Grecian Natural wines form the foot of Mt. Olympus
Despite the suffocating, stagnant heat of Tyrnavos, Stergios Papras is producing some of Greece's lightest, freshest and uniquely exciting wines.
Greece is a warm place and Tyrannos is one of its warmest.
Unlike most of Greece, Tyrnavos is flat and surrounded by mountains that help trap the day's warm air. In fact, Mount Olympus looms over the Papras Vineyard. Despite this heat the Papras wines are delightfully fresh and vibrant.
The Papras story is romantically unromantic: a multigenerational family of long-time organic growers working in one of the most run down parts of Greece. They're making humble, delightfully unusual wines.
Stergio has dedicated his life to the grapes and wines of this region. From 1979 until rather recently, he was the winemaker at the local cooperative. Theere, he championed organic farming as well as the local varieties, in particular the Black Muscat of Tyrnavos and Roditis.
The Papras family vineyards have been certified organic since 1990, the first year this was possible in Greece.
The vineyards are bordered by fruit trees grown by their neighbors and the farming is by-the-book organic with only sulfur and copper used to combat the assorted maladies of the vineyard.
Like most vineyards in Greece, these are irrigated and the system is used only 3 times a year. Weeds are cut under the vines to help with air flow and the soils are left unmanipulated (no till).
This is not a particularly romantic part of Greece. It's very hot and dusty in the summer, so vineyard work can be gruelling.
But, worked by Stergio’s brother and son, these organic vines, some rather old, are perfectly suited for the scorching summer sun. Helped along by the family's vast multi-generational farming prowess, the vineyards produce clear and high acid, aromatic fruit.
Despite his many years of organic wine growing, until about 6 years ago Stergio’s cellar practices were rather conventional. With some encouragement from his exporter, he decided to try making wines in a more natural way.
Simply put, he decided to make wines like the generation before him. Now, these wines are unfined and unfiltered, all made with skin contact, just like wine that Stergio’s father remembers from his childhood.
The wines have only been in the US for three vintages and while we loved the last two, 2020 is hands down their best showing yet.
Production is still rather small and the wine tends to trickle in a little at a time. More and more of the winery's energy is going into producing wine like the three below and we look forward to the day when they aren't so precious.
These are the types of wines that made us fall in love with natural wines in the first place. Wines that are alive with fruity, mineral goodness and over delivers on value. Every time.
100% Badiki with 25 days of skin contact gives this a yellow amber glow. Citrus blossom, spiced orange rind, quince, and apricot with a soft texture that is punctuated by bright minerality. This is the perfect picnic bottle as it pairs beautifully with all manner of provisions, from cheese and tin fish with crusty bread to fried chicken and summer salads.
25 days on skins gives this a lovely bronze color, with citrusy and mineral notes, and a salty and dusty palate. This is all about salt both in its saline texture and salt inflected flavors of honeycrisp apple, madarin and brisk lemon. This is the perfect choice for sushi or really anything fatty from cold, dark waters.
This almost neon orange garnet rosé gets its color naturally from 10 days of maceration and then a quick press of the black-skinned, ferociously aromatic Black Muscat of Tyrnavos. It smells like opulent tuberose flowers and drippy, juicy nectarine but the palate is dry, tart and a tad salty, with a hit of pleasant bitterness under the pretty flowers. Perfect with Indian curries as well as Malayasian and Indonesian fare. A bottle of this and take out from Lion Dance Cafe are ingredients for a perfect evening.