He half expected the same dog to be lying in wait; he is friends with it now but there was some trepidation in his stance. But we faced no such perils as we descended. After a little break waiting for the slow coaches to catch up, giving an opportunity to snap a few shots of the valley, the bridge crossing from one side to the other, and the snow-capped mountains (and enduring yet another group photo shot), Alexandros sighed that few UK tourists make it to this area of Greece.
While the delights of Athens or a two weeker lounging on the sun lounger sound attractive I couldn’t help but think people are missing out. For this was a view of Greece I never realised existed. Indeed Metsovo is a little remote, a bit of a trek from Thessaloniki, but the Katogi Averoff hotel was an absolute delight, the winery tour everything one could want and this walk down to the Monastery a joy.
Add in that Katogi Averoff have substantial vineyard holdings and make a range of wines that you can sample and drink in their stylish bar (with a grand view if you sit outside) and an overnight trip will be well rewarded.
My tasting note sheet has scribbles for 12 different wines. Stars, indicating a wine of some distinction or interest, lie against the Katogi Averoff White Dot (Moschofilero & Roditis) and the Mountain Fish (Agiorgitiko). These are the estates trendily packaged, entry level wines and good value they are too, very approachable and available in the UK (somewhere!).
Their Malogusia is also recommended. A weighty palate, peachy edged flavours and a fine mineral texture on the finish. Delicious.
I’m unconvinced by the ‘traditional’ packaging used on some of the reds. From a marketing point of view, at least to me, they give off an air of old, rustic, tannic, dried out wines. The wines inside are far from that, but its the impression that counts. By their nature the wines are tannic, but match with some hearty meat and they positively shine. The Cabernet Sauvignon comes from the Giniets vineyard, which, at an altitude of 1000m+ is one of the highest in Europe. Katogi Averoff were the first in Greece to plant Cabernet Sauvignon. I preferred the ‘straight’ bottleing over their Di Munte Old Vines version, finding the latter a little too dry on the finish and lacking a touch in ‘attractiveness’ over the first.
The label of the Merlot was drawn by the famed Greek Artist Pavlos Samios, it is certainly distinctive. Between pours Alexandros explained how the local wild bears love stealing the merlot grapes straight from the vines. They go for Traminer first, it ripens earlier, and then the Merlot. They are now thwarted in their nefarious raids by newly installed electric fencing.
Photo Gallery: Katogi Averoff Winery & Hotel
Rather a privileged opportunity was offered in the morning, pre-breakfast. Free run through the cellar and bar area, camera in hand. It was all rather spooky though – unfamiliar sounds, scraping and drips… distance hollow shouts, spooky corners and dead end passages… top this off with a set of barrels with the ghostly impression of faces on each end and you can understand how a fertile imagination runs away with itself. I’m unsure of the purpose of the faces or if the people are living or dead… I imagined each barrel was the haunt of some long deceased vineyard worker given a ghoulish tribute… and just as primeval horrors began to gnaw at the rational edges of the mind I opened a door and emerged into wonderful sunlight and a view to die for.
Photo Gallery: Katogi Averoff Vineyards & Monastary Vineyard
Due to the large number of photographs I’ve posted the shots of the Monastery of St. Nicholas on Spittoon Extra, the mountain pictures and a few shots of Metsovo are viewable on Lumination.
Katogi Averoff Winery and Hotel
Rooms from £55 wine tastings from £5.