Around this time last year, I was packing for my summer holiday on Santorini and I was buzzing with excitement! This year Ferragosto finds me in London battling with summery showers and strong winds under its, mostly, melancholicaly grey sky and reading the Santorini 2019 harvest report as documented by Yiannis Karakasis MW, 2019 Harvest in Santorini: Trouble in Paradise.
2019 exhibits shockingly low yields for the island which was never known for its high yielding vines; a normal yield would be around 17hl/ha, while Konstantinos Lazarakis MW documents in his book The Wines of Greece that “…most growers believe that increased yields of around 30 hectoliters would give better quality…“. Well, this year some producers report figures as low as 4.5hl/ha and expect total volumes on the island to not surpass 1,000 tons of fruit when in an ideal year this number can go up to 3,000 tons. There is good news, too! Quality-wise 2019 looks outstanding! Severe winds during flowering and years of drought (ironically rainfall was up this year) are the two main factors to blame for the volume decrease. But is that all?
It’s still early to make any hard predictions, but I wanted to know if there’s anything more that can be done, if there is something going wrong and how could Santorini’s vineyard be better protected, so I talked to Konstantina Chryssou of Hatzidakis Winery, one of the first ones to introduce top-quality Santorini wine to the rest of the world, and this is what she told me:
“We are in the first ten days of the 2019 harvest and we have been witnessing incredibly small quantities of fruit. I have been working in Santorini wine since 1994 (Boutari company), and it’s the first time I have ever encountered such indescribably small yields.
However, in the last 2 years I have noticed that there are some vineyard plots that are cultivated by experienced viticulturists with knowledge and meraki that care for and cultivate them properly that haven’t given as small yields as the rest (unless severe weather hits the island).
Shall we perhaps ask ourselves what we have been doing wrong?
At an open meeting of both winemakers and growers, I said publicly that we should give particular emphasis on our Vineyard. Santorini lacks a Vineyard Management School, where young people can be educated and motivated. Upon completion of their studies, they will know a “treasure”-craft. The now old and few in number growers are the only ones who can pass on their knowledge to the young people interested in viticulture.
Τhe occasional workers and cheap labor hands do enormous damage. Santorini’s vineyard is unique and requires a unique approach.*
Moreover, in the past there were only so few wineries that one could count them on the fingers of one hand. Now, because of the challenge of making wine from this vineyard and the powerful brand name “Santorini”, we are becoming more and more. The “pie” is sliced into several pieces and the lack of grapes is even more evident now. Haridimos and I, when we started in 1997, were the third emerging winemakers after Mr.Sigalas and Mr.Paraskevopoulos.
And this turned out to be a good thing, because the wineries of Mr. Sigala, Mr. Paraskevopoulos and ours palyed our part and put our signature on Santorini wines.
So, everyone is welcome!
Everyone brings their knowledge and passion.
All winemakers, old and new, are important!
But now is the time to look closely into the Vineyard in an even more meaningful way. We need to plant more fields that could become vineyards in the future.
Our team and I are against opportunistic solutions!
Above all, we should finally set up a Santorini Inter-Professional Association οf Winemakers , which unfortunately does not exist and it would be a good idea to set it up immediately so that we can make sound decisions on everything that comes up. Having an Association will enable us to jointly focus on marketing and sales of Santorini wines both in Greece and abroad. We have to be united like a fist, as we are just one dot on the wine map.
United, we can achieve our maxium potential!!! ”
*Wondering why Santorini’s vineyard management so unique? Check out my Instagram post below!