Travel writer, lecturer, traveller
Published on 21/08/18 in Reading
I wanted to visit one of the many wineries on the island. My choice was based on a picture that I had once seen and which had prompted my interest: a very modern white rotunda-shaped structure with a wide dome, standing in the middle of a vineyard with the blue of the sea as a backdrop. It was the Tholos (dome) of the Boutari Winery, established in 1879, and famous as one of the most important and historic wineries in Greece. It had been voted as one of the world's ten most important architectural wine wonders of the world.
Curious to see the dome, I arrived with a strong gust of wind that blew off my hat, and the winery hostess welcoming me by sitting me down opposite the stylish building and offering me a glass of white wine.
"Thank you, Kalliopi, for your time, but tell me what's inside the dome?" I asked because, even though my imagination was great, I was fairly certain it couldn't have been the cellar in which the wines were aged.
"Certainly not a cellar,” she smiled. “I'll show you what's inside. The marble interior is available for wine tasting, cinema screenings and art exhibitions, thus making our contribution to the cultural life of Santorini."
I liked what I heard as I was accustomed to the wineries of Tuscany after the twenty-five years I had spent living in Italy, where each castle, together with its vines, cultivated the spirit of the people. Besides, the Greek word 'oinopneuma' means the 'spirit of wine'. In the symposiums held by the ancient Greeks, the person responsible for serving the wine (which was watered-down) had to be aware how much the person he was serving to could handle without becoming drunk, so that he could hold a conversation for several hours with a clear mind and spirit.
"Santorini is famous for its white wines," I heard and understood why tourists visit the island's wineries with such interest. "The main local wine grape is the Assyrtiko, which is considered one of the noblest varieties of the Mediterranean region, while the island's vineyard is among the few that have not been affected by phylloxera."
"Why did you decide to cultivate vines on the island?" I asked.
"It was in the mid-1980s when our company spotted another important vine-cultivating area to produce high-quality wine. We were, however, interested in applying winemaking techniques unknown to the island until that time. Visiting Santorini in the mid-1980s, Constantine Boutaris understood that the micro-climatic conditions here are special, with temperatures lower than the surrounding islands of the Cyclades, rainfall rare, and with the dense night fog offering the vines moisture that they absorb and retain. This led him to understand how the vintage could be made in August rather than September, as had been the case until then. We had a successful first harvest in 1989, while the company agronomists and oenologists trained many of the local winemakers with pioneering techniques in viticulture and the production of high-quality wines."
As she spoke to me, small groups of visitors passed in front of us coming from the dome, while specialized guides from the winery spoke to them in English and other languages, initiating them into the flavours of the Boutari wines. They were sitting in a welcoming area in order to taste the wine, and I discreetly sat a little further so that I could also listen to what the oenologist was saying while I tasted a small portion of the Vino Santo, which I found excellent and which, like the madeleines had reminded Marcel Proust of the delightful moments at the home of his aunt Léonie in Combray reminded me of the golden hills of the Tuscan vineyards... an excerpt from the book GREECE, The Dance of the Seas
The eBook GREECE, The Dance of the Seas, illustrated with colour images, is available on:
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The Greek publication of the book ΕΛΛΑΔΑ, Ο Χορός των Θαλασσών is available on:
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Google Play eBooks: https://play.google.com/store/books/details?id=oM9UDwAAQBAJ
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