The Wines of Tetramythos

The glorious Greek wines of Tetramythos

 


The Tetramythos vineyards lie on steep slopes of Mount Helmos, on the most southern tip of Greece's mainland. When I last visited, in April, the soil was covered with alpine grass and wild flowers, a visible result of the organic farming that is meticulously applied. Standing amidst Greece’s highest vineyards at an altitude of nearly 3500 feet -- with a view of the open sea at the end of the deep valley -- is an unforgettable experience. Mount Helmos reaches up to 7700 feet and is home to a popular ski resort. It also hosts some of the finest terroirs in the world. The soil structure varies, but it's mostly made up of limestone and clay. The mountain is covered with pine forest; in the higher parts, lush, dark green grass grows thickly. Mount Helmos belongs to the area of Aegiala, which is the most important region for organic farming in Greece.

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The area is located close to a 25-mile strip of sea formed by the two gulfs of Corinth and Patras and has a unique climate. The wind accelerates towards the meeting point between the two gulfs, and the water has a cooling effect. The high altitude also contributes to the cooler climate in comparison with the Central Peloponnese. Approximately 1000 Ha of vines and 4000 Ha of table grapes are planted in Aegiala.
 
Tetramythos is one of the finest wineries in that area. Today, it features 14 Ha of land and has an annual production of about 60,000 bottles. It was officially founded in 1999, although the owners have been involved in growing grapes for many years before. In fact, their vineyards have been officially certified as organic since 1997. The grapes were sold to other wine growers in the area. Then the owners teamed up with the young and extremely talented oenologist Panagiotis Papagiannopoulos, who has been running the day-to-day operations ever since.
 
In 2004 the establishment of a winery featuring ultra-modern technology, a wine bar, and a small hotel was complete. More than 10,000 tourists visited during the first year. The vineyard holdings steadily increased, and the outlook was bright.
 
Then, during the summer of 2007 Greece was raged by a number of wildfires. On July 20, the fire broke away from the mountains over the town of Agio and expanded rapidly. Aegiala was in flames, and finally after 6 days the fire seemed to be under control. On the evening of July 26, the fire fighters told the Tetramythos owners that there was no danger anymore. They stopped their guard shortly afterwards.
 
The next morning Panagiotis drove to the winery to find only ruins. The fire had re-ignited overnight and had burned everything in its way. The building, all high tech equipment, barrels, and bottles had been destroyed. There was nothing left to be saved. Some of the vineyards located a few miles away from the winery were also exposed to the fires.
 
In the following weeks, many renowned wine estates expressed their solidarity to Tetramythos and offered their help. Some of the high placed vineyards had escaped the fire, and it was only thanks to them that the harvest actually managed to reach roughly half the yearly average. The grapes were processed at other wineries. The EU paid out reconstruction help for the region, and insurance paid for parts of the damages. By 2009, the winery had been completely rebuilt – but the partners had to shoulder a chunk of the costs themselves.
 
Now Tetramythos seems to be better positioned than ever before. The business has literally risen from the ashes, and this by itself is a remarkable achievement. Panagiotis and his partners have matured after the last trying years. What has remained unchanged is their love for the vineyards and their work.


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Comments

  • Snooth User: dmcker
    Hand of Snooth
    125836 7,538

    I'm currently trying to learn more about various Greek wines, as I'm able, since they aren't exported in the volumes and breadth as those from the Western Mediterranean. Thus, thanks for the detailed intro to this winemaker and his wines.

    The only quibble I have would be that the tasting notes on the wines are vague enough that it's difficult to get a feel for the overall, relative quality of the wines. Though I'm not a huge fan of numberical ratings, they can be useful in combination with detailed tasting notes.

    That being said, I still think this is a very valuable addition to Snooth's growing library of info on the great big, wide world's wines...

    Jun 10, 2010 at 5:10 PM


  • Thank you for your feedback - I am sorry that the tasting notes come across as being vague, that was certainly not the intention. Personally, I would like to emphasize that the Estate offers a very solid price to quality ratio. Most wines are likely priced in the $ 10 to 20 range - a very important price band for consumers. If I was pushed to give numerical ratings, they would placed in the 85 to 89 point range. Solid quality for descent money.

    Jun 10, 2010 at 5:24 PM


  • I tasted the smooth and fruity Tetramythos Cabernet Sauvignon and the fabulous Tetramythos Roditis. Good value for money.

    Jun 10, 2010 at 5:37 PM


  • Snooth User: dmcker
    Hand of Snooth
    125836 7,538

    Thanks, Markus, and my only real concern was the 'relative' quality of the wine, since I could get other impressions on the nose and palate of the wines from your notes. I am well in agreement with you about the $10-20 range. Just wish there were more Greek wines over here in Tokyo....

    Jun 10, 2010 at 5:42 PM


  • I am so glad you did taste the wines - kudos, they are even "under the radar screen" for many Greeks. I could not agree more, very good value for money, and it is not that easy to track down Greek wines that are able to deliver in this segment.

    Jun 10, 2010 at 5:45 PM


  • @dmcker I appreciate constructive critisicm - after all, I am still learning myself on how to best communicate. Tasting notes can be tricky, in this article, I tried to be as neutral as possible. Thanks again for your feedback, it really is very valueable to me. As far as Tokyo is concerned, I need to do some homework first, but I am intrigued!

    Jun 10, 2010 at 5:53 PM


  • Snooth User: dmcker
    Hand of Snooth
    125836 7,538

    I also got a great impression of the likely-striking beauty of the vineyard site from the body of the article. This juxtaposition of mountains and sea, in a Mediterranean climate, resonates deeply for me because I grew up in the Santa Barbara, California, area.

    Jun 10, 2010 at 10:48 PM


  • Snooth User: dmcker
    Hand of Snooth
    125836 7,538

    Which brought to mind the question: do you know of any California vintners who are growing Greek varietals?

    Jun 10, 2010 at 10:49 PM


  • The views from the vineyards are stunning indeed. As to your question, I do not (yet) know any Californian vintner that is growing Greek varietals, BUT I have received an enquiry from a Californian winery that is very interested in growing Xinomavro. I am currently working on that one ;)

    Jun 11, 2010 at 12:34 AM


  • Snooth User: perutom
    375864 1

    Great review. I've been to that area - but not to the wineries. It's a stunning area.

    One question for the future: Could you post higher resolution photos or links to higher resolution photos of the bottles so that I can see the labels clearly. Thanks from Canada!

    Jun 11, 2010 at 4:59 PM


  • @perutom Thanks - I am happy to email you some pictures of the labels, contact me mstolz at elloinos.com

    Jun 12, 2010 at 5:36 AM


  • Dear Markus-Stolz, My husband and I just relocated to the Napa Valley and are intrigued about Greek Wines. How can we contact you directly? Thanks from Napa Valley California!

    Dec 01, 2010 at 8:29 AM


  • Snooth User: experto
    648209 2

    Been to the winery October 2010.
    The winemaker, Panagiotis, is young, full of energy and with passion explained his wine making process.
    From what I understand, he has become very well known already.
    Every wine I tasted, showed the love for the art.
    The elevation and the mono cultivar really do show what can be done when there is expertise.
    Hope their wines will be available in California.

    Mar 21, 2011 at 6:24 PM


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