Domaine Papagiannakos: Reinventing Savatiano

26th June 2018

Tags: wine tourism, Greece, grape varieties.

Let’s start with a declaration of interest.  Angeliki Papagiannakos, the daughter of the owners of this producer, is a former student of mine and very enthusiastic about the wines from her region of Attiki in Greece – and this blog post is about her family and their attempt to show the world that the much despised grape responsible for retsina is in fact capable of making good wine.  The grape is savatiano (also spelt sabbatiano – but the Greek b is pronounced as a v).  It’s an ancient white grape, but the most widely planted variety in Greece, especially hot regions as it deals well with drought.  It’s also very productive, so great for making cheap (and usually boring) wine.  Vassilis Papagiannakos, whose winery is about 25 kilometres from the centre of Athens is convinced, however, that it is capable of making very good wine.  So much so, that he makes a range of wines from it.  The ‘entry level’ wine is slightly perfumed, with good acidity and well-textured.  Then there is a single vineyard ‘vienzi’, and a late release wine, as well as the ‘Vareli’ which is made as a natural wine with indigenous yeast and skin contact; Vassilis has become convinced that the variety can age well, at least in the medium term (and they develop some of the characters of a Hunter Valley Semillon, though without the acid levels).  And, naturally, there is a retsina (about which more will follow).  One of the good things about the wines is that they tend to keep a reasonable alcohol level, around 12.5-13.0%.

This is all part of a vision to reveal how Attiki, the area around Athens, is just as good for making wine as Naoussa, or Santorini.  This is harder than making good savatiano; most wine lovers aren’t even aware of it as a region.  Maybe, though, its proximity to Athens will give the winery (and the few other good producers in the area) the chance to develop a reputation with wine tourism.

Vassilis is running a domaine which he inherited from his father.  The latter used to press grapes and sell juice to tavernas, who then fermented it themselves in barrel. It would last them for 6-8 months – then they came back to the winery and tasted barrels of final wine.  They made their choice, their barrel was marked with chalk and then delivered to them.

The Domaine, by the way, is also situated in a PDO area for pistachios and figs – and very good they are too. 

You can find their website here.