Above, from left: Boutari viticulturist Demetris Taskos and chief enologist and winemaker Yannis Voyatzis.
Leaving Thessaloniki and the coast under an overcast sky, we drove an hour north to the original Boutari winery in Goumenissa. Soft classical music was constantly interrupted by the hum of Voyatzis’ phone; he spoke with vineyard managers and winemakers in Crete, Santorini, Nemea, and Naoussa in rapid succession. The landscape eventually gave way to a rolling checkerboard of fruit orchards, cotton fields, and vineyards. Stopping quickly at the small, rustic winery to pick up head viticulturist Demetris Taskos, we continued to a vineyard block about 20 minutes south of the F.Y.R. Macedonia border. Goumenissa is a P.D.O., or Protected Denomination of Origin. The main grapes grown here are Xinomavro and Negoska, both of which will be ready to pick in about a month. We tasted the grapes together, and all agreed they need some time before they can be harvested.
Driving on to Naoussa, we were met by winemaker Vassily Georgiou, who showed us the tanks and barrel room while Voyatzis attended to emails and met with contract growers. Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc and Malagouzia are currently under fermentation, and Voyatzis joined us to taste the musts and determine their progress. We then tasted 36 Boutari wines, including Naoussa Reserve vintages 1969, 1974, 1982, 1990, 1997, 2000, 2004, 2005, 2006n and 2007. Unlike Odysseus, who drank ruddy wine from a wooden bowl, we drank from crystal glasses and found each vintage better than the last.
Needless to say, we almost missed our flight to Crete, and are pleasantly surprised to discover that we and Voyatzis are sharing the original winemaker’s cottage among the vines. A simple dinner of grilled seafood and Cretan whites was the perfect end to a busy day. Tomorrow, we’ll tour the vineyards and winery, and even have some time to visit a local archeological excavation.