Country of Origin

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Exquisite organic wine from indigenous grape varieties in Crete

Winery

The monastery has always been making wine for the needs of the church, and for friends and social events which accompany the monastery’s life.

The bare, poor, dry and windy fields around the monastery were no good for crops other than vineyards or olive trees. As a result, after the recent restoration of the monastery buildings, the Abbot Philotheos Spanoudakis started putting in order again old vineyards of the monastery back in the nineties.

The philosophy of the organization of the vines remained under the concept of environmental friendly practices together with a broad mind ness to the organization of the details: the fields were enriched with home made organic compost before planting, so as to keep the soil alive, full of useful micro-organisms. The vineyards were planted using certified plants to avoid disease. The vines are conducted on a trellis system, to avoid the development of fungal diseases. Wide corridors between the rows allow for the tractors to pass in order to enable the quick operations required for plant protection in biological control.


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Organic farming

The choice of the varieties was done taking into consideration the traditional trends of the area, the microclimate of each field and the soil composition and capacity for water retention. As a result, the sensible white varieties were planted on the top of the windy hills, so that any excess of moisture can dry quickly before disease develops, and the reds found their place at the lower fields which retain more water and take more time to mature, so as to allow for a correct maturation and colour compound accumulation in the berries.

The vines are pruned in winter, to determine the load of grapes per plant. Too many grapes and the wine will be diluted in taste, too few and the berries will dry in the sun in the middle of the hot summer, before harvesting… It’s the determination of the man who prunes that determines the quality of the grapes to be harvested, six months in advance.

At the end of spring, the new shoots have already emerged. They are very sensitive to frost and hail. Disease is also a constant threat until the middle of the summer. However no industrial pesticides are used in the monastery’s farms: just traditional practices are allowed to keep diseases away. Timing is of up most importance: one day late to take action means the disease will be widely spread.

Grape varieties

The traditional varieties Vilana and Thrapsathiri give few, golden color grapes at the beginning of the harvest season. Before they get in the winery, all the grapes are scanned by two people to discard any diseased ones. From then onwards, the wine will be kept at low temperatures during pressing, fermentation and the whole storage period, to keep all the freshness and aromas in the wine till it reaches the glass of the final consumer.

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Kotsifali, mandilari syrah and merlot give a deep red blend with aromas of dry fruits. Each variety is cut when the perfect maturity is reached, and the grapes are transferred in small baskets to the winery. Once destemmed and crushed, they are transferred to the stainless steel tanks where the skins of the berries ferment together with the must. The crushed grapes are mixed together and turned over every day in order to extract a maximum of color and tannins. The fermentation is carried out under controlled temperatures to achieve good concentration of fruitiness as well as a full bodied wine.

The years when the grapes are in a very good health, another wine is made: the sweet wine. The grapes are laid on terraces under the sun, in order to evaporate most of the water, and thus concentrate everything in the berry. Then the grapes are transferred to the winery where fermentation begins. But the yeasts cannot ferment all the sugars: they stop because of the alcohol they have produced and thus the wine remains sweet.

 

The wines are already enjoyed by many people, but the monastery is always trying to improve them by smaller production and more care during winemaking. This results in a more concentrated wine to satisfy the most demanding wine tasters.

Tsikoudia

Tsikoudia

The ancient process of distilling the crushed grape skins after fermentation is carried out in the Monastery every year after harvest. The Monastery invested on a new alembic and a bottling line for the traditional Cretan “Tsikoudia”.

For this refined distillate, grapes from old traditional varieties are fermented in low temperatures so as to preserve aromas. The fermented skins are then distilled. The distilling starts when the fermentation is complete and the fire under the alembic doesn’t stop for about two months.

The skins are transferred to the alembic in small lots. The distillation is very slow to preserve the aromatic quality. The steam circulates in different temperature compartments of the alembic to preserve fruitiness. The different fractions of the distillation are separated by trained tasters during the whole day and night. Then the different qualities are kept separately. Once the distilling is over, different lots of Tsikoudia are blended together in order to get the balanced smooth and full bodied distillate which will be finally bottled.