all of Karanika’s wines; clarity of expression, balance, complexity, sophistication.

 

Brut Cuvee Black Label NV

 

This is the gold standard, and indeed the wine Karen MacNeil has named as the sparkling wine to try from Greece. For a fraction of the price of true Champagne, the smart drinker will open this up with whatever crunchy favourite from fries to latkes to deep fried chicken. Feeling snooty? This is great with truffled cheeses, smoked salmon, black sea caviar, and/or himachi drizzled with olive oil and green olive shavings. This is 90% Xinomavro and 10% Assyrtiko.

 

https://karanika.com/wp-content/uploads/2022/12/Cuvee-Speciale-Extra-Brut-2020-Αντιγραφή.pdf

 

Brut Rosé NV

 

This is 98% Xinomavro and 2% Limniona (oversimplified this is kinda of Greece’s answer to Pinot Noir). The wine’s time on the lees does not exceed 18 months, so it is yeasty without being heavy and too “wintery.” Wild strawberries and raspberries tend to dominate this wine, with a long citric finish.

 

https://karanika.com/wp-content/uploads/2022/12/Karanika-Extra-Brut-ROSE-2021-ENG.pdf

 

Xinomavro Old Vines 2017

 

This is a leathery, intense, wine, yet still very lively, as the acid is ample and natural. Fruit leans toward plumbs and stewed blackberries, with licorice notes, black tea, and roses.

 

Limniona 2018

As I’ve said above, Limniona is Greece’s answer to Pinot Noir. This Limniona is archetypal, offering soft tannins, red fruit, delicate spiciness, and Dr. Pepper. This wine tends to develop in the glass, becoming more and more alluring as it opens up, the layers developing depth and complexity.

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