Wine of the Week: Lyrarakis Pirovolikes Vilana 2019

This mysterious Greek gem gives little away. But, inside that unassuming bottle is a white wine unlike any you’ve ever tasted…

We’re told to beware Greeks bearing gifts. But some Greek gifts — such as this refreshing, rarefied and well-rounded white wine from Crete — are worth breaking the rules for.

It comes from the legendary Lyrarakis winery on the outskirts of Heraklion, and there’s something suitably mysterious and mythical about the Pirovolikes Vilana 2019. The family-run vineyard has been credited with bringing two ancient Cretan grape varieties, ‘Dafni’ and ‘Plyto’, back from the dead — and the site is home to well-preserved stone-presses from the 14th century.

This is perhaps the most affordable, approachable wine in Lyrarakis’ collection. Both a Greek gift and an undisputed gem, it’s got a rich history — with a refreshing Mediterranean finish. Let’s uncork.

On the eyes: Quite inscrutable. There’s a greenish-yellow to a freshly poured glass; a rather severe shade that refuses to soften into gold. There’s an occasional translucence — but then hints of sparkling clarity. It certainly doesn’t give anything away. Instead, it refracts and reflects at its Mediterranean leisure, shimmering and glimmering like a rare gemstone (something like Heliodor, or Kiwi Topaz if you’re up on your jewel jargon).

On the nose: It’s the same story here. On your initial whiff, the Pirovolikes Vilana 2019 gives little away. Just a clean, crisp sharpness — like a freshly cut diamond. But, on second sniff, more Mediterranean notes appear. But not the ones you’d expect. Instead of sweetness, there’s a herbal tinge to the wine, with wildflowers and even the salinity of olive oil floating to the surface. If you had to push us on fruity notes, we’d plump for pineapple.

On the palate: That odd Aegean salinity is the first taste to hit the tongue. But it’s not unpleasant. Far from it. Instead, it offers a cool, refreshing thickness that coats the mouth and invites a second sip. It doesn’t taste as strongly as it smells, but a touch of spicy cedar makes up for the lack of bold identifiable flavours. Overall, it’s rounder than citrus but sharper than stone fruits; intriguing, mysterious and perfect for a chilled summer evening.

On the finish: Mysterious to the last, the finish offers no further flavours — save for the tiniest twist of cucumber. Otherwise, expect that crisp green apple skin finish of Greek whites; an unobtrusive end to an intriguing wine. There’s a warming quality, too, reasonably rare outside of reds. But these are the characteristic charms of the Pirovolikes Vilana 2019: confidence, purity and polish — like the Greek gem it is.

Looking for more wine picks? Check out this Domaine FL Savennières Chamboureau 2016…

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