Domaine Papagiannakos is in the eastern part of Attica near the village of Markopoulo, half an hour’s drive from Athens.
The climate is pure Mediterranean, with over 300 days of sunshine a year. The summers are hot and arid and the winters are mild. The mainly gravel and limestone soil has good drainage, but – because it is not rich in nutrients – the roots of the vines have to grow deeper and stronger to survive. In the hands of a talented winemaker, these conditions can produce wonderful wine.
Vassilis Papagiannakos is a third-generation winemaker whose family has been involved in wine production for more than a century. The tempo of his childhood was determined by the needs of the vines, and he learned to pick grapes before he could write his name. Winemaking has always been embedded in his DNA, and he went on to study business administration to take the winery one step further.
The Savatiano grape – an ancient Attican grape variety grown by his parents and grandparents – remains the mainstay of his production.
Vassilis inherited a gift for innovation from his parents. His father insisted on importing modern equipment from France and instilled meticulous sanitation practices in the winery, both of which were rare in Greece in the 1960s. This pioneering spirit led eventually to the design of a bio-climatic winery in the late-1990s at a time when few Greeks were concerned about sustainable, eco-friendly practices. The modern winery, completed in 2007, is architecturally integrated into the landscape and saves 25% of its energy consumption thanks to the way it harnesses natural elements.
Vassilis Papagiannakos went on to challenge the established method of making retsina, the ancient Greek wine flavoured with pine resin.
First, he focused on producing dry, fresh and crisp un-resinated white wines, and then went on to create a retsina with a delicate balance between the wine’s fruit and resin. It became the benchmark of how retsina should taste.
And today the domaine continues to experiment with lesser-known grape varieties.
Vassilis Papagiannakos is calm and humble. He listens attentively and weighs his words with care. His instinct is infallible and his devotion to winemaking is absolute.
Although he has won many awards, he says that his greatest satisfaction comes when complete strangers call or write to him out of the blue to praise his wines.
The proof of a lifetime of effort is the way he has showcased the greatness of Savatiano. A grape inextricably linked with retsina that under Papagiannakos has reached heights unimaginable a few decades ago.
Continuity and creativity are the hallmarks of Vassilis’ career. He knows that he has inherited something precious that he feels driven to perfect.
He is wedded to the land in Attica and has no interest in expanding his operation elsewhere in Greece or abroad. He simply wants to share the qualities of this humble soil and show the world the quality of Attica’s terroir.
Photos by Domaine Papagiannakos