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Hey, welcome to the Knowledge Project, I'm your host, Shane Parrish, creator behind the Furnham Street blog, which is an intellectual hub of interestingness covering topics like human misjudgment, decision making strategy, philosophy and culture.
The knowledge project allows me to interview amazing people from around the world and deconstruct why they're good at what they do and get inside their head. It's more conversation than prescription. It's about seeing the world as they see it. The next episode is the second of two interviews that I conducted while traveling in Greece this summer on the island of Santorini has not only breathtaking views, but a fascinating history.
Traces of its first inhabitants have been linked back to 4500 B.C. in 16 13 B.C., the most powerful volcanic event in the last 10000 years took place completely destroying all of the islands within a 60 kilometre radius.
It's been estimated that 90 billion tons of molten rock was injected into the air. The sea was swallowed. The volcano and a massive tsunami swept across the sea, along with the obvious devastation of nature. It's believed that the eruption also sealed the deal for most civilized nation on Earth at the time, the Minoans.
Thanks to the thick layer of ash caused by the event, the Bronze Age settlement in Santorini was so preserved that we're able to see how the prosperous area had once been with the elaborate drainage system, multistory building, incredible wall paintings, furniture and vessels.
The site has as much of a significant importance as does Pompeii. The island's main volcanic rock is mineral rich soil.
The amazing climate has produced some incredibly unique wines. Santorini is known for some of the oldest vineyards in the world, and we know that wine is one of my favorite topics.
On today's podcast, I speak with Panayiotis Panayiotis, the director of Domain Sigsworth Vineyard, Paris, a mathematician with a goal to make. Centurioni Vineyard, a World Heritage site, focuses on grapes that thrive in Santorini.
She walks me through the different types of grapes and wines and explains why wine is so unique and special on the island of Santorini.
This was certainly a fun one.
I hope you enjoy it.
If you're planning on visiting Santorini, I highly recommend you visit the Vineyard Domain cigars and check out the distinctness of their wines. Be sure to ask for a glass of your favorite.
So I'm here on the famous domain cigars, and we're going to talk about the history of wine on Santorini.
Where did that all start for sure, after the volcanic eruption? And we are talking about the continuous vineyard for more than 3000 years.
The huge volcanic eruption took place in 16, 20 B.C. But this is what. Is now the production in Santorini, the volcanic soil we are talking about, as I mentioned before, a continuous vineyard in Santorini with that phylloxera never infected the vineyard. So we're lucky we maintain in the same varieties as, you know, the most important varieties called acritical. And then we have a theory, Ivany, Lylea Casano, Greek and the sorry white grape varieties. And for the red grape varieties, there is my favorite, Ragano and Mandalorian.
And so those have been in continuous production since since for more than 3000 years here. That's insane and insane. Yeah, but hopefully right now, where does that put it on the world scale?
Is that one of the oldest places? It's it's the oldest it's one of the oldest vineyards all over the world.
And how do they used to make wine? I know a number six here.
The story about the mystery. Yeah. Yeah. You want to talk about that? It's it's a nice story.
I do. I love that one, too. I want to know more about how it was made.
OK, well, this is their own house wine.
This is the wine that they used to produce for their for their own consumption. And the words in Santorini, there was a big trade here. We were under the Venetians for many years. We were selling they were selling their grapes in Russia or different places, Italy. But for sure they would kept for their own consumption their own house, wine, as we call it.
I will tell you this, the small story behind that and if you are interested also I will tell you what we are not following for this small story. We're talking about acritical also in theory, but it's a late harvest wine. It's a wine that the remains on the vine for 20 days to one month after the natural ripening of the grape. It's when we say late harvest, you understand that it's that we receive more residual sugar. Right.
And higher alcohol because the grapes get bigger.
There is a sugar consideration.
And what that evaporation because maintaining on the vine and this is what they do, they were all gathering together. To do the especially not to sleep at night. And press the grapes by Byfleet. We follow the same procedure, not by fate, but we are receiving the best quality of grape, but we understand it's the fragrant juice that you can receive. If you press the grapes by we do the same. It's 100 percent of a Sirico like they used to do.
And to use a safety code was the at at least the 60 percentage of all the vinegar in Santorini used to be something. It used to be acidic. They were fermenting. The wine used to ferment, engage in all dog bottles, there was a tradition in making bottles, OK, bottles in Santorini and they used to seal the bottles with cement.
Oh, wow. But they left a blank in between.
They didn't top up the bottles. OK. Why? Because they might leave it like that for at least three or five years.
So they might had a really fermentation. This is what we don't follow. We follow exactly the same way. Late harvest wine, only a vertical A we're talking about higher alcohol and some residual sugar that you will find for sure.
It's a dry wine.
We Ade's our acidity for at least 30 months to 36 months in all those barrels.
The only difference we don't follow is that because of the climate conditions that are in our cellar, we don't leave the blank and we have we top up the bottles. The most important is to remember that they used to produce Nithari with 17 degrees of alcohol and 20 degrees of alcohol.
And they had the floor appearance, the floor that we can find also in the sherry in the Spanish wines.
So the floor was protecting the wine and gave this oxidative aromas to their wines.
OK, and there is a great potential of aging in these wines because of the sugar content and because of the high alcohol content. And so we are lucky in the on the island and taste in northern Italy from an old man. You'll be amazed they still make it today.
Yeah, for sure. Oh, really? For sure. Are they still aging at 30 months. They're in an OK for three years. Five years. Oh man. And that's been going on for hundreds of years. Yes, exactly.
Is this one high alcohol content with 15 degrees, 15 percent. Wow, that's insane. They must have had a great time after a couple of drinks that, you know, in Greece you have.
But you have a feast, you don't have birthday, you have a feast. But for sure, you drink wine all the time.
So everybody tells me to try Santorini wine. It's so distinct. It's so flavorful.
What have you found that you love about it in comparison to other Greek wines?
I will not compare it with other Greek wines because it's a totally different approach because of the soil, first of all.
And the love.
It's ash, sand and pumicestone. Right. And that's why we haven't had the phylloxera here, because we have shunned a lot of sand, which is not a friendly environment for phylloxera.
For me, the uniqueness of acidity is the extreme.
Flavoursome, the extreme potential for the wine, you can work on this variety. You can have it in dry version, in straight version, a insectary that I told you already, Baudrillard's stainless steel, stainless steel on the leaves for 18 months or for 30 months.
So it's a grape that generally it has very. A fresh aromas of lemon, citrus, white skin, peach, lime, grapefruit, although we are a hot climate, this is the extreme that I'm describing. You see a very hot climate, but with aroma that you would receive from a cold climate like Shibly, let's say these are almost it's more evident than occur in places that are colder than us where the Mediterranean and the Aegean Sea.
So we have these aromas by the time it starts aging the wine in the bottle, two years after the bottling, we have very evident the morality that you can smell on the wine.
There are there is an austerity in the Romans.
And when we are talking about the flavors in the mouth, we are talking about a very refreshing wine with aromas of lemon, citrus, also the same aromas like in the nose, but with a very long lasting aftertaste and high acidity. So it refreshes your mouth. And is it the acidity that a first like? Yes, that's what makes it refreshing. That's interesting.
Also, the aromas that are that are evident in the mouth. But this is a what makes it unique, very high acidity because our soil lacks of potassium. So we receive wines with very low P.H. grapes with very low rates. And it's very easy for us to produce wines with very high acidity condemned.
Can you walk me through from harvest to bottle in my hand the process of making wine?
Uh, OK. It depends on what one you want to produce.
You could say the simple Santorini that we are produce 100 percent of acidity going stainless steel tank, the first bottling the wine stops the fermentation and it can remain weatherly's for two months.
And then what is it in the market? OK, you might want to produce wine that the one you want to the wine to ferment engage age in a new French oak barrels, for example. This is a totally different approach because you receive a wine after six months in the bottle and for sure that it needs time to remain also in the bottle in order to be very balanced and to consume.
Generally what I believe is that acidity in order to give you these extremity. I was telling you and to be very balanced after the bottling needs at least one year in the bottle and with a great potential of aging at least seven years in the bottle. Oh, wow. So we are starting from fresh aromas and then we continue with very mineral and not the aromas with, say, we continue something like you could smell apricot, very fresh apricot, but the wine can be five years old.
You can smell lemon peel or lemon pie. It's how you make the procedure of fermentation and anything in order to be bottled and what you want to produce.
What's your favorite one that you produce in the winter? Yes, it's our single vineyard is called Caballeros The Man that I that rides the horse.
It comes from a single vinegar that it is stated in Emeril, obviously a high altitude village. It's near to fear high altitude. We are talking about 350 meters above sea level, above sea.
And this is the first vineyard that pastoralist's started buying grapes is it's a long, huge story behind this label. And let's get into that. Tell me the story.
I will tell you, he started buying the grapes from Mr. George Yorgos in Greece in 1991. These old man decided to sell his grapes to a private winery and not to the cooperative, as it used to be done since then. So he was receiving these grapes. And every year he knew that he was receiving the best quality of grape.
And the wine and the juice that was producing had a very, very well balanced Fenice, very evident, the mineralogy content and very gentle aromas of the fruit. So in 2009, he decided to vilify a separately from the other acidic or that he was receiving.
And we produced a label with a name Cavaleiro, the name of the vineyard.
Mr. George said that these wine, this specific vineyard, used to override all the others and it was his best. That's why he called it Caballeros The Man That Rides the Horse and all these, etc..
So in 2009, we produced the new label of Calvados, 100 percent of a city, but with something different. He released it in the market in 2011, the 2009, and the wine remained on the lease for eighteen months in stainless steel tanks with a great potential of aging and very, very evident the morality and the fresh aromas of lemon lemon peel with very high acidity. It's an amazing wine with a great potential of aging.
Why do you it in stainless steel tanks and not combatant's?
You mean the. Yeah, but we have the other labels in bottles.
OK, what would that do to the flavor of it do you think.
If you, if we did it this specific vinegar then bottles you mean. Yeah, I believe that the aromas of acidity are very gentle and they're not that evident and pronounced. So the oak might change a little bit and will not give all this austerity that we would love to have. You see, if you would ask me if it's to compare the grape acidity, go with something else, I would compare it with and I'll say then Riesling or a German Riesling.
But for sure, the mouth is a totally different from the Rieslings. Can you walk me through what the most difficult and fragile state of the one making process is?
What do you mean difficult for me? When is it most fragile, the wine when you're making the wine?
Is it like immediately after you put it in the barrel? Is it when you're picking the grapes?
If you receive very good quality for the grapes? There is no fragile in something like that.
At least what I have seen winemaker here in our anthologist and I, I would say the brushing.
This is the pressure. The pressure is the time that you press the grapes. And it's not for the good or bad quality. It's as less as you press the best quality you receive for the juice. So this is the difference between the winemakers and the more volume you get, the more higher you price it.
So you guys do, what, three hundred thousand bottles a year?
We have the potential, this potential of 400000 bottles, OK? Our aim is the quality and the quantity. So I would say that we produce approximately 250000 bottles, but we are talking about six, uh, six dry white wines, one rosé to dry reds Vincenzo that now we have released in the market 2006, the vineyards.
So as you understand, it's approximately 24000 cases of 12 bottles and most of it is exported to other countries or most of them consumed the percent that it's the 35 percent is in Greece and the rest that are in Greece.
I will say with no Santorini, Santorini, it's approximately 15 percent.
OK, and because of of the winetasting, Romesha, as you understand, that is the people in the guest here, the pilot and also the market of Santorini, it's more easy for you to sell us something than when you are in the wine region. Right. And the 50 percent is exported.
Yes. OK, so the states, Canada, Germany, Belgium, Japan, Hong Kong, China.
And can you just to go back for one second here, walk me through why you produce so many different varieties?
Is that just because the grape many different varieties or labels. Yeah. Labels or yes. Grape varieties the same.
But the labels are the winemaker. Yeah. He will never stop experimenting.
How do you experiment with that. Do kill them off if they're not working or they don't turn out to work if they're not working. And I notice the vineyard was called an experimental vineyard.
Yeah. We are sitting next to our first experiment of the critical vineyard, as they called it in 1997. First has started experimenting on the variety, which the name is moderate Ragano.
And yeah, marvelous means blackened. Ragano means crunchy. OK, so it's blackened, crunchy in a word. So pastoralist's is one of the first wine makers and Cadillac is another winemaker from Piros village that they starting experimenting in red grapes until 1997.
The red grapes used to be used for their naturally sweet dessert wines, and they used to be a small percent in red grapes in the vines. And since 2002 and under the legislation, you are not allowed to use red grapes in the vines and the production.
So there were, as you understand, a very small percentage for the red grapes, zero point zero five, something like that. So they started the replanting, this variety that was under extinction.
And until today, we managed to produce 8000 to 10000 bottles of 100 percent of marijuana in dry version. This is the first vineyard that surrounds the wine tasting room in 1997. And until today, we own 10 hectares of high density, a planting of Martarano. We're talking about seven thousand five hundred plants. Specter OK. Oh, no, 750 plants, no, no. Seven thousand five hundred thousand protector. And then we do a green harvest. So we receive the same yield even from the trellis system, because as you understand, on the traditional pruning, you receive very low yield.
Yeah. So we receive the same yield even with a trial system and with a high density plant. And. And we a grain harvest, we cut half, approximately half of the classers 20 days before the is the harvest of the Dragunov for the dry red wine and for the that for the with these glasses, we are producing our rosé wine from abroad with the ones that you cut 20 days ago. That's interesting. You guys use any pesticides or anything or is it all natural?
It's an organic land, OK? It's a volcanic soil.
We either we might use a copper or a sulfites, but with a very low percentage if it's needed for the mildew or we do.
But 10 years now for me to cure twice you for sure, you put four sulfide, some sulfites in order to prevent something like this and appearance. But there is no reason for pesticides. It's a non organic land volcano safeness.
Yeah, yeah. Not only as you know, it's there that the fava beans is everything. It's tomatoes, it's the white eggplants, everything.
The winemaker on the back, the shooting just switching directions a little bit. What is the best part of showing people from all over the world, the ones that you're producing here?
What do you mean, sorry? What's the best part of that expression of what you guys are trying to do? And people come here, they sit down.
I mean, there's spooning, there's 12 traditional bruening. Is that different ways of unification is the history.
Of course, the names are very hard to to say. Like I said.
Go ahead, Ivany.
It's not Maralal Chardonnay or but most of the people that are visiting Domain's at least they leave and they remember us. They go right. This is very important.
And for sure, they they get familiar with a variety that it's very rare and it has a great potential of aging.
Are you guys open all year round or is it the wine tasting room? You mean for the winery? No, the wine tasting.
We will try this this year. We are for sure open from March up to the end of December, January, February.
It's a little bit difficult season, not only for the people that live permanently on the island, but also for the guests that are visiting.
In any case, if you send an email, someone sent an email is always more than welcome in the wine tasting room, a January, February.
It's not that often, but for sure we will open if someone to ask for something like that. But from March on up to the end of December, we are for sure open every day except the Easter day everyday.
And how can people find you?
You mean that we are out of the caldera?
How can we like to recommend. OK, I guess how do people get here? We are lucky because after fourteen years now of the wine tasting room, we started like, you know, taste the four different labels that we own. Now we have 11 different labels for the wines, plus seven labels for the new release that we did right now for a case of seven wines from different villages. And we produce also some distillate after fourteen years. First of all, the Internet subdomains.
Harless mostly for people that are from the states or Canada, it's it's a very well known winery at the hotels. It's a huge help, the hotels from all the island. And it's something you have to do. You know, it's like you're coming sundering.
It's not only the beach, the caldera, the food, the the gastronomic destination. It's it's also the wine. Here we have also a restaurant that would do something like a food pairing. Yeah. We use our own local products. We plant our father, we plant our tomatoes, our zucchinis, everything.
So it's our production. And also we buy from the growers anything that it's in season and we do a food bedding with our wines.
So would you recommend when people come here to visit the tasting room that they do the food pairing with the wine? Yeah. And would you recommend they do all the ones I noticed that you distinguish between just the dry ones and then the drying to dry in the sweet.
Yeah, most of the people do not prefer the dessert wines for sure. If you are visiting Santorini, you have to drink wine.
Sando Yeah. It has such a distinct. It's a for me, it's one of the best. These are the ones that are produced all over the world.
Yeah, I want to talk about turn, but for should have been doing something a totally different approach, we will say.
And just one more question before we let you go here, but what would you like all tourists to know that they don't know on Santorini, huh?
Last question for sure.
All all the visitors, I would say yes. It's people that for sure. Drink wine. Yeah. Yeah. I mean, who doesn't drink wine, really?
Yeah. No one. And, uh, to explore the wine region, not only the caldera in the sunset of Santorini, hopefully listening to you hope people come here to explore this highly recommended.
See if hopefully you know. Hey, guys, this is Shane again, just a few more things before we wrap up. You can find show notes at Farnam Street blog, dot com slash podcast. That's fair. And S-T REIT blog, dotcom slash podcast. You can also find information there on how to get a transcript.
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