(from 8th to 15th October 2018)
Alexandroupolis & the Aegean Sea
We left the beautiful Istanbul and its contrasts to head for Greece. We crossed the border in Ipsala around 4 p.m. Sunset is at 6.30 p.m., so we didn’t have much time to find a place to settle our tent. After 45 km, here we are in East Macedonia in the city of Alexandroupolis where we finally found a path in a sheltered pine forest, perfect to spend the night.
In the morning, we continued our way to the Aegean Sea. All the way, a cultivated plant drew my attention: are these little bushes cotton plants? Yes, indeed! There are hundreds of beautiful white cocoons everywhere you look!
After an hour and a half driving, we felt exhausted, so we decided to take a break in the picturesque city of Kavala. This former Tobacco capital, hub between East and West would have been worth it visiting but it was already late, so I just took a few pictures of the fortress and harbor. The waitress speaks well English, so I asked her about the parks in the surroundings. There should be a way one south from Thessaloniki where we could stay…
This time we wanted to enjoy the seaside. After about 400 km, we decided it was time to stop. We took a path lined with olive and fig trees leading to a beach. There we found a Greek man who knew the place well, so we asked him if we could stay there for the night. He smiled and answered we shouldn’t because there usually came naked people! Just as well that he was there to tell us! Another “funny” thing was this man spoke to me in German! Indeed, the economic crisis forced a lot of Greek people to emigrate and most of them have worked several years in big companies in Germany. We were showed another beautiful spot where we spent a beautiful starry night to the sound of the waves.
Since it was on our way, we decided to visit Thessalonica. With 1 million inhabitants, it is the second biggest city in Greece after Athens. According to what I had read, it is also a cultural capital concentrating very interesting antique monuments.
We parked on the waterfront and secured all our belongings to the bike to have lunch and visit the city. A moussaka and 20€ later, we decided to walk around to discover the monuments. Although our motorbike clothes were not really the most convenient, we managed to explore the ruins of Navarinou square trying to imagine how big the huge palace built by the Emperor Galerius looked like at the time. Then we discovered the Aristotelou Square and the Galerius Arch. Finally, we were captivated by the impressive Rotunda, a church which dates back to the 4th century, one of the oldest in the city. Turning back to our parking after a two-hour visit, we ended taking a look at the White Tower, dated from the reign of the Ottoman Sultan Suleiman the Magnificent (1520-1566).
What we thought was a green national park full turned into kilometers of cultures. After we drove about 5 kilometers on a track, we finally got to a nice area reminding us of the French Oleron island and its fishermen huts. It is already dark and what we could distinguish is definitely not adapted to camping. We drove back and resigned ourselves to book a room for the night. The only thing we found was a 30€-flat in Veroia, located 45 km away. The good point is that it was only 20 km away from our appointment the next day.
Once there, our host Maria, was waiting for us on the doorstep and helped us unloading the bike. She could speak English and made sure we have everything we needed before she left. We were so tired that we immediately fell asleep.
The day after, we go to our first appointment at Dalamara Vineyards, one of the few organic winemakers of the region. Indeed, according to my researches, organic wines are still very rare in Greece. We have a pretty short list of organic or even biodynamic winemakers to meet. We will spend the rest of our time discovering Greek nature and monuments.
A regional and family tradition
Kostis Dalamara is the 6th winemaker generation of the domain. The first vines have been acquired by his family in 1840. Photos and documents on the tasting room wall witness the glorious past of Naoussa, already mentioned in 1727 as the most significant city for wine business. In early 19th century, the Frenchman Cousineri even compared Naoussa wines to those from Burgundy!
After this interesting page of history, Kostis offered to visit the vineyard. His parents and he own 7 hectares, certified organic. We were amazed by the beauty of the valley and the variety of fruit trees planted next to the vines. As for the soils, they are made of limestone and a sedimentary rock called travertine we can find everywhere in this region.
As we came back, everybody was busy making the famous Tsipouro, a brandy made with grape must which alcohol content can reach up to 70º!
Kostis and his wife, Maria allowed us to camp in their garden, so we decided to go eating something and to dedicate the evening to the tasting. Following his recommendations, we went to the restaurant Oinomageiremata* (easy to remember, right?). Upon our arrival, the owner is very welcoming and nice. Dishes are typically Greek and homemade, exactly what we needed! We were suggested to taste the veal with tomato sauce as well as the pork. Everything was delicious. To finish, we were offered a geranium syrup and some fruits and miniature deserts!
By the evening (a few hours later), Kostis had prepared the fire to grill meat and have dinner together with a couple of friends. As tradition, sat at the table and started to fill our pita bread with meat, vegetables and salad. Then came the moment of wine tasting.
Our favourite wine
Paliokalias 2011 which name comes from the parcel, is a 100 % Xinomavro. Total destemming. Fermentation is carried out with indigenous yeast and maceration occurs in stainless steel tanks. Ageing in oak barrels of 300 and 500 L without any filtration nor fining. It offers a nice acidity and aromas of plum.
Did you know that?
Xinomavro (black-bitter) is the main red grape variety of the region, hailed as “Barolo of Greece”. Its numerous characteristics allow to produce many different types of wines from sparkling to rosés as well as whites or reds. Moreover, Xinomavro of Naoussa was the only wine which after the transatlantic trip to America would arrive unspoiled. Other wines would turn into vinegar.
31 G. Kyrtsi
Tel. : +30 23320 28321
firstname.lastname@example.org / www.dalamara.gr
*Restaurant Oinomageiremata, Stefanou Dragoumi 1, Naousa 59 200
A (bio) dynamic winemaker
For our second wine visit, we went to Thymiopoulos Vineyards located in the village of Trilofos, to the southern tip of Naoussa PDO.
The vines are exclusively planted with Xinomavro (do you remember?), certified organic and cultivated following biodynamic principles. Also grown in a winemaker family, Apostolos started producing wine in 2003. With 36 hectares, he employs about 15 people all year long and about 30 for the harvest. Apostolos, who speaks French fluently, is a member of the “renaissance des appellations” a wine group founded by Nicolas Joly. He produces 8 different labels (Rosé, Young Vines, Whites and Reds). Most of his production is destined to export to the United States.
Our favourite wine
The cuvee Terre et ciel 2015, made from the oldest vines of the vineyard (40 years old). Terroir is composed of clay stones and volcanic soils. The grapes are harvested manually.
No chemicals nor standardized processed yeasts. Ageing in oak barrels for 18 months. Bottled without any filtration. Nice aromatic complexity with black berries such as blackberry and plum.
Did you know that?
Naoussa PDO was created in 1972. Most of Xinomavro vineyards are located between 150 et 470 m on the slopes of Mount Vermio (2052 m); this wine region rended the combination Xinomavro-Naoussa one of the most dynamic and recognized for dry red wines in Greece.
After this great tasting, we have been invited to share lunch with Apostolos (once more at 4 p.m.). Greek salad and fresh organic feta! We had more than enough! Before we left, Apostolos offered us one bottle of his reds, the cuvée Atma 2015, a blending of Malagousia and Xinomavro! Efkharisto!
PO Box 62
59100 Trilofos (Imathia)
Tel. : +30 6932064161