Via WineMag.com: Contributing writers Mike DeSimone and Jeff Jenssen take us on five-day journey through Greece’s finest vineyards with winemaker extraordinaire, Yannis Voyatzis.
Above: Roxane Matsa, of the rambling French-style estate, Domaine Matsa.
We’re sorry to leave the sunny and windswept island of Santorini this morning, but duty calls! A one-hour flight brings us back to the bustle of horn-honking Athens—away from the farms and vineyards—or so we thought. Just five minutes from the Athens airport lies Domaine Matsa, a rambling French-style estate, dominated by a chateau, chapel, 10 hectares of grapevines and Roxane Matsa. A joint venture between Matsa and the Boutari family since 1980, Domaine Matsa produces mainly Savatiano and Malagouzia. This land has been in Matsa’s family for generations. Her grandmother was forced to sell off half of it after World War II, so in between the main house and the larger of two vineyards are a few blocks of Athenian suburb.
As Voyatzis attended to the 14 voicemails he received during the flight, Matsa whisked us into her vintage sky-blue Citroen for the quick drive to her main vineyard. Along the way, this force of nature explained that although the land on which she cultivates grapes is highly valuable to real estate developers, she has gone against the advice of almost everyone she knows in order to engage in her passion: The art of viticulture. We witnessed the end of the Malagouzia harvest, and returned to the chateau as the grapes were transferred to an antique cistern to be cooled before the crush.
Several times a year, the Boutari family—patriarch Constantine, his wife Niki and daughters Marina and Christina—meet at each winery with the on-site team to discuss the past, present, and future of the wines made there. Today was such an occasion, and we were invited to participate in their tasting and conversation. Winemakers Alexandros Tzachristas and Dina Makra, and plant manager Paras Evageliou (who we’ll also work with tomorrow in Mantinia, where the rose and citrus flavored Moschofilero is made) rounded out the group. Tastings of the Domaine Matsa Savatiano/Assyrtiko blend and Malagazouzia helped the team to settle on a flavor profile for the new vintage, and a decanter of brand-new organic, unsulfured Syrah sparked a lively debate on how this could best be brought to market.
Matsa had prepared a feast of cold salads and keftedes, and the corporate business meeting shape-shifted into a family meal. As Homer put it, “And wine can of their wits the wise beguile, make the sage frolic, and the serious smile.” As we watched the interplay and exchange of ideas unfold, we realized that Boutari is more a family than a business. We will be very sad to part with Voyatzis tomorrow evening, as he returns to his home in Thessaloniki. Our time with him will be complete, but as harvest, fermentation and bottling continue, he will fly around Greece through the fall and winter, putting his magic touch on the wines we will taste when we return next year.