A winery lost in oblivion

Text, Photos: Giorgos Kavallis, www.kalligrammon.gr

Paros in general, if one takes a look at its countryside consists of thousands of terraces with dry stone walls, xerolithies, in most of which vines were cultivated. Hundreds of stone outdoor structures called patitiria, were scattered around the island, since mostly the grape pressing took place on site in the vineyard and then the must was transferred with donkeys and mules in sheepskin bags to the barrels that were in warehouses called magatzedes.

The island is known since antiquity for its wine production, since the Early Cycladic period 3200-2000 B.C. (marble figurine drinker), Mycenaean (large jars pithoi found in Koukounaries of Naoussa), the Archaic (bearded figure of Dionysus in amphora of the 7th century BC the oldest so far known depiction of the god of wine), the Classical, Hellenistic, Roman, Byzantine periods with coins, jars and amphorae of Parian workshops. It is stated that in later years the main occupation of the inhabitants is the viticulture which produced 2,000 000 okades (ottoman weight =1282 gr) of wine and that there were large industrial wineries on the island; in Naoussa, Moraitis winery, in Parikia a large scale building in the position that is today OTE by the port and later the Union of Agricultural Cooperatives buildings, in Punta at the building that houses the wine-restaurant “THEA”, in Aliki the large abandoned building on the left before reaching the beach, and in Lefkes the tiled-roof winery of Kontaratos, with four stone built large capacity tanks and another that I recently discovered during the repair of a neighboring building and decided to photograph.

When I stopped and walked in I was totally stunned…
In the courtyard there is a large winepress patitiri about 20 m2, a cistern, four small subterranean reservoirs and a small citrus orchard. It consists of a main building of approximately 100 m2, were the crushing-pressing of the grapes with the feet took place in a winepress. Then the grape-marc was transfused after the removal of the stalks in two large indoor cisterns and four external ones for fermentation. On the opposite side there is a smaller building approximately 20 m2, which was the distillery, rakidio in dialect, where the distillation cauldron (amvikas) was. In this building, the roof and the south wall have unfortunately collapsed.

Since then I have stopped there several times. The magic that breathes out has fascinated me. I sit on the steps of the entrance and listen to the voices of the people who have worked there, the feasts with bagpipe and small drum (toubaki), the teasing to each other (Lefkianoi, people from Lefkes, have always been great jesters…). The walls and the floor are soaked with the must of grapes, the sweat of the people, and nowadays the smell of damp wood, creating a unique and unforgettable aromatic blend.

All around there are, forgotten objects, like kofinia (large woven baskets for transporting grapes with mules), bags of goat skin to transfer the must, a wooden shovel (they never used iron ones as iron reacts with the grape), large oak barrels of 600 -700 liters capacity, silent witnesses of a place that was full of life and a village that at its peak, had more than 2500 inhabitants, three parishes and many kafenio and taverns to channel all this wine and souma (distillate in local dialect)!
It would be a dream if some of the remaining buildings were restored to their original state and could be visited one day, as symbols of the glorious wine history of the place…!