With Matthaios Argyros at the helm, the oldest operating winery on the island, simultaneously the most modern, celebrates 120 years of producing exceptional wines.
With rich heritage in its vineyards, dedication to quality, emphasis on specialization and modernization, and the production of exceptional wines that captivate, Estate Argyros stands as one of the most significant and illustrious chapters in the history of Santorini's terroir.
The passion and involvement of the Argyros family with the vineyards began in the 18th century, involving cultivation, production, and local market distribution of bulk and sweet wines, with a limited quantity of dessert wines being exported to Egypt and Russia. The brand Estate Argyros was established in 1903 by George Argyros.
Today, it is in the hands of Matthaios Argyros, the fourth generation at the helm of the family business, whose reputation has now spread to almost every corner of the globe. The initial 20 acres of land that the Estate had has grown to 1,300 acres in our times, both owned and leased, with agreements for contractual agriculture.
Since 2017, Estate Argyros has been housed in a new, state-of-the-art winery. It still preserves the old cellars from the 18th century and the press from 1903, carefully safeguarding its most essential foundation – a commitment to excellent quality, with a special emphasis on the raw materials. 'If you don't have excellent fruit, you can't create exceptional wine. Everything starts from the grape,' emphasizes Matthaios Argyros. As a result, the vineyards of the Estate, both owned and leased, are cultivated according to high standards, primarily following organic methods. Their care – from the young grapes of the year to the ancient roots and the soil that nourishes them – is in the hands of an experienced and well-trained permanent staff.
In Episkopi, 320 acres comprise the largest contiguous vineyard in Santorini. The wild beauty of the scattered landscape with lava stone formations blends harmoniously with the enchanting allure of attractive yet robust plants, with roots reaching depths of 25 meters. Combined with the azure Cycladic sky and the breathtaking view of the boundless Aegean Sea, they create a grandiose scene that exudes tranquility and abundant vitality.
Traditional 'kouloura' vine training systems adorn the vineyard landscape and aid in protecting the grapes from strong winds and sunlight, creating a cool environment for the fruits and 'trapping' the 'pousada' – the fog that comes from the Caldera and waters the plants when it condenses. To provide better ventilation, the 'kouloura' systems are slightly elevated from the ground with stones placed at their base.
For the new vineyards not exposed to strong winds, the pruning technique used is 'koulouri' (small trellis with loops created on it, almost perpendicular to the ground), which yields fewer but exceptionally high-quality grapes. Harvest usually takes place in August and is done by hand, aiming to prevent damage to both the fruit and the plant.
"Our best ripenings and desired results in mouthfeel, body, volume, and flavor are achieved around 14-14.5% alcohol, sometimes reaching 15%. Even though we measure alcohol content in the plants before harvest, in the last days, we taste the fruits. We give the order to start harvesting only when what we taste satisfies us," says Matthaios Argyros.
Alongside continuous investments in the vineyards, significant resources are also dedicated to winemaking. State-of-the-art machinery enables chemical and oenological experts to conduct most analyses in real-time, and the use of an optical separator with high-definition cameras and sensors significantly enhances the quality of grape separation. Grape pressing is achieved through their own weight, while stainless steel tanks with controlled temperature are preferred for fermentation.
Barrels with capacities of 300 or 500 liters, second or third use, are introduced only at specific stages. 'The barrel is used to underline the wine and not to create it,' emphasizes Dimitris Kekas, Sales Manager. Through winemaking, Estate Argyros aims to express the unique character of each vineyard, reflecting its primary characteristics, strength, and history.
Quality and purity of fruit, combined with precision in winemaking, result in top-tier wines with distinct identity, incredible structure, and intricate complexity. They are available in both the Greek and global markets and have received numerous awards from significant institutions such as the International Wine & Spirit Competition, Decanter World Wine Awards, and 50 Great Greek Wines.
The first line of wines was introduced in 1960 and was named Atlantis due to the close connection between Santorini and the myth of the lost Atlantis. Atlantis wines originate from younger vineyards and are intended for consumption within a few years after harvesting. The Estate series showcases varieties such as Mavrotragano, Aidani, Athiri, and of course, Assyrtiko, the most significant grape variety of both Santorini and the winery. The Estate Argyros Asyrtiko can age for at least a decade and stands as the flagship of the Estate. It comes from various vineyards across the island, sharing the common element of the age of the plants, ranging between 120-150 years.
It expresses purity, but above all, the identity of the variety, and it's a robust wine with 14.5% alcohol, high acidity, intense minerality, a salty aftertaste, and distinct citrus notes, such as lemon and grapefruit, along with hints of pear, melon, and pineapple. The three Cuvee labels are single- varietal, made from 100% Assyrtiko. Cuvee Monsignori, a single-vineyard wine from a 220-year-old vineyard, can age for over ten years and perfectly embodies the breed and finesse of the variety.
Evdemon, with characteristic strength and simultaneous elegance, represents the structure and architecture of Assyrtiko. It takes its name from the region where its vineyard is located, which has a 160-year history and is cultivated using biodynamic methods. Only about 4,500 bottles are produced annually, and the aging potential of the wine exceeds fifteen years. Nykteri, from vineyards in Pyrgos and Megalochori, aged at least 150 years, is a wine that combines rich aromas of fresh citrus and ripe white-fleshed fruits with the characteristic acidity of Assyrtiko, while delivering a long aftertaste and a beautiful saline sensation.
The range of labels from Estate Argyros is completed with two truly epic Vinsanto wines (80% Assyrtiko, 10% Athiri, and 10% Aidani). The First Release ages for two years in cement tanks and four years in barrels before being bottled, while the Late Release spends 16 years in barrels. With incredible intensity, velvety texture, perfectly balanced complexity, and sweetness, Estate Argyros' Vinsanto holds a prominent position on the global sweet wine scene. "We have the most Vinsanto reserves on Santorini, dating from 1947 to the present. They exceed 600 barrels, which will soon be transferred to an 800-square-meter cellar in the new winery. In the near future, we plan to bottle a limited quantity from very old vintages," says Matthaios Argyros, as we stand in the old cellars where the famous barrels are stored.
Estate Argyros undeniably plays a leading role in Greece's wine scene and in promoting Santorini and Greek vineyards worldwide. Its contribution to shaping the spirit and building the foundation of Greece itself is invaluable. As Odysseas Elytis put it, "If you disassemble Greece, in the end you'll see an olive tree, a vineyard, and a ship left. Meaning, with these few things, you can rebuild it all over again."
Address: Episkopi Gonias, Santorini 84700
Phone: +30 22860 31489
Published on newmoney.gr | 28.08.2023
By Eleanna Gousi
Photos: Anna Tasioula