The 2005 vintage is showing promise for Greek wines

It may be several months before we have a chance to taste it, but wine from this year’s vintage is already on its way to the wineries. On Santorini the grape harvest began officially on August 8. Red wine grapes will start being picked around mid-September and the harvest will end in October with the Xinomavro variety. So far, there is every indication this year’s vintage will produce very high-quality wines, though the crop of grapes for winemaking has decreased considerably since last year. Everything now depends on how the experts in the vineyards and wineries manage the grapes. In general, a smaller crop is thought to be a sign of high-quality grapes, since the fewer the clusters, the better the vine can nourish them, but that does not always apply in practice. Some viticulturalists deal with a smaller crop by watering the vines more to make the fruit heavier. This makes the grapes too large and disrupts the proportion of skin to juice, which is vital for the quality of red wine. «Good viticulturalists will produce raw material for excellent wines this year,» predicts Panos Zoumboulis. The harvest on Santorini began with the Assyrtiko and Athiri varieties. The crop is smaller than last year’s, but the 2004 vintage was of a magnitude that only occurs every 10-20 years on the island, where the climate and lack of water make for limited production. As Christos Kanelakopoulos, oenologist at the Santorini cooperative, explained, «the grapes matured more slowly this year because the summer was relatively cool, and the acidity was quite low by Santorini standards.» What most people are eagerly awaiting is the harvest of two «new varieties,» Mavrotragano and Voidomatou. They are varieties that used to be grow on Santorini and had almost disappeared a few years ago, when they were planted again. «In the future, Mavrotragano will become the third Greek variety after Aghiorghitiko and Xinomavro,» oenologist Paris Sigalas told Kathimerini. The harvest of the grapes used to make Vinsanto, a local specialty, will start in about 10 days. The grape harvest began in the second week of August on Samos. The local crop was smaller but of better quality than last year, according to Giorgos Karayiannis, president of the Samos cooperative. It was a good year for northern Greece as well, as there were no heat waves. The Chardonnay harvest has already begun, and pickers will start on the other varieties in a few days. In southern Greece, «it rained at the right time for the vineyards, in June and July,» said oenologist Panos Zoumboulis. But the rain did cause a problem with a fungus that attacks vines. The Nemea crop is smaller this year, and the harvest is expected to begin in mid-September. «High temperatures in early August helped the crop mature more quickly,» said Nemea cooperative oenologist Christos Peppas, who added that it was a good year in terms of quality. «The grapes are very healthy. Even if it rains they won’t rot, because the crop is small and the vines are not overloaded.» In early September, Nemea will hold a wine festival to finish off last year’s reserves and empty the barrels to prepare for the new vintage. It looks like it will be a good year for the Aghiorghitiko grape grown in Nemea. The harvest of Savvatiano and Roditis grapes is due to start on September 10, and this year’s harvest will come to an end with Xinomavro grapes, which will begin to be picked on September 20.