Grape Harvesting Time in Zakynthos
We have just returned from our holiday in Zakynthos. It was a last minute booking that we made just a week before we left and I was a bit worried because I normally spend some time researching holidays before actually booking. However we felt the need to get away and decided to to take pot luck. But, αυτό δεν ήταν ένα πρόβλημα (no problem), we actually found ourselves pleasantly surprised and had a wonderful holiday.
Zakynthos (also known as Zante) is the third largest of the Ionian Islands. We stayed in the Laganas Bay area, which is the biggest and busiest resort on the island.However it is within easy walking distance of many traditional villages. Our particular favourite was the the small coastal village of Lithakia, accessible via the rocks from the beach at Agios Sostis Harbour. It was so much quieter and relaxing than Laganas, with a small stretch of beach and some boats available for hire to see Turtle Island. Zakynthos has the largest population of nesting sites in the Mediterranean for Loggerhead Sea Turtles (Caretta carretta). They lay their eggs on the beach through the months June-August and then cover their eggs in the sand. The gestation period is 55 days but unfortunately they are an endangered specie as only about 1-2 out of a 1000 hatchlings actually survive (for more information see http://earth-sea-sky-global.org .
I have to say compared with many other Greek Islands we found the cost of food and drink to be so much cheaper in Zakynthos. Our favourite restaurant was the El Greco, a traditonal Greek Taverna situated in an absolutely wonderful setting in the olive groves which and can be reached via the road running up from Agios Sostis harbour. The restaurant is run by a very friendly local family who serve wonderful food at very reasonable prices.However, the highlight of our trip was a visit to one of the wineries. The week that we visited Zakynthos coincided with grape harvesting and we were invited by Timotheus and Christine-Maria Christoforous of Oenolpi Winery (www.oenolpi.gr ) to experience the wine making process.
Zaknythos is a very green and fertile island with hot dry summers and a lot of rain in the winter. This provides an ideal climate for viticulture throughout the growing season. Grapes have been grown on the island for many centuries. During Venetian times many of the wine producing grapes were replaced by the currant/raisin variety of grape for the production of raisins, but since the 19th century wine production has grown significantly on the island. Oenolpi still produces raisins from the Corinthian variety of Grape. They also have 1230 olive trees from which they harvest dark green extra virgin olive oil.
The Oenolpi Winery is in the lowlands of Zakynthos, near the Village of Agria in Machairado, and is a 17 hectare estate consisting of grape vines, olive trees, and raisins, plus a private chapel St George (named after Tims father). Tim and Christina met while studying Oenology at The Technological Education Institutitute of Athens. On completion of their studies they returned to Zakynthos and and in the year 2000 took over Tim’s fathers existing estate and named the company Oenolpi. The construction of the new winery was completed in 2008 and they are now kept very busy tending the estate and developing new wines as well as looking after their 4 month old son George. Christina also has a wine analysing laboratary and througout the year many of the local farmers bring samples of their grapes, must, and wine to be analysed and checked for quality. They also have a Wine Shop in Zakynthos town.
Oenolpi is an artisan winery following the family tradition of making wines in the tradtional way and they are very keen to educate and encourage young people to follow in their footsteps. They have revived original varieties of grapes and only use grapes that are native to Zaknynthos such as: Skiadopolous, Pavlos, Goustoulidi, Augoustiatis, and Katsakoulis.
The main wine to be produced and drunk all over Zakynthos is called Verdea, meaning green in Latin (not to be confused with the Italian grape variety of Verdea). Verdea can only be produced in Zakynthos and is made by harvesting the grapes when they are still un-ripe, this gives the wine high acidity and slightly green tones. The Verdea we tasted at Oenolpi was fresh and fruity and very enjoyable. I particularly recommend the Avgoustiatis Liastos, a semi-sweet red wine made from the Avgoustiatis grape which is traditonally dried in the sun for 10 days before being fermentated and has a very unique flavour and aroma (limited edition of 1,000 bottles). Please see the Oenolpi website (www.oenolpi.gr ) for details of all the wines that they produce.
Σας ευχαριστώ Χριστίνα και τον Tim για πίσω φιλοξενία σας