The Wines of Zante
Historical records confirm that Zakynthos was the main stop for ships sailing the Mediterranean and wishing to replenish their wine supplies. In 1904, Archduke Ludwig Salvator of Austria, a fascinating person who dedicated his life to the research and documentation of Mediterranean islands and countries and their cultures, took stock of over 80 grape varieties, most of which can still be spotted around the island. Verdea is the island’s traditional wine, something which does not necessarily imply that all of the white wines produced in Zakynthos were always Verdea wines. The name of the wine is derived from “verde” the Italian word for “green”, the characteristic green colour of Verdea.
The Island of Zakynthos forms the PGI Verdea zone (protected geographical indication area, est. 1992), with its traditional wine being white Verdea. According to Greek legislation, Verdea can only be produced by the Zante vineyards, located mainly in the central part of the island, where the varieties Goustolidi (or Vostylidi) and Avgoustiatis are grown and constitute a particularity of the island’s vineyards. Apart from the fact that the Goustolidi variety plays a special role in the quality of Verdea, depending on the percentage in the final blend, it produces different wines alone. Goustolidi has a distinct character and yields wines with mature aromas.
In addition to the white varieties used to produce Verdea, many other white and red indigenous and largely rare varieties are also cultivated, such as Moschatel, Migdali and mainly Avgoustiatis, which is the characteristic and very promising red variety of the island. As such, under the PGI Zakynthos designation established in late 2010, the island’s significant wine production has acquired an identity that extends beyond the Verdea variety.
The Avgoustiatis variety, on the other hand, belongs to a group of very rare Greek varieties with a small acreage, produced only from a handful of wine producers but, at the same time, giving impressive, high quality results. The Avgoustiatis variety produces wines with a deep, vibrant, purple red colour, intense aromas of ripe red fruit and Mediterranean herbs, usually supported by elegant oak, while on the palate they have a round, medium full body, a moderate level of fine-grained tannins and moderately high alcohol. Given the rarity of the variety, single varietal bottling can be difficult to obtain and some wine makers blend Avgoustiatis with other international or local red varieties like Mavrodaphne.
Local dishes to match the wines
The local dishes matching the wines include the local version of “coq-au-vin”, chicken in a rich tomato sauce served with traditional pasta, rabbit & onion casserole made with the local “water onions”; “boutridia”, a vegetable stew; meat balls flavoured with mint and boiled broccoli doused with fresh lemon juice; “sofigadoura”, a cauliflower and potato stew and of course “strapatsada”, scrambled eggs in fresh tomato sauce. All the dishes are cooked with local extra virgin olive oil.
Wineries open to visitors
There are several wineries open to visitors. The following list is not exclusive.
Oenolpi winery. The estate, a total area of 170 acres of vineyards, is located in the lowlands of Zakynthos near the village of Agria, Macherado. The local varieties of grape grown include Skiadopoulo, Goustoulidi, Pavlos, Robola, Katsakoulias, Koutsoubeli and the excellent native Avgoustiatis. The private chapel of St. George, which is located on the estate, contains religious paintings, made by Zakynthian artists. For further information: www.oenolpi.gr.
Art & Wine Winery. The estate is located in Maries, in the highlands of the island. A visit to the winery includes wine-tasting of exquisite organic wines, a walk through the vineyards and cellar and a visit to the icon workshop. The winery produces red wines with a vivid, deep red colour and rich fruity aroma and white wines with characteristic acidity, a light golden green colour and full of citrus, flower or fruit aromas.
Icon workshop. Yiannis creates icons and portraits on wooden canvas, as well as frescos on a golden background. Many of his works illustrate the interior of several churches in Zakynthos, Athens and elsewhere in Greece. Yiannis is an official member of the Chamber of Fine Arts of Greece. For further information: www.artandwine.gr
Ampelostrates Winery. The Ampelostrates Estate is located in the mountains of Zakynthos, near the village of Koiliomenos. Visitors can enjoy a variety of activities that offer an insight into the rural life of Zakynthos. It is a family-run initiative offering various activities such as riding, hiking along forest trails, visits to local vineyards, wine tasting, visits to local art workshops and participation in seasonal activities such as olive picking, grape harvesting and cheese, wine and bread making. The winery also provides meals made with organically produced local ingredients. Guests will also have the opportunity to experience and participate in local events and celebrations. For further information: www.ampelostrates.gr
Callinico Winery. The winery is located near Vanato, in the village of Kalipado; it is a small traditional three-generation winery producing local Zakynthian wine of surprisingly good quality since 1918. Visitors can view the authentic machinery used in the past as well the modern equipment used today. In addition, they can visit the cellars where the wine is aged and the bottles are stored. At the end of the tour, the Calllinico family will talk to you more about the wines they produce and offer you tasting sessions. For further information: Tel. +30 26950 61547, firstname.lastname@example.org
Grampsas Winery. The Grampas Estate is located in Lagopodo, a vineyard area with significant prospects as regards wine production. The winery has created three labels from the Avgoustiatis variety and a dry white wine from the Goustolidi variety. The estate includes a guest-house. For further information: www.ktimagrampsa.gr