After a drive through the countryside of Thrace (northern Greece) we arrived at Domaine Kikones in Rodope, Greece. This is not a very touristy part of Greece. It’s in the country about 20 kilometers northwest of Maroneia.
My first impression upon arriving is it felt rather simple. There was no fancy chateau. No grand entrance. No luxurious buildings. No pretense.
We walked into the winery and that theme continued. The building itself was built before wine was produced here and it had been re-purposed into a winery. Having grown up in the middle of farmland (although in northern Illinois versus northern Greece), it felt rather familiar to me. It looked like a typical building I would see at any farm, other than having some amazing vines growing up the side of the building. It was utilitarian. And it worked well.
Melina Tassou, the Chief Winemaker and Managing Director at Domaine Kikones, greeted us with a friendly introduction as we entered the building. Her demeanor was much like the impression I got from the winery, very low key, humble and genuine.
But as Tassou began to explain her approach to winemaking, I soon found myself falling in love with this simple winery.
This part of Thrace has a history of wine production going back thousands of years, yet that history nearly died off after the EU paid producers in the region to pull up their vines. Now Tassou and other producers are trying revive winemaking in Thrace.
While her goal is to revive Thracian wine, she’s not afraid to borrow techniques from other regions if she feels it will help make better wine. She’s pragmatic, and I love that. Prior to establishing Domaine Kikones, Tassou practiced winemaking in Bordeaux, Burgundy and Australia and she brings techniques from those experiences into Kikones.
For example, in the vineyards they use a trellising system she learned in Australia that uses the leaves to protect the grapes from the direct heat of the sun, preventing burnt skins and preserving acidity in the grapes.
That care, thoughtfulness and pragmatism carries through every step of the winemaking process here.
- The grapes are all sorted by hand, once in the vineyard and again after entering the winery.
- Each variety of wine only has one bottling day to ensure consistency.
- Manual push-downs are done versus pump-overs during the maceration of the red wines to get the characteristics they want from the wine.
- Only one type of barrel is used in the winery, chosen for its subtle impact on the wine.
- The red wines are never filtered.
And the list goes on.
Kikones is a fairly small winery too, with only 10 hectares of vines, and they have no desire to grow beyond this. They simply want to create great wines. And that they are doing quite well.
I must admit, by the time we tasted the wines we had already heard their story and I wanted to like their wines. It’s hard to say whether or not that skewed my perceptions of these wines, but I can say these were my favorite wines from my visit to the Thrace region.
Here are some highlights from that wine tasting:
- Domaine Kikones, Maron white 2016: Made from 100% malagouzia this wine is aromatic and has a crisp, vibrant acidity. It’s a delightful wine.
- Domaine Kikones, Chardonnay 2015: I’d describe this as a Burgundian-style chardonnay, with enough structure for aging. It has deep character and balance, offering delicious peach and lemon flavors along with some toasty notes.
- Domaine Kikones, Limnio 2015: Made from 100% limnio, a native Greek grape variety, this is a big, bold red wine with rich cherry and berry flavors as well as loads of spice such as nutmeg, coffee and tobacco.
- Domaine Kikones, Maron red 2009: This wine is made from 100% sangiovese, an Italian variety. It is beautifully aromatic, with intense floral, spice and cherry aromas. And it is pure deliciousness on the palate. Ironically, this Italian variety wine is the one and only wine I purchased to bring home with me from Greece. It’s that good.
If you have a chance to try these wines or others from Domaine Kikones, I highly recommend it.