To Leave or To Remain (in oak barrels)

Assyrtiko and Barrel Aged Assyrtiko from Vassaltis

With all the excitement and division caused in recent weeks by the EU In/Out referendum, we'll forgive you if you missed a far more pressing question, which we've been debating amongst ourselves at Wimbledon Wine Cellar. 

This far weightier and significant issue, is whether Assyrtiko - the indigenous white grape variety of Santorini and Tinos - should remain in oak barrels during its ageing process in the manner of top white Burgundy, or if it works far better as an independent grape, free from the shackles of French winemaking influence.

Like all important political issues, the oak/no-oak issue divides families, with our exclusive growers from Santorini and Tinos - Vassaltis and T-Oinos Estate - offering both oaked and non-oaked versions of their Assyrtiko.

And the question has been just as divisive for us at Wimbledon Wine Cellar. Andrew is clearly in the oak/remain camp: "I've always adored White Burgundy; I love the richness and texture that ageing in top quality French oak adds to wines and Burgundies have always been the standard by which all other white wines are measured.

"While I understand that some people might feel that Assyrtiko would be better off without oak, you have to listen to experts like Nadine Goublin - winemaker at Burgundy's Domaine Jacques Prieur and consultant at T-Oinos - who feel that Assyrtiko only reaches its true potential in harmony with oak."

I'm a bit more sceptical. While I too love white Burgundy and hope to continue drinking the wines offered by our French cousins for many years to come, I feel that the unique identity of the Assyrtiko grape - its wonderful succulence and intensely saline minerality - are in danger of being swamped when exposed to too much oak.

Let's face it, Burgundy will still be there whether or not Greece oak-ages its Assyrtiko - so why try to imitate Burgundy, when you have so much going for you by yourself?

The debate continues to rage.