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12 January 2022

The single vineyards of Artemis Karamolegos

By Yiannis Karakasis MW

Santorini is very much like the region of Champagne in that producers also need to buy grapes or rent vineyards. More specifically, the total vineyard area of 1200 hectares is markedly fragmented, and most of the land is owned by approximately 1000 growers (the majority owns less than 0.6 ha). Subsequently, producing wines from single vineyards is rare on the island. Well, that is until recently. 

The late Haridimos Hatzidakis in 2008 and Paris Sigalas in 2009 opened the discussion with Pyrgos (lately renamed Louros) and celebrated Kavalieros in Imerovigli village. Over the following years, a handful of producers presented a single vineyard wine. Still,  it was only in 2019 that Artemis Karamolegos winery, based in Exo Gonia, gave a complete lineup of 3 different single-vineyard wines. 

‘’We started our single-vineyard wine adventure many years ago’’, says producer Artemis Karamplegos. ‘’We wanted to explore the boundaries of Santorini by vinifying in small tanks,’’ he states. So, 40 small tanks of 500L to 2tn were used to vinify individual parcels and track the differences in each vineyard. 

The lineup includes three single-vineyard wines.

Louroi Platia was introduced from the 2017 vintage and gained a spot in 50 Great Greek wines (edition 2020). It is sourced from the broader Louroi area of Pyrgos. This is a big, rich, but not heavy wine that delivers all that one expects from possibly the most celebrated site of Santorini. Power and ripeness. 2018 is the next vintage to follow (already in the market), and it won't be released in 2019 as this was a challenging vintage.

Ftelos, for me, is the arrow of the three. This is a classic, very mineral and salty Santorini from the village of Fira but with many layers. 2017 was ready to drink upon release, while the next vintage will be 2019 (the 2018 vintage will not be released). Grapes are sourced from a larger area named Ftelos and a 3 ha vineyard. 

The last one is Pappas, the sword of the lineup. Again, this is a wine that gives reason for much discussion. An intellectual wine that is often quite reserved and esoteric. I have tasted it on numerous occasions, and it is different every time. This wine from a 2 ha vineyard in Megalochori was released in the 2016 vintage and will not be produced in 2019. Potentially the most rewarding of the three, full of energy and power. Decanting is mandatory for this wine. 

As Artemis Karamplegos points out, all of these vines are stressed, and this is how the winery wants them. They yield tiny amounts of grapes that result in precious juice. They are only produced in top vintages, and this is why, for example, Pappas and Louroi Platia will not be released from the 2019 vintage. “It did not give us what we wanted because of the challenges of the vintage”, states the producer. 

With these single vineyards, Karamolegos aims to highlight different expressions of Santorini. To make a distinctive and authentic Santorini of high class, the characteristics needed are complexity and elegance and supreme balance. He says, “A great Santorini follows no rules, it can be 12.5% abv or 14.5%, the key point is the flavour on the palate’’.

The winery also produces one more single-vineyard, which is an orange Assyrtiko from Pyrgos, Mystirio - not marketed as such - and one more on the way, most likely from Akrotiri. With things like this happening on the island, we expect the discussion about single vineyards to be among the primary trends in the near future. As I write in my book The Wines of Santorini, the evolution of the premium Santorini category has been phenomenal. 

Photo: Pappas, Yiannas and Kontarades vineyard in Megalochori by Nikos Koustenis (The Wines of Santorini)

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