Cephalonia: The Garden of Eden

Autumn mildness

Whereas most of our friends of Western Europe were getting their winter clothes out again at this end of October, we enjoyed the mildness of the Greek climate and decided to spend our last days on the paradise biggest island of the Ionian Sea named Cephalonia. We embarked on a small ferry from Kyllini harbour to Poros. Upon our arrival, the sky was cloudy but the temperatures rather clement. Most of the restaurants and shops were closed in this usually very touristy area and we had to keep on driving to Lixouri, in the Paliki peninsula. There, at Sklavos Winery, the only biodynamic wine grower of the island, we had agreed to stay and learn more about the wine particularities of the island.

The winery is located on the other side of the island, close to the lovely village of Agios Dimitrios (St Georges) in which we arrived after 2 hours driving through breathtaking landscapes: great white sand or pebble beaches with cristal-clear turquoise waters, forests, lagoons…

Evagellia, the winery oenologist, welcomed us though she didn’t expect a couple of bikers to land at the winery in the middle of the afternoon. After we met, she gently showed us a perfect place under the olive trees where we could pitch the tent. Vines, olive trees and a brand-new winery: what more could we get?

Once again, we also met a lot of animals on our way, especially goats and dogs. Evriviadis Sklavos, the winery’s owner has decided to take in eleven abandoned dogs he found on the island.

Portrait d’un vigneron au grand cœur

Portrait of a big-hearted winemaker

As we met him for the first time, « Vladis » as he is nicknamed here, asked about our comfort. « Did you comfortably set up? Do you have everything you need? ».

At night, he invited us in a small restaurant in Lixouri where his wife joined us. We had the pleasure to taste the local specialities: varied fried fish, the traditional feta cheese, a tomato-cucumber salad without forgetting the homemade fries. Such a delight! Of course, Vladis didn’t forget to bring some of his wines which we totally fell in love with. However, we decided not to ask too many technical questions about the winemaking process (our tasting was planned on the next day) and enjoyed the evening in great company.

Vladis is deeply attached to his island. His family, who has been living there since the 15th century, planted the first vines in Paliki in 1919. He confessed that his grandfather also owned vines in Odessa (Ukraine). There is no doubt he transmitted him his passion for wines. In 1996, Vladis bought his first parcels in the village of Lixouri and decided to grow the vines following biodynamic methods; today, he owns 5 hectares. A part of the vineyard is situated at an altitude of 850 m below the slopes of Mount Aenos (1628 m).

A threatened ecosystem

Orange and lemon trees, Aloe vera, black fir trees (so-called Abies Cefalonica), wild flowers, arbutus… a luxuriant vegetation which directly reminded us of the Mediterranean smells of Corsica or Sardinia. However, most of the vegetal species are endemic to the island. As we took a walk in the vineyard, Vladis showed us a part of this incredible flora he knows like the back of his hand.

As we drove around on the island, we could also see numerous species of birds, especially wading birds. The Mount Aenos is also home to the Lanner Falcon, a rare species becoming extinct as well as a bird of prey, the short-toed eagle (Circaetus gallicus).

As we noticed in almost every place we visited, flora and fauna are threatened by growing mass tourism. Every year during summer, the island of Cephalonia welcomes no less than 20,000 tourists, which is almost the equivalent of the population of the island.

As a nature-oriented person, Vladis knows every single tree or aromatic plant of the island and uses a respectful and healthy viticulture. After he explained about nature, he insisted on showing us another treasure owned by his family: a beautiful Baroque-style church and a stone well. Both of them were unfortunately destroyed by an earthquake a few years ago. These seismic tremors, which can be very powerful, are now part of the inhabitant’s life. Cephalonia is a volcanic and mountainous island known for its abysses such as Katavothrès near the capital of Argostolì.

By the way, we also felt a tremor (5.7) during our stay on the island. On October 30th, as we were in the main building of the winery, the earth suddenly started to tremble, a very unusual and disruptive situation for us!

Although we like to promote the beauty of nature and cities we visit, we would also remind travelers of the importance of preserving the ecosystems.

The wines of the domain

We had the chance to taste around ten different wines. From dry to sweet whites to fruity reds, we loved the complexity and aromas of these unique wines. Most of the grape varieties of the island are white such as the noble variety Robola. Other grape varieties: moscato, moscatela, roditis, Goustolidi (Vostylidi) and Tsaoussi. The only type of red is mavrodaphne (different from the eponymous grape we can find in Peloponnese).

Vladis philosophy: a total respect of the vine and of the microbial life, which means zero imput and the minimum of actions carried on wines (Sulphur dioxide around 15-20 mg/l).

Our favorite wines:

  • Our favourite white was « Vino di Sasso 2017 » 100 % PDO Robola of Cephalonia from ungrafted vines cultivated at an altitude of 850 meters. Limestone terroir. Aromas of tea, dried herbs and white truffle. Slight bitterness and minerality with saline notes. Best served at 10-12°C; pairs well with sea food and white meat.
  • As for red, we loved the « Orgion 2016 », certified organic, 100 % mavrodaphne (PDO Mavrodaphne of Cephalonia from Lixouri). Aromas of figs, cherry and ripe red berries. We suggest decanting the wine one hour before serving it. This grape variety tends to be a bit “closed”.
  • We ended the tasting with the sweet and exotic « Vin doux du soleil », made from 100 % of Muscat of Cephalonia. Grapes are dried in the sun for 10 days and fermented with indigenous yeasts during 12 months in oak barrels.

Did you know that?

The wine « Vino di sasso » was named so by the Venetians during the Middle-Ages because of the extraordinary limestone terroir of the island thanks to which they could make wines with such a great minerality, the so-called « rock wines ».

Contact 

Sclavos Zisimatos Winery

Agios Dimitrios

28200 Paliki

Tel. : +30 2671 092215

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