In early August the WA was on a brief sojourn to Greece visiting a friend in the Chalkidiki region of north-eastern Greece. The region is mostly known for the beaches of the 3 finger-like peninsulas and the reclusive monks of Mount Athos. The Wine Anarchist asked his friend and Master of Wine, Konstantinos Lazarakis MW, if he knew of any wineries worth visiting whilst in the area, which how the WA came to arrange a visit to this very new winery, Domaine Claudia Papayanni, situated in the town of Arnea on the inland part of the Chalkidiki region, away from the beaches and up in the hills.
In 2003 she set out with an ambitious project, to plant 20 hectares of vines on what was previously agricultural land planted with grains such as wheat and corn and build a 3,300 m2 high tech winery. "So you mean, there weren't any vineyards at all before you started? What on earth possessed you to start such a risky business on untried territory?" the Wine Anarchist asked incredulously. "Well," she answered, "there has been historical evidence of wine produced in the village before and we had the soil tested extensively to make sure it was suitable for growing quality grapes. Also," she added: "I had a vision and bags of enthusiasm!" Well, who can argue with that?
Not knowing anything about making wine, she surrounded herself by people who did and asked advice left right and centre. What followed was years of literally blood, sweat and especially tears. But her vision and her... you could probably call it stubbornness carried her through. Her vision was to make the best possible wine from the territory available, make it organically and present it to the world, so that people actually want to buy it. And the last point is her particular strong side, from presenting herself to the public to opening the winery to the public and making it an attractive place to visit and the modern and sleek labeling of the wines themselves.
The cellars for example are made to look like an old cave, but bear in mind this place is only 10 years old! So what looks like an old mould covered wall on arched pillows, is actually concrete with spray over foam. Claudia is frank about it, "it's only for show", but it does give the place a certain ambience.
But it's not all just on the surface. Her attention to detail shows throughout, from the state of the art bottling line to fermentation vessels specially designed to ferment the indigenous Greek grape variety of Xinomavro. The conic shape of this tank allows for the separation of the grape pips from the rest of the mash to avoid green tannins to taint the finished wine.
Currently 130,000 bottles per year are produced, but the winery has a capacity for up to 1 million bottles a year. The actual first vintage was in 2007.
The vineyards are on 2 different plots: one just outside the winery in Arnea at an altitude of 650m asl and one at a lower altitude (250m asl) in Malthousa. The soils are rich and contain a fair portion of clay. Below are the vineyards in Arnea:
Finally it was time to taste some wines. There are 10 different labels produced, 4 white, 4 red and 2 rosé in 4 different ranges. There is the entry level 'Ex-Arnon' range, the 'CP' range, 2 wines named after her children Alexandra and Nikolas and at the top the 'Domaine' range.
Here are the Wine Anarchists notes:
So in conclusion, the Wine Anarchist was very impressed by the quality of the wines from so young a winery and as the vines get older, future offerings should get even better. So thank you Claudia for taking us on a tour and all the tears and struggles were well worth it.