Enjoyed the read? Don't miss our next article!

* indicates required
16 July 2023

Kontozisis Estate: A Tale of Organic Farming and Low-Intervention Winemaking in Thessaly

By Olga Antoniadou

I first tasted Kontozisis Estate wines at the 2022 Bacchae Wine Festival in Athens, and since then, I've wanted to present the winery. I felt a certain sense of pride about the winery because Kanalia, where it is located in Thessaly, Central Greece, is just a stone's throw away from my late father-in-law's village, Fanari. I was supposed to have a quick chat with Aphrodite Toussia about the winery, but her enthusiasm took me, and we ended up talking for quite a while on Skype. Andreas Kontozisis, her husband, and his father and brother decided to plant vines in 1991 in a place that used to be a vineyard but had long been abandoned. The area once thrived, but after the 1950s, people started moving towards the cities, and the population slowly dwindled. Kanalia is situated at 340 m elevation in the northeastern foothills of the Agrafa mountain range, about 14 km from the city of Karditsa.

From the very start, they decided that they would farm organically. They cultivate 12 ha of land, at 300-400 m elevation, planted with Limniona, the indigenous variety of Thessaly, Malagousia, Roditis and Assyrtiko. Part of the Limniona is also some old goblet vines. "We are lucky because it's very windy up here, which keeps our vines cool at night and dry, so we seldom need to spray for diseases. We have a very high diurnal range in the summer; the evening temperature drops over 10oC. You need a sweater to sit outside at night". (As Aphrodite tells me this, I feel utterly green with jealousy. In Athens, most of our forests have been burnt by wildfires, and nowadays, most nights, we need the air-con to survive). 

The soil is very diverse, and often just within a few metres, its composition is different, ranging from clay to sand to schist. Their vineyards have natural borders – they don't border with other farms. They make their own compost but usually turn in wild growth and prunings. Everything in the vineyard is done by hand.

Aphrodite continues her story by telling me that Andreas is a self-taught viticulturist and winemaker with an excellent eye for detail. "You need to be very observant in the vineyard if you want to harvest healthy fruit, and in the winery, you have to be sharp-eyed and meticulous about cleanliness. It takes scrupulousness, love, passion and phenomenal patience to achieve a low-intervention wine that is pure, elegant and can show its character. In all honesty, you really have to be slightly crazy to get into this business". Aphrodite studied food technology and is Andreas's helping hand, but also does the sales, marketing and publicity. 

"I have also learned to exercise my patience because living and working with the same person can be quite challenging", she continues with a rather naughty, playful tone. She was born in Tyrnavos and is the third of five siblings. Her mother is German, and her father is Greek. "I always thought I would live in Germany, but then I fell in love, and things changed. Now, this is where I belong," she says smilingly. "I try very hard to promote our area and our village. Whenever I invite people who are in the wine business from overseas, I make sure they stay here in the village, enjoy our local food and get a sense of the place".

Each parcel in the winery is fermented separately, using stainless steel, cement, amphora and old-use barrels. All the wines ferment with native yeasts, and no additives of any kind are used; most macerate on the skins from a few hours to months, are clarified with natural sedimentation, and are bottled unfiltered with no sulphur added even at bottling. Production is about 70.000 bottles, and they make two series: A-grafo, which includes three white labels (Assyrtiko, Malagousia, Roditis) that range from white to orange, and one red (Limniona), and Sun, which consists of three labels, a white Malagousia, a rosé Limniona and a red Limniona. The difference in the latter series is that fermentation occurs in cement vats, there is less skin maceration, and Limniona ages in old-use barrels only for a few months. Recently, they have added a rosé Pet-Nat made from Limniona, which is clarified with natural sedimentation (takes about six months), is disgorged and re-capped, and a light red Limniona, a fresher, fruitier style that can be drunk chilled. They bottle throughout the year as the need arises. Their wines can be found at fine dining restaurants in Greece, and they export to the USA, Denmark, Sweden and France.

As usual, two wines are tasted.

By Soft Nails 2022 100% Limniona: Pale ruby coloured, with aromas of red cherry, raspberry, and strawberry, all fresh, ripe fruit that followed on the palate, fresh acidity, medium alcohol, low tannins, medium body with a longish finish. An exciting wine that was drunk slightly chilled, with the fruit on the palate nice and fresh; you were almost biting into them. I could see this pairing with many different Greek summer dishes.

A-grafo 2020 100% Limniona: Deep purple, with both red and black fruit, red forest berries, sour cherry, black plum, blueberries and blackberries, ripe, soft tannins, medium alcohol, medium body. The fruit seemed slightly more unripe on the palate, again with a longish finish. I loved this wine. Pure, interesting, scrumptious.

Enjoyed the read? Don't miss our next article!

* indicates required
Submitted on 08/25/2023 - 09:16 by Panagiotis Kakkavas
Thank you for (as always ) helping us get in touch with new Greek winemakers, in love with their work.
Post your comment
This question is for testing whether or not you are a human visitor and to prevent automated spam submissions.