Atma White – a Sketch for Summer
Thymiopoulos make Atma White in Náoussa, Greece. Their wine growing is biodynamic and sustainable, and one of its red Xinomavro wines features on these pages. Hence you can read about this here. Their Atma White is a remarkable dry white wine with bags of personality, and the brand name Atma means “soul” in Greek.
Atma White blends two Greek grape varieties. 70% of it is Xinomavro, Greece’s best red grape variety. Hence the vinification requires white juice from those red grapes. That’s a tricky procedure and one of only a few Greek examples of “blanc de noirs”. The other 30% comes from the once-rare Malagouzia white grape variety. This is a high-quality, distinctively scented grape that has become increasingly popular. The result is a distinctive wine of outstanding quality and value.
Apostolos Thymiopoulos is one of the world’s great winemakers, known for innovation. The Xinomavro grapes are from the youngest vines at their estate. Harvest is early, in August, to capture this variety’s essential acidity and freshness. Colour and tannin are unnecessary for white wine, and destemming the bunches reduces tannins too. There is no pressing, using only the free-run juice. As with most grape varieties, this juice is white, with the colour only contained in the grape skins. Hence careful handling can ensure white juice without even a hint of pink. Fermentation is then with natural yeasts in stainless steel. There’s no secondary, malolactic fermentation, preserving that crisp and zippy acidity.
Thymiopoulos only grows Xinomavro, so the Malagouzia grapes are from nearby organic vineyards. They also undergo destemming but pressing is in the usual way. The resulting juice then spends ten hours on the grape skins to extract aromas and flavours. Fermentation is again with natural yeasts in stainless steel and without malolactic fermentation.
Blending takes place after the fermentations. The final wine has a moderate 12% alcohol and is left to settle for two months. After clarification by chilling, bottling is under a screwcap. This wine is for immediate drinking, so screwcaps make an ideal closure. It’ll happily keep for 2-3 years, but it’s most vibrant now.
A word on Malagouzia
Malagouzia is a native Greek variety, once near extinction. It was found in central Greece during the 1970s. Cuttings were given to winemaker Vangelis Gerovassiliou, who rescued it from oblivion at his estate in northern Greece. Its relationship to other varieties is unknown, although Malvasia is a possibility. It’s become symbolic of the Greek wine renaissance, based on a heritage of more than 300 native grape varieties.
This grape is now making high-quality dry and sweet varietal wines throughout Greece. Its prominent floral aromatics also make it a good blending partner. Those muscat-like aromas, including jasmine, honeysuckle, peach and white roses.
Tasting & Food
The 2021 vintage of Atma White appears almost water-white in the glass. The magic starts with the powerful aromas of jasmine, with traces of rose and bergamot.
It’s a moderately lightweight wine at only 12% alcohol, making it ideal for long slow Mediterranean lunches. Crisp acidity is to the fore. It’s bone dry but without harshness or tartness. There’s a slightly oily texture, where lemon and peach appear before a long, saline finish.
There’s much pleasure here, particularly if you enjoy the scents of aromatic grape varieties, and it’s hugely enjoyable with or without food.
Food-wise, that wine texture and acidity mean that Atma White will pair with sardines and other fried food such as calamari or zucchini. It’s also ideal for classic Greek salads – think Feta cheese, olives, fresh tomatoes and green leaves. Just don’t forget the hummus, pitta, taramasalata and Tzatziki. Especially the Tzatziki.
And while fast-approaching winter might suggest more powerful wine styles, this is a wine for reminiscing over past holidays and planning new ones.
Atma White is readily available. Try Booth’s, £11.00. You are getting an awful lot for your money!
This article also offers a twist on the upcoming annual Xinomavro Day (1 November). Maybe it’s time for a Malagouzia Day too.
Trilofos, 59 100