Wine & Spirits - August 2019 - 31

In fact, he tells me, to encourage others to invest in vineyards, he's
invited anyone willing to buy old parcels and restore them to use his
main winery, a vast, newly built space. To date, however, no one has
taken him up on the offer.

Bozanis, sales manager at Karamolegos, over dinner one night. His colleague, oenologist Lefteris Anagnostou, adds that some growers ask to
be paid for their grapes in spring, before the vines have even flowered,
and make visits around the holidays, looking for "gifts."
These two young guys don't feel the stress as acutely as some, as
their boss, Artemis Karamolegos, has become the third-largest lando be fair, restoring Santorini's vineyards is no easy task. The
holder on the island since he launched his winery in 2004. Karamoisland once produced wines so esteemed they were shipped
legos grows enough fruit that he allows Bozanis and Anagnostou to
to the courts of Russia, but by the end of the 1930s, vintners
experiment widely, resulting in wines like Pappas, an austere singlewere sending bulk wine down a pipeline installed at the top
parcel assyrtiko vinified in an Austrian Stockinger barrel and left two
of the caldera to the storage tanks at the port. The idea of Santorini as
years on the lees; and Mysterio, an amber-hued version left 21 days
a generic blend of fruit from all over the island has only recently been
on the skins.
challenged by vintners like Hatzidakis, with single-vineyard blends,
and Sigalas, who bottles Seven Villages, a collection of seven wines,
Ioanna Vamvakouri, another young oenologist on the island, found
each from a different part of the island.
a different way around the simmering tensions on the island: She went
Not everyone is moving so fast, however. "I don't think we can take
to Thirasia, where there is no competition for grapes. A small island in
advantage of village designations yet," says Ilias Roussakis, oenolothe caldera, it was part of the volcano before the Minoan eruption, and
gist at Vassaltis. "We are heading in that direction, because we do see
remains officially part of Santorini. But the locals are fiercely protecvariation between the fruit from different
tive of their land; there are no commercial
places, but we also see similarities, and the
wineries there, and essentially no tourism,
differences aren't mapped."
even though it's a seven-minute ferry ride
from the main island.
Instead, he and his colleagues, oenologist
For Vamvakouri, who's long dreamt of
Yiannis Papaeconomou and winery owner
starting up a winery focused on vineyards,
Yiannis Valambous, have been working to
answer a question that few others raise.
Thirasia offered a unique opportunity. "The
"This came out of a conversation we had,
climate and soil are the same as on Santoasking, 'What would happen if the grapes
rini-they are part of the same volcano,"
didn't sit in the vineyard after being harshe says. "The big difference is that, in San-Matthew argyros
vested?'" says Roussakis, pouring a glass of
torini, there are typically 2,000 to 2,500
plants per hectare; in Thirasia, there are
a Santorini they named Gramona Cuvée des
less than 500." Without pressure to replant
Vignerons. "Sometimes they sit two, three,
as vines died, the land has been left fallow.
five, six, seven hours before the truck picks
"It's the soil of Santorini as it was many centuries ago," she says.
them up. Seventy-five percent of the grapes that come to the winery
And Vamvakouri had an in, as she'd worked at Boutari, one of the
aren't the color that any winemaker would want. They are brown."
few wineries that bought grapes from the island. She purchased five
While the island is only about 35 miles square, a 30-minute trip on a
acres of vines on the island five years ago, then searched for a likequiet winter day can stretch into three hours in the summer.
To find out, they made a microcuvée from an estate vineyard. "It's
minded partner to help her establish a winery. Last year, she teamed up
a single plot, in Vourvoulos, the vines about 60 years old, on average,"
with Evangelos Gerovassiliou and Vasilis Tsaktsarlis; both BordeauxRoussakis says. "A bunch of us go into the vineyard at 5:30 a.m. and
trained oenologists, they understood her desire to focus on farming,
pick just enough to fill up the press, until about 8:30. Then we load
having built Biblia Chora, a winery in northern Greece, through painsthe truck, drive ten minutes and, by 9 a.m., we start pressing. We use
takingly careful work in the vineyards, reviving ancient grapes, as well
whole clusters, pressing long and slow; then start fermentation with
as pioneering imports like assyrtiko and sauvignon blanc. The three
blurry must." In the past, they included a small portion in the blend
created Mikri Thira, a brand with the ancient name of the island.
that had been aged in barrels, but they've decided to stick entirely
Vamvakouri made her first vintage in 2018, ferrying between home
with stainless steel next year, he says, pouring a glass. I'm prepared to
and vineyards to tend the vines, and making the wine in a borrowed
taste some sort of fruity, leesy, oaky Super Santorini, but instead I'm
space in Boutari's winery. "It takes seven minutes from Oia, and once
caught off guard: It smells vividly like the ocean, in a clean, fresh, seaI'm there, it's three minutes to the vineyard," she says. In fact, it is
salty way. It tastes like Santorini, too, a slash of sunny lemon flavor
faster for her to get grapes from the vineyard to her winery across the
bouncing off a chalky backdrop, like light off whitewashed buildings;
water in August than it is for most anyone trucking them by land on
the acidity brings the flavors into sharp focus even while the texture
Santorini. "And it's PDO Santorini," she says, pouring her 2018 Terfeels hedonistically creamy. "I was thinking to release it without the
raséa. Made entirely from Thirasia fruit, half vinified in stainless-steel
PDO," Valambous says, smiling, "as a form of protest."
tanks, the rest in used French oak barrels from Gerovassiliou's winery,
it's fruity but restrained, with Meyer lemon flavors and a salty seashellou can imagine: It's August, and you go to buy grapes
like minerality-another elegant take on Santorini.
from the guy you've been working with for years, and
The next morning, the wind is blowing hard, and I make a beeline
he says, 'No, you're not paying me enough. Pay me this
for the ferry, hoping to get to my next stop before the waves get any
higher. The taste of the sea spray in the air brings back memories of
much or I'll take them to this other guy.' You do it because
the assyrtikos I've been tasting over the last week, savory and bracing,
you need the grapes, but you're angry-at the grower and at the wineand I realize that, despite the crisis atmosphere on the island, there
maker who was going to pay even more for the grapes. And then you go
have never been so many great wines being made on Santorini. Imagon and make the wine, but that anger simmers all year long." This story
ine what they could do if the growers and vintners all got along. n
plays out countless times across the island every August, says Dmitri

T

"You know those huge
old-vine baskets you
see in photos? That's
lazy vinegrowing."

"Y

WINE & SPIRITS

AUGUST 2019

31



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
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