Interview: Maro Voulgari | Photos: Ioanna Fysilani
I make wine for my own redemption
The minimalist architect tells us about his 25-year-old love with the island, the small olive grove, the traditional vineyard, the adventure of winemaking in his model winery which gave him a top place in the island’s oenological landscape.
What information can a local wine give to a traveler?
The special features of a place, the soil, the microclimate, its proximity to the sea and its orientation create the special flavour of a wine and indicate its origin. It is what the French call terroir, on the condition that the produced wine is not a product of chemical interventions but as natural as possible.
Is it difficult to respect the traditional winemaking techniques?
When you taste a glass of white Aidani or Monemvassia of Paros, you can’t imagine either the effort it takes to cultivate the soil in the right way or the winemaking experience required to impart the flavour of a local variety. But you forget all this, when someone comes again and seeks it, acknowledging that he can recall its flavour.
Does the state support the Greek winemaker?
Many Greek winemakers honour our country with their wines in the markets abroad, in the absence of any state support. Anyway, the most recent demonstration of “state support” has been the preposterous tax imposed on Greek wine production, a tax which affects mainly the small winemakers.
How long ago did this adventure with the wine start?
It all began in 1993 when I bought this piece of land in Paros, an olive grove, a vineyard and a wine-press. Farming has always fascinated me, but I got the bug for winemaking from a friend, an architect with an academic career in Canada who set up a big winery at the Niagara valley, the “Thirty Bench” which has won international awards. So, I embarked on this marvelous journey. I could say it took some nerve as I was self-taught but I had a good mentor. I adopted organic farming because it brings out what’s best in the final product and doesn’t destroy the environment with chemicals. I did the same with the olive grove. Encouraging comments from friends helped me with the decision to swim in deep waters and set up the small “Alissafi Winery” at my farm, the “Adam farm.” The varieties I use are local – Mandilaria, Vaftra, Monemvasia and Aidani. I create a “vin naturel” wine and I try to give emphasis to the unique and very special features of these varieties.
What’s the bet on a good wine, the vineyard or the barrel?
They are two inherently and totally different procedures, but both require deep knowledge and an appetite for experimentation. Viniculture demands continuous monitoring, especially in the final stage of grape ripening and harvest. Winemaking is a different adventure. However, as in my architectural work, here, too, I am a minimalist. I let nature take its course.
Describe a good wine for me.
I’ll leave aside the commercial wines, the complementary “vin de table” wines which all taste the same, more or less, regardless of their origin. The quality wines have their own aroma and flavour, you remember them, you recall them and you yearn for them. My endeavour is to create an excellent wine from the local varieties, a wine which will embrace the hot sun, the sea breeze, the island’s gentle Northern wind… I don’t expect any economic profit from my involvement with my small winery but I enjoy the “sweet adventure, sweet life” as Elytis has said, “of the wine”, I add.