Only the Grapes Were the Whole Story
An article on raw wines of Eric Asimov published at May 30, 2013 Õ’ ‘imes
German stands up for Greek wine
By Clark Boyd PRI's The World
The Greek financial crisis has generated a lot of resentment between Greece
and its richer eurozone partners, especially Germany. But not all Germans
are fed up with the Greeks. Near Athens, one German is standing up for
the Greek wine industry.
On a windy plain 20 miles outside Athens, grape vines vie for space with
The city is spreading out, growing along new roads that were built for
the 2004 Olympics to connect Athens to the nearby airport.
Dimitrios Georgas points to his vines which are soon to bear fruit.
"They are ready. If we have some sun for two or three days - then
Georgas' family has been growing grapes and making wine here for generations.
He remembers how his grandfather and father used to sell wine by the barrel
to small tavernas in Athens. Dimitrios would help out around the winery
as a child.
Nowadays, he grows several different grape varieties, and looks after
a business that produces around 50,000 bottles of wine a year - reds,
whites, and the Greek speciality, retsina.
All of Georgas' products are certified organic. His wines, he says, are
special, just like the Greek people.
"We are different because we think in a way, we act in a way, we
drink in a way, we dance in a way. As long as we're not afraid to communicate
our authentic culture to the outside world - we've got advantages."
Retsina meets Riesling
Georgas' views on the quality of Greek wine, and the Greek people, are
shared by a former derivatives trader from Germany, Markus Stolz.
We don't drive Porsches or Mercedes but we have what we have - and that's
enoughDimitrios Georgas, Greek winemaker
Stolz's wife is Greek. They always dreamed of moving back to Greece and
eight years ago, they did.
Stolz's passion is wine and he likes Greek vintages.
"I also saw that the quality of Greek wines was improving year after
year. I wanted to do something professionally with wines but didn't know
what to do," he says. "So I began to look at the export figures
for Greek wines, and I realised there was something wrong."
Stolz found that the vast majority of Greek wine was consumed in Greece.
So three years ago, just before the Greek economic crisis hit, Stolz decided
to give up high finance and set up shop as a Greek wine exporter.
He started by contacting wine merchants in his native Germany, and in
Britain, where he had lived.
German wine seller Markus Stolz
"I wrote about 100 letters, introducing myself, saying I will help
you come together with Greek wineries, and the interest I received back
was literally less than zero!"
Mr Stolz persisted. He started a blog on Greek wine, and used Facebook
and Twitter to spread the word. He even got invited to the United States
to be a guest on a show devoted to wine (a web show run by internet wine
critic American Gary Vaynerchuk).
Soon the Germans, among others, started to listen. So Stolz organised
tastings in Germany. But last year, attitudes started to change, as Greeks
and Germans began blaming each other for the eurozone debt problems.
"I'll give you an example," said Stolz. "I had been working
on a German wine merchant for one-and-a-half years, trying to get an appointment
for Greek wines. I finally met him in November. We sat down, we tried
the wines, he loved them. But before we broke off he said - OK, Markus,
you just have to tell me - how can I sell a Greek wine to a German now?"
The current bad blood between Germans and Greeks started to play out online,
Dimitrios shows off his wines
"Greeks would send me emails or call me up and say Markus, you have
to make a political stance on your blog and tell the Germans off. At the
same time, I'd get calls or emails from Germans saying Markus, you have
to tell the Greeks off."
Stolz says he tries not to get too depressed about it. From a business
point of view, he says, the American market is more promising anyway.
Stolz says he thinks Greek winemakers and the government in Athens should
be marketing their wine in a big way right now - not to mention olive
oil and cheese - two other products he thinks Greece could find more markets
And he's trying to get more winemakers in Greece to think about exporting,
especially now that the Greek domestic market has been squeezed hard by
the debt crisis.
When asked about that crisis, winemaker Dimitrios Georgas shrugs. Unlike
other Greek wineries, he says, his is not burdened by debt, in part because
he kept his operation small.
"So you and your family are OK?", I ask.
"Look, we don't drive Porsches or Mercedes," he says. "But
we have what we have - and that's enough."
Greek biodynamic vineyard shines
Dimitris Georgas family vineyard is carrying on a tradition
that started with his grandfather. He grows grapes on a small, 5 acre
estate, located in Mesogaia, which is in the eastern plain of Attika,
Greece. The methods Georgas uses to cultivate his vineyard, and make the
wine, has earned him a spot as one of Europeís most well known organic
The environment is hot and dry, with the average amount of yearly rain,
amounting to only 11 to 15 inches. Being surrounded by ocean helps; it
creates a humid climate, and coupled with sunny, hot weather, it makes
the conditions more favorable for certain varieties of grapes. However,
Dimitris utilizes other methods to make the best of the growing conditions
In addition to the organic practices, he also uses techniques from biodynamic
farming. Everything has a purpose and a contribution to give to the soil.
Instead of plowing the dead plant matter thatís occupying space where
no vines are growing, it stays. This helps prevent erosion and evaporation
of moisture. It also assists in keeping certain forms of bacteria alive,
which is crucial for rich, healthy soil.
The wine is a direct reflection of the quality of soil the grapes were
grown in. The family vineyard is much smaller than many other vineyards
in the region, but the techniques they use, more than make up for its
size. The quality of the wine has earned his family a reputation to be
It takes 2.4 pounds of grapes to produce a bottle of wine, and Greece
produces about 26 million gallons of wine yearly.
A FAMILY vineyard in Greece harnesses the forces
of nature to make its wonderful wine.
by V. Kanidiadis, Herald Sun, February 19, 2011
The Georgas family's vineyard may not be as big as some other others in
Greece, but after three generations of winemaking it has grown to become
one of the most renowned organic winemakers in Europe.
The vineyard is in Mesogaia, meaning "the middle of the earth",
just east of Athens.
The Georgas family go back many generations here. Brothers, sisters and
many cousins populate the township. With such a strong family heritage,
even streets have been named after them.
Dimitris and Maria Georgas received a 1.6ha parcel that is now completely
filled with grapevines, carrying on their grandfather's tradition not
only of organic production, but of harnessing the environment's natural
elements to grow grapes biodynamically.
Dimitris grows some quite unusual varieties that we, down here in Australia,
are just hearing about. Savatiano, which translates to Saturday, is one
of the white varieties that they produce -- it has been cultivated for
more than 300 years.
With annual rainfall of about 300-400mm, there is obviously an aridity
problem in Mesogaia, just like in most parts of Australia, and this variety
has achieved the best results of the many tested.
Looking around the fields, apart from the grapevines, all I can see are
dry weeds. Normally these would be hoed back into the earth and destroyed
-- but not at Dimitris'.
The dead weeds are left there purposely to help control evaporation and
stop the intense sun from drying the soil surface and causing it to crust,
destroying microbial activity in the dirt -- a vital part of growing organically.
It's the middle of summer and, just like in Australia, the long days offer
lots of benefits to plants, such as extra sunlight and warmer soil conditions
for better growing.
But we need to be cautious how we maintain the plants, because summer
also provides ideal conditions for many other predators in the garden
If they're not dealt with early enough, they can become quite destructive,
hopping around from leaf to leaf, potentially causing serious damage to
the garden, even to the point where the plant dies.
"Insects love to be sheltered from the wind and dislike bright light,
and one of the biodynamic methods of maintaining and protecting is by
simply pruning," Dimitris says.
Pruning a plant is not just about controlling the insect population, it
also helps direct the nutrients to where they are needed most and, in
this case, it's the grapes.
Pruning also helps to reduce the amount of water required to keep the
plant alive; less foliage means less water.
Biodynamics and organics all seem very credible and the proof will be
when I taste the wine, but Dimitris goes on to explain that the art of
homeodynamics is also practised in his vineyard.
What is this, you ask?
Well, as Dimitris puts it -- and get ready for this -- "It's making
contact with the plant on a spiritual level, through its soul." Huh?
It is now that I begin to think that maybe Dimitris has been having a
little bit too much of the good stuff.
Homeodynamics is a way to make the plant react through natural applications.
For example, at certain times during the plant's growing cycle, Dimitris
sprays a mist of water with minerals and plant substances over the plants
to send a message, causing them to react and grow.
Back at Dimitris' home, we sit down to what turns out to be an amazing
juice and wine-tasting evening, not to mention the wonderful dishes his
wife Maria has prepared to complement each type of wine they produce.
Nine different dishes for nine wine labels.
Whether it's organic or biodynamic, the drinks are absolutely wonderful
-- no chemicals, no preservatives and no hangover the next morning.