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28 October 2020

Samos is juggling with change

By Evmorfia Kostaki

The most difficult topics to tackle when writing are those that you’re the most passionate about. To me, that’s Samos. The Greek island in the Aegean Sea that is synonymous with Muscat

I grew up on Samos. In the ever changing world of the eyes of a child, everything around me seemed static, the wine world included, and it appeared as if there were little motivation for change. Bearing this in mind, I had no intention of returning. I left in 2013 to study Chemistry in Athens, and after that I moved to France, Italy and the USA to get my Masters’ in Viticulture and Enology. At the same time, I completed the WSET Diploma with the Austrian Wine Academy. 

My goal was to travel around for a few years, headed towards no particular destination. My plans changed however, when I met a young, powerful woman from South Africa, who made me realise what I already knew: “Who will bring change, if all the motivated people run away?So, I acknowledged my passion and returned to Samos.

Upon my arrival, I was welcomed by a truly different Samos to the one I had left behind in 2013. Small changes in a motionless environment can turn into avalanches. Let me mention a few, which demonstrate the evolution of Samos wine.

The cooperative is the dominant wine producer of the island of Samos, but during the past eight years new wineries have started popping up; the newest addition is run by younger people, and more wineries are in the making. In total, there are four private wineries on the island independent of the cooperative. Locals are using generous subsidies to create new winemaking facilities of increased quality potential, both on a small and larger scale. Some examples are a group of growers from the village of “Platanos” and, well, myself!

Furthermore, the profound search for quality has led to the creation of new wine styles. Whereas, traditionally, all wines were vinified with a mixture of grapes sourced from the whole of the island, now efforts are made to distinguish certain vineyards. Samos has two majestic mountains, each with an altitude over 1000m. On one of these two, Ampelos (meaning “Grapevine”), vineyards are found everywhere from sea level to 900m altitude. Single vineyard wines, from selected vineyards, have started to appear a couple of years ago, like the “Muscat Nature Selection”. Wines like this will continue emerging, giving us an authentic taste of different Samian terroirs. 

Interestingly, these single vineyard expressions are dry wines. Samos is slowly embracing the potential of producing quality dry wines from Muscat Blanc, and is shifting the focus away from sweet wines. The dry Muscats of Samos are never overtly perfumed. With more than 6.5 g/L of Titratable Acidity, pH below 3 and a perfect amount of flavours, they can be a great companion to many dishes (apart from tomato-based - I’m talking from experience!). 

Changes are also taking place in the vineyards. Many vineyards of the plains, are being uprooted. In these vineyards, which are too close to the sea, diseases are hard to control due to high humidity. Also, the heavy, fertile soil, with high water holding capacity, is not ideal for the highest quality wines. At the same time, plantings are sporadically increasing in the semi-mountainous areas, which benefit from better aeration, large diurnal range and sufficient ripening. Some producers are also investing in mechanising their vineyards, wherever possible. Samos is transitioning from a phase in which everyone owned a vineyard (usually this constituted a secondary occupation they were struggling to keep up with), to increasing investments from conscious viticulturists. Grape quality is expected to rise, if it hasn't already!

Change is a fact on Samos. It began due to individual efforts, but it has slowly started influencing the greater wine industry of the island. Keep an eye out for Samos. Its comeback is inevitable. 

Evmorfia is 25 years old. She grew up and currently lives in Samos. Her passion for wine guided her education. She holds an M.Sc in Enology and Viticulture and the WSET Diploma. She currently studies for the Institute of Masters of Wine. 

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