With its vinous history stretching over four millennia, modern Greece has so much to offer the wine world. There is plenty of great wine made in this historical wine producing country, it just rarely reaches the four corners of the world. Unless it has made its way into a Greek restaurant…..
This generation of Greek winemakers are keen to show the world just what they can do. Making now a great time to inflame your interest in the wines from this viticultural diverse part of the world. With over 300 indigenous grape varieties, your Greek wine journey is guaranteed to be a long and exciting one.
Right here, right now is a good place to start. Papagiannakos Domaine is located in the Attica region, just to the east of Athens, close to the beaches of South East Attica and is built by the ruins of a monastery dating back to the middle ages.
I have come to realize the potential of Savatiano are unlimited. Its history lines up with the history of civilization in Attica.
The Papagiannakos family has been making wine since 1919 and now the third generation is at the winemaking helm: Vassilis Papagiannakos (pictured above). This year under his custodianship, the estate picked up their first gold medal at the Sommeliers Wine Awards 2015 in the UK. Although Greek wines have a very long history of winning acclaim and awards at prestigious international wine shows, this particular competition had not seen a gold medal awarded to Greek until this one.
This family owned estate has Greek varieties and indigenous Attica grape varieties, Savatiano, Malagouzia, Assyrtiko, Agiorgitiko planted alongside the French grapes: Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon. They are the only growers in the region of a grape of rumoured Greek heritage that has made its home in places such as Campania, Italy: – Grecco di Tuffo.
I recently got to pose a few questions to Vassilis Papagiannakos and you can read his answers below:
What varieties are your favourite grape varieties to work with?
Savatiano is my favourite because throughout the years that my family and I have been working with Savatiano, I have come to realize that the potential of this grape are unlimited. Its history lines up with the history of civilization in Attica. It has been cultivated continuously in Attican vineyards for more than 4000 years.
It is as friendly to the producer as a vine, as it is as a wine to the consumer. In its youth, it exudes fresh, floral, peachy and citrus characters, crisp acidity and appealing texture. It ages brilliantly and reveals its mineral backgrounds. Savatiano has been winning awards at international competitions in Bordeaux, France, since 1935 but few people are aware of that.
What is the most unusual grape variety you work with?
Malagouzia. The variety remains a struggle to cultivate well. It is important to protect the grapes from the sun, to keep the acidity and the aroma. The vine grows horizontally, not vertically and it doesn’t like to be trained. You have to tie it up to make it go into the wires. It is very vigorous, it needs green pruning two, three, four times. It needs well-drained soil; with its tight bunches and big berries, it’s particularly susceptible to rot.
However, if you manage all the above, it is an especially aromatic grape leading to elegant full bodied wines, with medium acidity and exciting aromas of exotic fruits, citrus, jasmine and mint.
It took me some time to get to know all these things, but all that pain paid off by the Gold medal we got for our Malagouzia Kalogeri, at the Sommeliers Wine Awards 2015. This is the first time Greece has received a gold medal at this very important on-trade competition, and we are very proud that we are the ones to have achieved it.
What changes to either winemaking or in the vineyards have you personally made?
We‘ve been trying to reduce oxidization during all stages of vinification: from the time we pick up the grapes till the wine is bottled. We respect the concentrated knowledge of grape cultivation in the region and we gently introduce modern techniques.
What makes Papagiannakos Domaine so special?
Firstly, the passion, the knowledge (I represent the 3rd generation of winemakers of Papagiannnakos family) and the commitment of the family to constantly improve our wines. And secondly, low yield and mild cultivation of the vines, particularly the old non irrigated vines.
To you, what makes the Attica wine region unique in the world?
Our area has been producing wine for more than 4000 years.
The terroir is special:- 320 days of sunshine, the climate is dry because of the northern sea winds (we are located 1000 metres away from the east coast of Attica) with a combination of limestone, clay and rocky soils. 90% of the vineyards are non irrigated, old vines (60 + years old).
Plus, it is located 25 km east of the centre of Athens and the access to the area is very easy, so there is great potential for wine tourism.
As Greece has such a rich history, if you had the opportunity to drink a wine with any historical figure, who would it be and what would you be drinking?
I am a great fan of Thucydides, the Historian. I love the way Thucydides writes about the Peloponnesian war: his strict standards of evidence-gathering and analysis of cause and effect, the fact that his text is still studied at both universities and advanced colleges worldwide, simply fascinates me.
Which wine? Savatiano of course. Thucydides comes from Athens/Attica, the birth place of Savatiano. We should honor the autochthonous grape!
What would you talk about? Human nature…
Click below to read reviews of these Papagiannakos Domaine wines:
Papagiannakos Domaine Savatiano
Papagiannakos Domaine Kalogeri Malagousia
If you live in USA, Canada, Japan, Taiwan, Australia, Germany, UK, France, Italy, Belgium & Cyprus, you should be able to find one of Vassilis’ wine.
Thanks for this great interview. I love greek wine and feel like it doesn’t really get the attention it deserves. Glad to see it highlighted here.