The cutting of the first bunch of Assyrtiko on the southern Aegean island of Santorini on August 4 signaled the start of the 2017 wine grape harvest across Greece. The harvest takes roughly three months, ending in late October in the vineyards of northern Greece.
Growers on Santorini are optimistic of a very good year and the usually arid island saw some much-desired rain this winter. The grapes are looking strong and healthy. Volume, however, has been compromised due to a heat wave in late June that dried up hundreds of vines.
“We estimate a drop of as much as 30 percent in wine grapes,” says Matthaios Dimopoulos, director of Santo Wines, the union of Santorini cooperatives. Winemaker Yiannis Tselepos, however, does not expect losses to exceed 5 percent.
More than 2,000 people with connections to the industry gathered at the official launch of the harvest season in late July, which was hosted by Santo Wines at its headquarters in the village of Pyrgos.
The event was also attended by Agricultural Development Minister Vangelis Apostolou, who vowed that a special consumption tax on wine would be abolished by the end of the year in response to repeated requests by winemakers who say it is killing sales and boosting the black market.
Crete is also about to start its harvest, with losses expected to reach as much as 30 percent.
“The heat wave has dehydrated the vines and affected the maturation of the grapes,” says Paraskevas Kordopatis, head of the island’s cooperative association. Earlier rainfall means that the harvest will start a bit later this year, around mid-August.
High hopes on Samos
On the island of Samos, farmers are looking forward to a good year and the harvest is expected to last through end-September as the majority of its vineyards are at altitudes of 800 meters and above. Having picked up two gold medals at this year’s Mondial des Vin Extremes (an international competition for wines from remote and inaccessible vineyards) – for the Samos Anthemis 2011 and the Samos Nectar 2010 – they have good reason to feel optimistic.
As far as the rest of Greece is concerned, the quality of wine grapes is reportedly good this year and many areas which weren’t affected by adverse weather are expecting an excellent harvest.