Late harvest wines: the sweet reward of patience


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Having already reached the beginning of November, vines begin to prepare for their period of winter dormancy. With harvest having been completed for some time now, this is the natural course of the vine’s growth cycle. Soon, the branches will be devoid, not only of grapes, but also of leaves. This is true for all vines, or almost all. Because, by walking among the Amyndeon vineyards, one can see some selected plants still bearing fruit.

The reason that these grapes have not yet been harvested is because by staying on the vine for a few more weeks, they start to dehydrate, to lose water and accumulate more sugars. When these dehydrated grapes will be picked, they will be used for the production of a sweet wine, following a practice that has started in France for the production of vendange tardive wines, which in French means late harvest.

In the beginning of the 1990s, the first Gewürztraminer vines, a variety originating from Alsace, were planted at Ktima Kir-Yianni in Amyndeon. In the cold climate of the area, this very special grape gave wines showing typical character, intense aromas and good acidity. During the last years, a part of these vines, together with some Malagouzia, a high-quality Greek indigenous variety, are used for the production of the late harvest, sweet wine of Kir-Yianni. Therefore, after harvest has been completed for all the other varieties, and after covering the vines with nets protecting the fruit from the attacks of the migrating birds, these selected grapes will stay on the vineyard in order to over-ripen.

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There is no recipe for the right time to perform harvest. This is mostly an art, a feeling of when the grapes will be ready to give us the wine that we want to create. By doing frequent tests, we wait for the moment when the grapes will have reached the appropriate balance between sugars and acidity. Depending on the conditions, this moment may come in the second third of November or as late as in mid-December. Meanwhile, apart from the attacks of the birds, we need to protect the grapes also from other enemies, such as botrytis, a fungus responsible for the rotting of grapes. However, the Samaropetra vineyard, where the vines are planted, is the ideal location for late harvesting, because the wind that flows down the slopes of the hill prevents the expansion of the fungus and helps the grapes to remain healthy.

When harvest starts, temperatures rarely rise above 10oC. Grapes are picked carefully by hand and transported to the winery, where they will be put in the strofilia, the traditional manual wine press. This is how we take the juice that ferments and matures in oak in order to give us a sweet wine with aromas of white fruit jam, dried apricots, honey and wax. A wine created with great care and passion, and produced with homemade craftsmanship. Rare as the falcon that nests in the rocks of Amyndeon and gives its name to the wine: Chrysogerakas.