Athos Monks Winemaking Heritage – Holy Mountain Trip PT. 3

This is the story from the trip we made to the Monastic State of the Holy Mountain. Pt III is about what we tasted by traveling even deeper trough the peninsula, to Mylopotamos wines.

Having completed the Tsantalis vineyards part (please refer to: Holy Mountain Athos Trip Pt 2, for this wonderful & gifted place) it was time to board to our taxi vessel and head to Dafni, the main port of the state. Half an hour later we arrived at the dock, and a small van was waiting for to carry us to our final destination. In order to do so, the bus must climb from the western part of the sate to an altitude of 800m/2670ft and then dive again to the eastern part, and all that through one of the most dense oak forest I’ve ever seen. It was a majestic scenery, but can’t compared to the beauty of our final stop: The Holy Cell of St. Efstathios!

The Holy Cell of Mylopotamos Wines

The Holy Cell of St. Efstathios and behind the monasteries of Stavronikita & Pantokratoras

A holly cell, is not actually a monastery. It’s history begun (probably) back in third century, when St. Athanasios head of the monastery of Great Lavra (today’s the biggest one of the state) decided to built a remote sub-division in order to fulfill two needs: a temporary place to host those monks who where mentally unable to succeed to their monastic duties, and of course a place to plant the Monastery’s vineyards. Today the cell is run by two monks and many political personnel responsible for the winery and other tasks.

The Mount Athos Cuisine Book, by monk Epifanios

The Mount Athos Cuisine Book, by monk Epifanios

Head of them all is monk Epifanios, a hospitable man with a great charisma: to be considered best cook of the whole state, and author of the relevant book where he analyses the secrets of the monastic diet, witch totally lacks anything from animal origin. It is very strange to taste his dishes, that you have eaten countless times in the past, yet to be so different and tasty. Is it the veggies organically grown a few meters away? Is it the fresh fish from the seas of Athos? Is it just the peaceful, “ancient” feeling of a place without modern life distractions? Still don’t know the answer. What i really know is that for the following couple of days, we experienced a great hospitality, devout ceremonies to the small church by the sea, top quality food and great wines. Click the gallery bellow to see for your self:

But lets talk about the fluid that “warms the soul”, as monks state: wine! The cell is cultivating organically  about 5 hectares (50.000 sq. meters) of indigenous (Limnio & Roditis) and international varieties (Merlot, Cabernet, Muscat of Alexandria & Muscat of Hamburg). The vines are all just around the modern winery, where the fermentation and aging takes place. The result are five labels:

Mylopotamos White blend: 12,5% abv, made by the two white grapes of Roditis & Muscat of Alexandria. A light and refreshing wine, mostly with fresh aromas of citrus and green apple, that paired ideally with most of our dishes.

Mylopotamos Red blend: 13% abv, made by the all red varieties: Deeply ruby colored, with cherries and blackberries in nose, and a 12 month oak treatment that gives a medium body, rounded tannins and good lasting. Also a great pair for those dishes made by tomato sauces.

Mylopotamos Oinomeli: 12% abv, Sweet wine made by Muscat of Hamburg, a very aromatic and red colored grape. Impressive nose of ripe and dried fruits, makes good company to fruits, nuts, deserts and meats with sweet sauces.

Mylopotamos Nama: 15% abv: Nama is a common name all over Greece, to indicate the sweet wine used for religious purposes during ceremonies. This one is made of Muscat of Alexandria & Merlot and is fortified, as concentrated must’s fermentation is interrupted by adding alcohol, leaving most sugars intact. Aromatically it presents notes of roses and black fruits. Palate has rich tannic structure with adequate aftertaste, and pairs nice with fruits & chocolate desserts.

Mylopotamos “Epifanis” 13,8% alc. : Please allow me to say a few more words for this wine that took away my mind. Flagship of the winery, it is made by 15 years old vines of Limnio, Cabernet and Merlot, and only in 6350 bottles. Vintage of 2007 has deep ruby color with some purple hues. Totally amazing intense nose of ripe red & black fruit, plum, sweet spice (cinnamon & cloves) and a very distinctive milk chocolate note. Aged for two years in new French oak, it’s palate offers medium+ acidity, many and rounded tannins, full body, and deep flavored long lasting of mostly red fruit and tons of milk chocolate. Divine intervention? Don’t know, but makes you feel so! A wine that needs to be consumed outside the monastic state (if you understand what i mean) and I’m very curious for the time we are gonna schedule a mini flight from 2007 to 2009, that i took with me upon our departure.

A spectacular wine: Epifanis (meaning: illustrious & celebrated) from indigenous Limnio and Bordeaux blend

A spectacular wine: Epifanis (meaning: illustrious & celebrated) from indigenous Limnio and Bordeaux blend

Three days of a totally different way of life, waking up at 6 o’clock, drinking Greek coffee by the sea and as the sun rises, participating in all the chapel ceremonies, walking in deep forests, dining meatless wonderful wood oven dishes and devoutly living, was time to end.

No matter if you are a Greek citizen or not, it is a must visit place, that will reward you with it’s physical and mental beauty.

On behalf of all the team and my self, i want to thank fathers Epifanios & Ioakim, for their beyond any expectation hospitality. Looking all forward for next time!

Be well until next post, and comment bellow. Will be glad to answer them all!

Mylopotamos Wines Website: mywines.gr

Some of the wines can be found in Sklavenitis stores chain, but you can order any of them from the winery. Just mail Epifanios (hmmm … better call him)

4 responses to “Athos Monks Winemaking Heritage – Holy Mountain Trip PT. 3

  1. Stunning photographs! Makes me want to travel there, but I don’t think the monks allow women… I especially appreciated the descriptions of the vegetarian monastic fare. Wish I had a book of their recipes!

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