The leaders remain the same: Tsililis, Babajim and Lazaridis. They continue to develop their products but the overall retail space is still full of ‘chyma’ or no-name tsipoura but thankfully some small producers as well who are trying to buck the trend.
Most of this new generation are focusing on tsipouro production, a distillation of the grape pulp left after the initial wine production process, instead of making wine which is a much more expensive sport. They choose not to sell the fresh distilled product but instead try to add value by aging it in oak barrels. A double and triple distillation of the grape pulp can satisfy most, apart from your seasoned connoisseurs, as you wouldn’t notice any lack of finesse that may stem from using a lower grade ingredient.
Such examples include the lovely single variety distillations from the Tsililis family (Chardonnay, Hamburg Moschato, Cabernet) with the most special being the one made from Xinomavro. Soft, with a clear flavour, this is a spirit you can enjoy with seafood, salted fish and fish eggs in particular, as an aperitif or a base for cocktails.
From Anestis Babajimopoulos’ line of products, my favourite is the Roditis distillation as it has a wealth of fruit aromas without the overdose you get from Muscat and a peppery aftertaste which make it perfect for spicy meze. Methexis, grape spirit, is clear, velvety and super aromatic. It’s a true revelation, a wonderful digestif and very suitable for rich desserts. The well made Avaton, Tsantalis’ tsipouro, Gatsios’ products as well as those by the Apostolakis and Glivanos’ families, are some other good cases; they’re refined and have a crisp, spicy flavour that makes them a great friend of meze style dining.
New players are entering the game in style so we now have the very interesting, if very greasy, tsipouro from Santorini’s Assyrtiko variety and the Sigalas winery. It’s perfect with smoked seafood and also a good dessert drink. The Vasdavanos family’s Dekaraki is made from Tyrnavos Moschato grape pulp; this variety has clear aromas of quince, herbs and citrus which cover up its hard finish.
Lefteris Thermos from the Peloponnese produces spirits from Mavrodafni and Sideritis, with the raw ingredients provided from the good Parparousis winery. The Pnevma tsipouro made from Mavrodafni is brave and generous while the one made with Sideritis has a unique character with metallic spikes (Thanasis Parpasousis uses the same grapes to produce the great aged Oenou Paleothen spirit).
The Dimitriadis distillery from Drama has recently launced the Zopyro tsipouro, a distillation from the great local vines which produce some of the best wines in the country. From the minute it was released it won people over and received awards at the international wine and spirit competition in Thessaloniki.
There are also three very interesting tsikoudies from Crete. The first, from Ktima Manousakis, uses the aromatic Roussanne grapes produced on their land. The Anoskeliawards for its design. The third is produced at the Vasilakis’ winery in Mirabello. The common denominator is the great package design and the hard work evident in the refined end result without losing any of their Cretan charm. They work as aperitifs and not just as a typical meze accompaniment.