On the Greek Island of Zakynthos (Zante), I was intrigued to find that there are some serious wine makers, who are producing excellent quality wines. At the Oenolpi winery, I met Timotheos and Christina-Maria, a young couple who have started a boutique winery, mixing local grapes with mainstream varieties to produce extremely drinkable and fresh wines.
Timotheos told me how his family had bought the estate in the 1960s when the wealthy families on Zakynthos were hit by the shortage of labour after the terrible earthquake of 1953, when so many Zakynthian families migrated abroad in search of a better life.
As well as the existing local grape varieties and mainstream varieties such as Cabernet Sauvignon, the estate also includes olive trees and Korinthian grapes for raisins. In order to build up the family business, Timotheos studied winemaking in Athens where he met Christina-Maria, who was also studying Oenology. They have build a spelendid new winery at Macherado in the centre of the island, with a reception area for wine tastings and also have a shop in Zante town. Although much of their production goes to the carafes of wine that you’ll be served in the Greek restaurants, they are also focusing on making some top quality wines in the modern style, designed to be drunk young.
They are part of a group of wine-makers on the island who are trying to build up the reputation of the wines of Zakynthos and are holding their first wine festival in the town of Keri on 25th July 2009, which is open to the public to promote these local wines.
When we visited the winery, they were happy to give me a tasting of their modern style Zakynthian wines. In the beautiful countryside, surrounded by olive groves and vines, it seemed a great lifestyle, although Christina-Maria told me that she was working so hard that she never had time to go to the beach. These are the wines that we tasted;
This is a fresh white wine which is typical of Zakynthos, and the name denotes the locality in the same way that Champagne is only from a particular locality in France. It is harvested early in the season and has high acidity and citrus flavours, being designed to be drunk at a year old. We found it had very drinkable and would work well with any light, summery foods. The wine is a blend of local white grape varieties, such as Skiadopoulo, Pavlos, Goustoulidi and Robola which is also found on the neighbouring island of Kefalonia.
Pedini Christoforou Rosé
The rosé wine is named after the Christoforou family estate and like the white Verdea was fresh and fruity to be drunk young with a wide range of foods. It is made from a blend of 50% local red grape Augostoustiatis, blended with Kasta, a rosé variety and a small proportion of Alicat Bouchet. The last is a Spanish grape variety, with very dark red skins, which is added for colour and aroma.
This red wine was named after the Greek word for Newborn, named after the newborn winery that Timotheos and Christina-Maria created. It’s a blend of local red varieties such as Augostoustiatis, Kousoubeli, Black Robola and the Cabernet Sauvignon which the couple introduced to the vineyard. Again, the local varieties give it a distinctive Greek taste, but it was very smooth and drinkable.
After we tasted the wines which are currently on sale at the Oenolpi winery, Christina-Maria told me about their other special wines that had unfortunately sold out, as they had only originally made 1000 bottles of each. If the summer continues to be good this year, they hope to bottle some more to be ready for drinking from 2010. First was a Cabernet Sauvignon blend mixed with local Black Robolo which is an expensive variety due to it’s low yield but makes excellent quality wine.
Second was a really delicious Augostoustiatis Liastos wine with 15.1% strength. The wine is made with the local Augostoustiatis grapes which are harvested and then laid outside on a cloth to be ‘burnt’ in the sun, giving it the Liastos name. The technique of ‘burning ‘ the grapes is an unusual one but was traditionally used as a natural way of concentrating the sugars and alcohol. In Greece, it is forbidden to add sugar to wines, so this is the natural alternative, making a concentrated, full-bodied wine which is great for drinking at the end of a meal with cheese or fruit. Although we were unable to taste the wine there and then, our kind friend Rob Wallace from Freddie’s Beach Bar, made us a gift of one of his remaining bottles that he had bought from Oenolpi.
We tasted it for my father’s birthday and it was delicious, tasting like liquid raisins and caramel and perfect as a desert wine. It reminded me of the taste of Christmas, to drink in front of a roaring fire, then have a pleasant doze afterwards – it certainly finished me off for the afternoon but in a good way!
If you have a hire car, it’s well worth paying the Oenolpi winery a visit at Macherado, or you can visit their wine shop in Zante town, on the main shopping street. If you visit in the mornings, you should find either Timotheos or Christina-Maria there and happy to give you a wine tasting and a tour of the winery. You can always call ahead to be on the safe side.
I also shot some video at the winery which I hope to put up in the next few weeks.
Timotheos G Christoforos and Christina-Maria Leftaki
Oenolpi Winery, Macherado and Zante town
Tel +30 2695094030
Mob +30 6977126414, + 30 6979728015
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