Thursday, 19 May 2011

The wineroads of Lesvos

(Wines from Lesvos and one of Limnos)

Maybe you are tired of the old ruins from the far and glorious past of Greece. Modern Greece has more to offer than its monuments from ancient history. For example – wine. In ancient times, when temples and castles predominated the landscape, Lesvos was famous for its wine. Soil and climate were perfect for great wines like Pramian (see Winery).

Somehow during the turbulent events of the past and the many changes of rulers, the viticulture was lost here on the island; and the grapes were killed by the lethal disease Philloxera.

In the rest of Greece it was mainly the same story, and when the country stood up from the dust of the independence wars, the second world war and its civil war, it resumed serious viticulture.

Maybe Lesvos has remained a little behind the mainland, where today they make fabulous wines, winning more and more international prizes. If you follow all of the routes described in the website of ‘Wineroads of Northern Greece’ then you will have seen half of the country.

I do not know of any wine roads here on Lesvos, even not an ouzo road, Lesvos’ most known product. However more and more people here on the island do produce quality wine, like the winery Methymneos, that has put the name Lesvos back on the wine map.

About a year ago a new winery was created in Megolochori: Oenophoros, with its excellent red wine Daphnis & Chloƫ, that became my favourite wine. Last April they introduced a white wine under the same name as well as the red wine Makaras. I have not had a chance to drink these last two wines but I am looking forward to tasting them.

The wine roads on Lesvos are not that extended with only two vineyards existing here. But you have to realize that wine is made in nearly each village you pass, wines that never reach the shops because they are made for local consumption. They make a beautiful wine in Anemotia; each year I drink litres of a tasteful biological wine from Plomari and during very long evenings, I enjoy the strong wine from Lisvori without getting drunk. So, in a way, all roads of the island lead to those small local wineries.

Methymneos ( is situated in the small village of Chidera. Drive through Skalochori to Vatoussa, a beautifull village with tall traditional houses and a small but interesting folkloric museum. At the end of Vatoussa is the turnoff towards Chidera. The winery is at the beginning of the village and they provide interesting tours through their building. But the winery is not the only place to visit in Chidera: it also has the only digital museum in Greece: that of Georgios Jacovidis.

Jacovidis (1853 – 1932) was born in Chidera, studied art in Smyrna (today Ismir), continued his study at the art school in Athens and finally mastered his art in Munich. Most of his paintings are of people and lots of children, in a style called German Realism. His paintings are to be seen worldwide in museums like the Art Institute of Chicago and the National Gallery in Athens.

So, before you taste some wine at Methymneos, a visit to the digital museum is worthwhile. Works by Jacovidis are displayed digitally, and you can find facts around his work, his family and the time he lived, in an interactive way. It is a modern adventure in a traditional village.

Your wine road should not stop here in Chidera. You should go back to the main road and continue towards Andissa where you will pass the monastery of Perivoli. When the warden is present, in this now uninhabited monastery, you should not miss the opportunity to go into the church to admire the frescoes from the 16th century.

And now that this tour is becoming more a painting road than a wine road, you should drive another few kilometres where you will see – just before Andissa – the extension towards the small hamlet Tsithra, which is a small nearly deserted village, beautifully hidden in lush greenery, where you will find an Agios Nicholaos church also containing very old frescoes. The times I was there the lady holding the key of the church had always ‘just’ gone away. But I am sure you will be more lucky. After that I leave it up to you if you continue for a coffee to the marketplace of Andissa or to have a fresh dive into the sea at Gavathas.

The wine road towards the wine of Megalochori is not that romantic because it leads towards Mytilini where the actual winery is, a modern building where traces of old history can be found, just across from the supermarket Lidl. The vineyards of Oenophoros however are in Megalochori, and they have vineyards in Karionas, Eresos and Kalloni.

So if you want to sniff a little at the air and earth where Daphnis & Chloƫ comes form, the nicest way to Megalochori goes through the villages Ambeliko and Akrasi. Ambeliko is built against a steep mountain slope and at the foot you will find the village church with its small folkloric museum. You do not even have to enter the museum in order to admire the playful architecture of the church, the fountain and other paraphernalia.

Megalochori, in the past the capital of the island, is a cute mountain village and is just above Plomari, the ouzo capital of Lesvos. In this charming little city you can visit the distillery and museum of Barbayannis who makes one of the best ouzos of the island and, of course, you have to roam through the picturesque streets with mansions and the remains of old leather, soap and ouzo factories.

There is a third wine road. This one however goes over the sea towards the place with the best wines of the Aegean: the neighbouring island of Limnos. There you will find different wineries producing internationally praised wines as well as slobber wines, as we say in Holland – meaning good and not too expensive wine that you can drink litres of). Most wines are made with the Moschato Alexandrias grapes, but they experiment also with other grapes. Wines from Limnos keep on surprising me. I recently drank a fantastic white, Limnos Premium, which had a fresh sparkling taste. A few wineries also produce a sweet wine and those should be as famous as the Samos wine: they are great. The journey to Limnos cannot be made in one day, but for people who love wine, it is a must to take some days to visit this wine island.

By following these roads you will experience a big part of the island, where most wine is not yet in mass production but is only for local use. Lesvos, a wine island? Yes, indeed it is.

(Thanks to Mary Staples)

@ Smitaki 2011

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