The unique experience of grape harvest in Mesogeia, Attica!
Harvest of wine grapes in Attica, a tradition that directly originates from Dionysus, god of winemaking and wine, is still preserved and continues with the same passion and the same aromas for centuries. A short trip to Mesogeia, the blessed land just outside Athens city centre, bears witness to this.
In East Attica, right at the heart of Attica’s vineyard, where Savvatiano is the dominant variety, harvest is nature’s and people’s grand celebration. A celebration that lasts approximately three weeks, and yet its results delight our hearts for much longer. An experience worth living!
Dionysus (Bacchus) taught the art of winemaking to Icarius, who – according to the myth – hospitably received him in the region of Ekali and Penteli. In ancient art, Dionysus is depicted as a young bearded man or small child wearing a wreath of vine leaves and grapes. Reference to grape harvest, vine and wine is often made in ancient literature, e.g. by Homer and Hesiod, in works of modern Greek writers and poets, as well as foreign travellers.
Traditionally, harvest started around 14 September (Exaltation of the Holy Cross) and was exceptionally strenuous and demanding work. However, it was also joy, celebration and a true fest; children and adults joined in, singing and feasting. The saying “singing in harvest, storytelling in December” is indicative of the prevailing atmosphere. The phrase “reap-harvest-war” describes the labour of grape and wheat harvest, which was compared to war, since it was extremely time- and place specific.
In Mesogeia, grape harvest was probably the greatest event of the year. The whole family took part in the process, from picking grapes to the final stage of winemaking. A good crop ensured the yearly income of the entire family, the possibility for children to go to school, sons and daughters to get married, build their home etc.
And the present…
September is the month of grape harvest and the modern wineries of Attica eagerly anticipate the containers with the crop of the year. The time of harvest is the most important decision a winemaker must make, which will determine to a great extent the outcome of the year’s efforts. Experienced wine producers in Mesogeia know when the harvest should start, simply by walking around the vineyard, trying grapes from different bunches and different rows. Harvest begins when the fruit has reached the right level of ripeness, when the grape has developed the desired aromas and acidity.
To this day, harvest in Mesogeia is done exactly the way it was done thousands of years ago: by hand-picking. Harvesters start picking grapes with sunrise, using a curved knife or pair of scissors, small clean crates and their experience as their sole tools. Work is hard, but singing is always part of the process. The straw hats protect from the sun, as bunches are cut and placed in the crates. At lunch break everyone rests in the shade, to regain the energy they need to continue. Some winemakers choose to harvest at night, a recent innovation that ensures crisp grapes, thus superior raw material.
Hand-picking of wine grapes, which is dominant practice in Attica’s vineyard, guarantees optimum handling of the bunches, as opposed to mechanical harvesting, which damages the grapes. Grapes are picked from 6 am, with morning briskness, while experienced hand harvesters have the discernment to make a first selection on the spot, picking bunches according to their variety, ripeness and quality.
Equally important is the fast transport to the winery. Wineries in Mesogeia are situated within the vineyards, while you will often see refrigerated trucks transporting the raw material fast and at the right temperature, so that grapes remain cold and crisp before crushing. After the final sorting on specially designed tables, grapes are crushed either by foot treading or in grape pressers, giving the fresh juice with the sweetly intoxicating aroma, the must.
The metamorphosis of grape into wine is a true wonder, a unique and magical process. A process that transforms the white variety–trademark of Attica’s vineyard, Savvatiano, into wines with fresh, delicate aromas in the glass, internationally awarded and distinguished labels.
Harvest Fest in Attica’s wineries
Every year, the wineries of Attica celebrate harvest in September and welcome the public, to initiate it into the secrets of harvest and winemaking. This is the perfect time to take a tour around the Mesogeia vineyards, experience this magical process and witness the transformation of grapes into must, and then into wine. You will try the freshly crushed juice of Savvatiano, “moustokouloura” (must cookies), grape molasses and “moustalevria” (pudding made of must mixed with flour) from the crop of the year, as well as high-quality wines of Attica’s vineyard, accompanied by exceptional local delicacies.
Apart from the time of harvest, visitable wineries in Attica welcome wine enthusiasts all around the year, with frequent special events organised for the public, such as the “Open Doors” that take place every year in spring, with tours, wine tasting, competitions and many surprises.
Discover the serenity and beauty of Mesogeia land, relish the “perfumery” of nature, with the aromas of the vine and the juice of the freshly cut grape. And then, in the winery, in the wine-smelling cellar, enjoy the explosion of flavours in your mouth, tasting Attica’s wine. An unforgettable journey into the aromas and flavours of Attica’s nature!
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