Monday, December 21, 2015

Hello from the other side: Alpha Estate (Amyndeon, Greece)

I know what you are thinking. Cheap attempt at leveraging Adele's lyrics to get clicks. And you be right. But I thought it was cute.

But it is also directly applicable to Alpha Estate in a number of ways. First, as shown in the below map of our North Greece Wine Trail Press Trip, Amyndeon is on the other side of Mt. Vermio from its fellow Xinomavro haven, Naoussa. The boxes in the figure below detail the diffrences that result. As pointed out in a previous post, this difference results in Kir-Yianni having its Naoussa vineyard (58 ha) focus on Xinomavro and international red varieties while its Amyndeon counterpart (16.5 ha) focuses on Xinomavro and domestic and international white varieties.The difference also results in, according to Angelos Iatridis (co-founder and winemaker), wines wirh more finesse.

But this "other-sidedness" is not restricted to the environment within which the estate operates. No, its practices and operations are on the other side of the "standard" practices and structures that I saw while touring the vineyards of the region. Let me take a step back before expanding on this point.

Our "guide" on the tour of the vineyard and cellar was chemist/enologist Angelos Iatrides, the estate's co-founder (along with noted viticulturist Makis Mavridis) and winemaker. According to Angelos, prior to their arrival, the land was segmented into small properties with separate owners. They located all of these owners and bought up parcels which eventually amounted to 100 ha, 85 ha of which are planted to vine today.

Angelos Iatrides among the vines
The vineyard is surrounded by three mountains and, due to the "rain-shadow" effect, is very dry; annual rainfall averages 300 mm.

One of the mountains surrounding Amyndeon

In order to ensure that the vineyard is not subjected to extreme water stress, a warren of pipes (350 m) have been installed below ground and draw on the estate's wells (as needed) to deliver water down to the level of an individual vine. That is on the other side in relation to the practices that I have observed at the other wineries. No qualitative judgements are being made herein. I am only pointing out that this is very sophisticated and advances the estate's philosophy of being respectful of the environment and minimizing waste.

Angelos indicated that mildew was his biggest concern, a result of hot summers and rain. By being forewarned, they are able to be prepared to respond effectively. Towards that end, the vineyard is connected to a weather station in Austria and so has a 10-day lead time on coming weather. This is an "other-side" practice.

One of the most important decisions that a winemaker has to make is when to harvest. And that decision is complicated in many cases by uneven ripening in a vineyard. Alpha Esate has deployed microcameras to scan the vineyard and monitor the difference in maturity of the grapes within the block. This is an "other-side" practice.

According to Angelos, they are sustainable-viticulture-certified and are almost precision viticulture.

And this type of precision extends into the cellar environment. No chemicals are used in the wood in the ceiling nor paint on the walls. According to the website, all construction material is highly inactive and neutral in order to guarantee "absolute neutral atmospheric conditions inside the winery" and, in so doing, "protect the quality of the grapes, the must, and the wine."

The winery is equipped with a totally integrated building management system which is accessible and controllable from anywhere in the world. In addition, equipment suppliers monitor their equipment online from remote locations.

This is a truly high-tech winery environment where no expense has been spared in order to meet today's needs and to stay ahead of tomorrow's.

Hello!!! Can you hear me?

©Wine -- Mise en abyme


  1. Very nice! Angelos has done miracles there. Add more pictures at some point to liven it up a bit.