'Sideritis natur' 2020
The mouth has grapefruit peel and a lick of white pepper and the cool water feel of the high mountain from whence it has sprung. All the perfume and promise of the nose dissipates on drinking (and this is a good thing) as we gear change to flint and pine and bitter greens and pineapple and the umami rush of chicken bones having sat long in boiling broth; as we shift from flora to fauna; as the wine arrives unapologetically across the palate and announces itself to the senses—‘I am Sideritis…’ it says ‘…and with me, you may quench your many thirsts.’
Sideritis is an ancient pink-skinned Greek varietal; rare in its plantings and even rarer still in it’s single bottlings. The Tetramythos brothers, Aristides and Stathis, with the watchful eye/nose/palate/tongue/talent/skill of Australian-born, handlebar-moustachioed and wonderfully named, winemaker Panagiotis Papagiannopoulos, churn a range of organically made wines in the Northern Pelopponnesse near Corinth, of which the ‘Sideritis natur’ 2020 is a star part.
Planted in 1966, the ungrafted pergola-trained fruit spends 5 days on skins and then sees élevage for 4 months in the trinity of inox (steel), amphora (clay) and old oak (dead trees). And though ageing across a multitude of platforms may seem an exercise in experimentation the wine is focussed and clean and certain and, as aforementioned, ‘arrives’. It’s a pale kind of honey in the glass, with the shade of a long-brewed camomile tea taken in the face of adversity. The nose is a kind of fête of fruit and spice that edges toward umami. There’s dried mango and candied satsuma and lemon thyme. There’s Krispy Kreme donut icing and white hot charcoal and chervil and lime citrus and grapefruit peel and it speaks of golden tree sap and heavily lemoned bitter green leaf salads. There’s a touch of bathroom bleach to it also and passionfruit seed and darjeeling iced teas taken when the long day or the short night will be sated by little else.
All of that perfume, all of that joy is buoyed by the natural acidity of the Sideritis grape which I find to be in near perfect balance. Any more and it might appear harsh. Any less and it would fatten and flatten and be too opulent. This is restrain. This is a high refrain. This is someone pulling shoestring tight around brown papered frangipane. This is all the light we cannot see. This is one of those rare moments in a crowded room where, despite the noise, despite the crowds and the chaos they bring, there’s only you and me. This is an old-world new-world order. This is my kind of orange wine.
Sidero, meaning iron in Greek, may well be how the small wonder got it’s name. Thick-skinned and imparting that ever-arguable, ever-desirable, ever-difficult-to-describable flavour of minerality, coupled with the dialectical derivative, the Sideritis grape shares it’s name with ironwort, or what is much better known as mountain tea. Late-ripening in small compact bunches and mostly planted in the Peloponnese, though also found on the islands of Evia and Patras, Sidertis has traditionally been used in white blends alongside Roditis with only the occasional vintner bottling her solo. And we can thankfully add the crew at Tetramythos to that short list.
What I get is an abundance of salted grapefruit. And a little smoke. A little flint. A little rain hitting hot stone. At the back end of the bouquet, as with all great perfumes, there is the smallest amount of something slightly rancid that might be stale urine, that might be turned cheese, that might even be the back of a bin truck having done the rounds of a long street of tavernas and bistros after a busy Saturday service. But all the prettiness that comes before it; the abundance of spice and citrus and peel and sherbet and crespedia, all the stone and cactus water, all the sea salt and bird-meat gravy, all the crushed bones and mustard fruits, all the lemon meringue pie, it needs the soft shadow of death on it; it needs it like beauty needs foul.
What I get might not be what you get. What I get might be foolhardy and desirous. What I get might be purely the result of smoke and mirrors, of affectation, of industrious suggestion. What you get might be a wild reach. What you get might speak of decades of quiet irrevocably unleashed. What you get might just be fermented joy itself. Neither you nor I are wrong. And is that not the great beauty? Is that not what all the hard work is for? That we play audient and wine arrives like art to be eaten by the masses, to be chewed on and (hopefully) swallowed and (hopefully not) spat out and adored, abhorred, loved?
Seek me out, Sidertis, as I seek you. We are fast friends, it seems. We may yet be lovers that pine.
tasted October 2021
by Bradley Tomlinson