Wine & Spirits - August 2019 - 29

BELOW: ARGYROS SHOWS OFF THE GNARLED
BASE OF AN OLD ASSYRTIKO VINE;
THE CELLAR AT VOLCANIC SLOPES VINEYARD.

ABOVE: MATTHEW ARGYROS
IN FRONT OF HIS NEW WINERY IN EPISKOPI; RIGHT: THE
VIEW LOOKING SOUTH FROM
SANTORINI'S CAPITAL, FIRA.

a few feet from the mother vine, where it will set down roots, creating
a second generation.
The problem is, Argyros says, most people don't know these techniques, or don't have the patience to attend to them. He learned from
his father, who'd spent decades buying up vineyards and seeking out
knowledge from growers who'd been tending vines their entire lives,
until he died in 2012. His 321 acres of vines are the largest private
holding on the island-and most of them are right here, in Episkopi,
the viticultural heart of the island. It's almost bizarrely lush right now,
after an extraordinarily wet winter, but even in a normal year, Argyros
says, this is the greenest part of the island. "It's more protected than
most, by the mountains all around," he explains, waving a hand at the
slopes behind us; in front lies the sparkling blue sea, which sends in a
light breeze, misty with moisture, every morning.
Wading into another part of the vineyard, he pulls back the leaves
of a bush vine to reveal a thick, intricately burled trunk. "This vine is
nearly 300 years old," he says, "We know this because when I asked
my grandfather its age, he told me that, when he was a kid, the old
growers referred to these vines as "the old ones." He moves from vine
to vine, demonstrating how the centenarians need to be propped up
with large stones to support their weight in the soft soils; he works
around the base of each plant, clearing away sand and stones, detritus kicked up by the mules they use to plow around the irregularly
spaced vines. It's the old way of tending vines, Argyros says, as when
a vintner would be in his vines all day, taking a break from the sun in
the small stone buildings-spitakis-you see in some vineyards. The
spitaki was a home away from home, a place to eat or to socialize with
friends before heading back to work. Now most of them are in disrepair, as people don't spend as much time in the vines. Argyros, in

fact, now has a crew of 30 year-round vineyard workers to take care of
his vines as well as those of friends who are too old to tend their own.
Argyros believes that there's still so much more to be done in restoring vineyards across the island that it's impossible to know yet just
what a Santorini wine can be. "We think assyrtiko, as we've done it
in the past, hasn't been right," he says. He aims to uncover a greater
range of expressions-fruitier styles for everyday drinking, and profound wines from a range of terroirs.
To that end, we stop into Volcanic Slopes Vineyards, a small winery he created in 2013 out of an abandoned canava, a traditional
wine cellar with dovecotes and a place to shelter farm animals in the
winter. He's transformed the small building into a showcase, with
satin-smooth walls and glass flooring that reveals the old linos, holes
carved out of the rock where the wines were once made. Two geometric
cement tanks anchor the space, and hold the winery's entire production, a single wine sourced from the same two vineyards every year,
the vines in both of them 200 years old.
"We've used the exact same technique since the beginning," he says,
pouring tastes of the 2014, '15 and '16 at a table in the space. "Natural
yeast, fine lees for 14 months, one year in bottle before release. The
only difference is in the harvest."
On an island where vintage variation is often thought to be a nonissue, save for the vagaries of the winds, the differences are, in fact,
stark: The 2014 is compact and concentrated, with honeyed apple flavors and a sweet, meaty texture; the 2015 reflects the warm summer in
its spicy, savory, powerful taste; the 2016 is sharp and herbal, a linear
wine from an early harvest and a drought year. But the amounts he
makes are so small that few people will ever taste them. To actually
make a market impression, the island needs more wines like these.
WINE & SPIRITS

AUGUST 2019

29



Wine & Spirits - August 2019

Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of Wine & Spirits - August 2019

Contents
Wine & Spirits - August 2019 - Cover1
Wine & Spirits - August 2019 - Cover2
Wine & Spirits - August 2019 - 1
Wine & Spirits - August 2019 - 2
Wine & Spirits - August 2019 - 3
Wine & Spirits - August 2019 - 4
Wine & Spirits - August 2019 - Contents
Wine & Spirits - August 2019 - 6
Wine & Spirits - August 2019 - 7
Wine & Spirits - August 2019 - 8
Wine & Spirits - August 2019 - 9
Wine & Spirits - August 2019 - 10
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Wine & Spirits - August 2019 - Cover3
Wine & Spirits - August 2019 - Cover4
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