This is the story from the trip we made to the Monastic State of the Holy Mountain. Pt II is about what we tasted right upon entering the autonomous state, at Tsantali Wines.
After a long three hour drive from Litochoro, we arrived at Uranoupoli village, just before the borders of the state. It is there were every visitor should have managed to issue an entry license.
Mount Athos, known as the Holy Mountain, is a peninsula in Halkidiki northern Greece. It consists of 20 monasteries and although it belongs to Greece, it is, in many ways, autonomous and has its own government the “Holy community”. Entrance is permitted only to men. The rule, known as the “Avaton”, forbids access to Mount Athos by any female and is enforced by law.
A few minutes drive through a dense forest, reveals something unique! A monastery surrounded by vines, the Metochi of Chromitsa! (click photos to see the gallery)
A storm back in 1969 forced the founder of the winery, Evangelos Tsantalis, to seek shelter at the domain. As vine cultivation has historically been among the main daily occupations of a monk, he was impressed by the plantings (although most of them abandoned) and terroir of it.
The proposal was made immediately: the brand committed to manage the cultivation in order to rebirth the vineyards, and then finally, introduce the wines out of the monastic community.
But why is this gifted place so suitable for great wines? Organic farming vines (total of 110 hectares) are located among several pine forests on the one side, and sea on the other, at altitude varying to 250 m. Sea is fading out high summer temperatures, and moisten vineyard’s soils, while late day temps stay low by the forests. Take into account the general Greek climate (mild winter, dry summer and a lot of sunshine) and you have an ideal microclimate, especially suitable for late ripening varieties, such as dominating Cabernet Sauvignon.
As we started our first stop to the vineyards in front of the old winery, i was impressed of the soil. Very sandy (like walking to a tropical beach), and as our guides explained: poor in organic substances, high acidity and only average limestone concentration, introducing a “sun-ray shield”, to keep the temperature low during summer.
A little later, an introduction to the most magical and impressive, view a man can see: the winery’s “welcome” terrace.
Greek coffee, a rose petal flavored “loukoumi”, tsipouro (the Greek answer to Grapa spirit) and in few words: vines as far as your eyes can see, traditional monastic “welcome”, a hospitality safeguarded by the monks for centuries!
After our walk to the vineyards, and tour to the cellars, it was time for our flight of the wines
Our trip continues in “Athos monks winemaking heritage – Holy Mountain trip pt.III” where we travel even further to the state, and Mylopotamos wines.