You may have heard of METAXA just like we had here at Luxurious Magazine. But did we know much more about this original Greek Spirit beyond drinking it?
The truth was, we didn’t. So we sent Sabi Phagura to the edge of Europe, to the home of Metaxa where the Greek sun makes this wonder.
My Journey to the home of METAXA in Athens and Samos may have been just a few hours by plane, but their journey started back in 1888. The brainchild behind it was Spyros Metaxa, Founder of the House.
When most spirits burnt the palate in the 19th century, this man of taste created a breakthrough with his vision for a spirit which would be tantalising on the senses and most importantly smooth on the palate. And METAXA was born, literally meaning ‘silk’. The spirit is made of fruit, flower and herbs, making it distinctive from other spirits. The noble grape takes on two forms in the form of Muscat wines and fine aged distillates.
My first stop was to Samos for a visit to the vineyards of the Aegean islands. This island embraces 478 km of vegetation surrounded by water, and although olive groves are plentiful here, it stands out for its Muscat wines. The vineyards are extremely small here at around 1,600 hectares and resemble gardens where the grapes are hand-tended and hand-picked.
Our guide, Yannis Scouts, informs us that almost everyone on the island is passionate about wine and has a vineyard of various sizes. They are not in the business to make any profit either as the majority of people have full-time jobs.
Full exposure to the sun, tough mineral soil and low humidity is what helps the fruit thrive in the vineyards of this island. Combined, they help produce aromas and flavours that help put Muscat from this region at the very top of its game. And indeed, a quick taste test of the fruit directly off the vineyards proved this to my very own taste buds. If it wasn’t for the pips, I would have chomped my way through a whole bunch.
The pleasure of tasting Muscat from this area was understood as way back by Greek philosopher Epicurus whose birthplace was incidentally Samos. He understood exactly the importance of this jewel-like fruit on the senses. And over the years, METAXA Masters have been seeking out the very best which are key to creating the smoothness of the spirit and their wines.
For those wishing to step back into history, a visit to the Samos Wine Museum is a must. Here traditional winemaking, its tools, its vats and chemistry equipment come to life. The building itself is a ‘living’ exhibit with huge wooden casks from the early 20th century which are in pristine condition, but no longer in use. And of course, no visit to a wine museum is complete without a tasting. According to our guide, out visit at 12 noon was timely. He told us that this is the best time to drink wine because the palate is clean. I’m not sure if it was the time of day, or the fact that the Samos Vin Doux, a fortified sweet dessert wine, was just really good. It went down rather well. I could have stayed there all day, but the next best thing was to take the cocktail guide with me so I could create some of the concoctions set out in it.
As with any trace, it’s craftsmanship that brings together a notable creation. And here at METAXA it comes in the form of Constantinos (Costas) Raptis. We flew a short distance into Athens to meet the fifth METAXA Master in the history of the House for a private tasting in the House Cellars. Responsible for selecting ageing and blending that has given life to the smoothness of METAXA for more than two decades, Costas knows its secrets like no one else.
And as the Greek amber spirit house re-launched their refined METAXA 12 Stars expression earlier this year, the delightful and extremely patient Costas told us what it takes to become a true master blender. “I am never in a rush. I know it takes time to achieve perfection.” Speaking about the METAXA 12 Stars with twelve blends, he said he selects the noblest most aromatic wines from Samos which are blended together and aged until the right moment. “I combine them with blends of grape distillates that have matured in Limousin oak casks, of various degree of toasting. Then I add my secret bouquet of May Rose petals and Mediterranean botanicals. As a final touch, I add a very old blend of Muscat from Samos and grape distillates, crafted, matured and reserved for METAXA 12 Stars.”
And who better to promote this one-of-a-kind spirit other than explorer Mike Horn? The 12 stars drink, which is recommended to be served on the rocks pays homage to the courage, exploration and authenticity to both Spyros METAXA and Mike Horn. Just one sip takes the drinker on a journey from the very clink of the ice in a glass to the tasting notes of dark cocoa, liquorice, dried orange, honeyed figs and prunes on the tongue. An exploration indeed in every sense of the word. Can I get the same taste of METAXA when I return home? Of course I can, but perhaps not with those awesome views, but then again, that’s what imagination is for. The answer is in the bottle…
METAXA – Where and How?
For more information on METAXA 12 Stars, and the current product range, visit www.METAXA.com/en/
We flew to Athens and Samos with British Airways (www.britishairways.com).