- The kind of wildlife we are up against in our estate, and what are some of the ways we are able to protect ourselves from these animals without interfering with their lives
The wildlife living within and near our vineyard consists of different kinds of birds, rabbits, wild pigs, foxes, snakes, pelicans, frogs, some fishes -into our artificial lakes-,grisels, weasels and two years ago we had seen two wolves. Fortunately, the last ones were not hungry so... The animals, if you do not bother or threaten them, would not attack you, so we have never had a problem. Of course, the wild pigs or the rabbits might eat some grapes or vine leaves, but this is how nature works: every creature in this world has to be fed, not only man. So there is no need to interfere in their lives, this would rather cause than solve problems (no one, for example, wants to mess up with a wild pig, especially with an angry one). After all, among the vineyards there are some small ravines where the animals usually hide while we are working during the day and they come out when we are finished, when the potential “danger” for them is gone; so, everyone is happy
What made us decide to incorporate the biodynamic element into our winemaking as well
The first time that I heard about natural wine and working according the rhythms of cosmos was from my grandfather. He was winemaker in Ortaki -a region that belongs in Bulgaria now- before his territory was invaded by the Bulgarians and he, among with the other Greeks of the region, was forced to move away from his land. After that, he could not afford to make a winery in Greece too, but he produced his own wine in small quantities just for his family, for old time’s sake. He used to bottle the wines and do the vintage and all the other winemaking procedures in compliance with the celestial rhythms. So these are the images and the experiences that I had as a child, which formed my mentality regarding winemaking as an adult.
When I finally decided to build my own winery, I took an opinion of a very famous oenologist here, who told me that biodynamic would not work in a big scale production. Even though I took his advice and I did not use biodynamic rules in a large scale for our commercial wines, I continued to follow them for making experimental wines. In 2015, after a lot of blind tastings of our more “conventional” (they are organic of course) wines and of our experimental biodynamic wines, we decided that we will take the risk and we will do a bigger quantity of biodynamic wine.
It was the dream of my grandfather to build again a winery and making the great wine that he always did. I am very pleased that I could finally fulfill his dream!
According to our belief and experience biodynamic and permaculture are the only ways to help the nature to be healed by the wounds that we provoked to her.
We are dedicated to use Greek grapes in order to represent our country’s proud history of winemaking, but we also describe them as “remarkable”, “misunderstood” and “promising” for the wine world.
- Remarkable: The Greek varieties, especially Xinomavro -which is the “king” of Greek varieties for me-, give remarkable results. It is astonishing! For example, Xinomavro gives so different flavours and aromas when you vinify it as rose or red or blanc de noir! In the red “version” it gives more tomato and olive aromas. As a rose, the aromas are more like berries and cherries. And finally in a blanc de noir vinification, it gives more botanical aromas, like thyme and rosemary. I think we have a lot of work to do until we fully understand the potentials of each variety.
- Misunderstood: In the past, most of the viticulturists and winemakers preferred to use international grape varieties, because they considered them to be better than the indigenous (xenomania is unfortunately part of the Greek mentality), something that has proven to be wrong over the years. The Greek varieties have many potentials and they are adjusted to our climate and soil conditions better than any other variety.
- Promising: Thanks to the potentials that the Greek varieties have, they are very promising for the future of winemaking in Greece.
Stavroula helps us with the actual winemaking as agronomist-oenologist, and also paints the labels for our bottles. This sounds like to be any father’s dream set up! But how does it all work out in the day to day?
Stavroula painted the labels. It was spontaneous, we can say. She was angry one day, it is so typical of her, and she just stopped her job and begun to draw the surroundings of our winery. After finishing, she was ready to throw the drawing away, the anger has passed, so, for her, the painting was now useless. During this period of time, we were trying to figure out how the labels of our new natural wines could be. We discussed with many different graphist designers, but nothing met our expectations for something special. This is when I saw my daughter’s paintings and I thought that this is exactly what we were looking for. Fortunately, I understood that before she had the time to throw the paintings away.
LET THE NATURE TO MAKE THE WINES
This method makes winemaking sometimes easier and sometimes harder.
In the first years, we have a lot of hard work to do, because human in general has destroyed the nature up to a point. The use and abuse of fertilisations, pesticides, fungicides are only some of the factors having led to this destruction as well as to a subsequent weakening of nature’s power. For generations, the majority of farmers and agronomists thought of nature as flawed, as something that really needed his intervention. So, in order to undo the negative results of those bad practices which have been going on for so many generations, hard work need to be done. We have the vineyard checked every 2 days for diseases; most of the work in the vineyard is done manually, so that we do not bother the wildlife as much as we can.
Regarding the vinification, we could not say that the work is easier or harder. What we can certainly say is that work is more risky. We should throw away the grapes that are not 100% healthy and good and as a consequence the production is much less than in a conventional vineyard. In the winery, the work continues with controlling the wines or the fermenting musts every day. We taste the wines in order to see if there is any fault, we control the temperatures of the tanks, we check the wines in our laboratory-analysis of volatile acidity, analysis of biomass (to see the population of the yeasts) etc.
In the long run, to be honest, I could not say for sure whether the work will be harder or easier; for the moment we have to face a lot of difficulties, but I think –and hope!- that in the future the situation will become more stable and thus a bit easier. Right now, only one thing is beyond every doubt: that the winemaking of this type will continue to intrigue me no matter how hard it is.
The identity of our vineyard
The earth is in great peril, due to the corporatization of agriculture, the rising climate crisis, and the ever-increasing levels of global poverty, starvation, and desertification on a massive scale. This present condition of global trauma is not "natural," but a result of humanity's destructive actions. And, according to our belief and fortunately according the believes of a lots other people in this world, it is reversible. We need to change not only our methods of earth stewardship, but also the very way we think about the relationship between human beings and nature.
For this reason, we decided from the very beginning to apply to our vineyards the permaculture principles and the biodynamic rules.
On the one hand, permaculture (permanent agriculture) is the conscious design and maintenance of agriculturally productive ecosystems which have the diversity, stability, and resilience of natural ecosystems. It is the harmonious integration of landscape and people providing their food, energy, shelter, and other material and non-material needs in a sustainable way. Without permanent agriculture there is no possibility of a stable social order in our opinion. Permaculture design is a system of assembling conceptual, material, and strategic components in a pattern which functions to benefit life in all its forms. The philosophy behind permaculture is one of working with, rather than against, nature; of protracted and thoughtful observation rather than protracted and thoughtless action; of looking at systems in all their functions rather than asking only one yield of them; and of allowing systems to demonstrate their own evolutions.
On the other hand, biodynamic is a “solar” agronomic operation: every action in the vineyard tends to bring the sun’s forces into the soils in order to enhance the soil’s biodiversity and, thus to help the plant to its vital processes. Our planetary system is a living organism where each planets sphere of influence penetrates the sunlight that permeates the Earth. The use of compost instead of chemical fertilizations and the use of biodynamic preparations catalyzes these forces so, we could be able to heal our planet.
Practically, that means:
- We tried to have a big floral and fauna biodiversity in our land. That why we do not cut the wild herbs grown into our vineyard, we plant not only vines but also other plant species in order to enhance the biodiversity, we protect the wild animals lived in and around our vineyard by offering them natural shelters. After a lot of years of hard work, the region now had more than 100 different species of plants. Do not mention the enormous amount of microorganisms.
- We do the most of our works to the fields manually, in order not to compact the soil and in order not to interfere to the natural equilibrium.
- Instead of fertilization, we use the compost that we make and spread the the biodynamic preparation BD500.
- Biodynamic also means using many teas and herbal mixtures chosen by the needs of each individual vine. Also taken into consideration is the condition of the soil, position of the moon, the sun, and the planets.
- We do the winter pruning, Cazenave system and spurred cordon system, from February until early April, only on days when the moon is passing the constellations: Sagittarius, Aries, Leo and if necessary, also Aquarius, Gemini and Libra. A biodynamic wash is sprayed on the vines to speed healing and protect the open wounds.
- No clipping or trimming the end of the vines to avoid any kind of stress to the plants and also to keep the last bud on the plant.
- Light shoot thinning in order to avoid a bigger stress to the plants caused by the pruning. In this way, the vine, which tries to overpass the stress from pruning, does not need to spend a big amount of the produced sugars in order to heal its wounds and find its strength once more. Consequently, the sugars left for spending them for producing its grapes are sufficient and the wine produced is of the highest possible quality.
- Always manual harvest.
- A small amount of copper is used (3kg of pure copper per hectare per year). Copper is an oligoelement essential to life. Sulfur is also used, it is also essential to life, but we try to reduce it little by little every year.