The Underwater Wines of Santorini

The Greek islands, like all other islands all around the world, feature very creative and resilient people. The volcanic island of Santorini is no different. Greek Reporter is producing a series of ten stories on the people of the Greek islands called Humans of the Greek Islands. This is the second story in the series.

Thallasitis, the brand of Paraskevopoulos’ wine, means “the wine that comes from the sea.”

“This has been the brand of our wines since 1994,” the winemaker explains in an exclusive interview with Greek Reporter. “A friend who is a journalist had read an article about champagne that had been retrieved from a wreck somewhere in Finland, a bottle of champagne that had spent 170 years years under the waves, and this wine was still excellent.”

“So he said to me, ‘Yiannis, why don’t you try to age some of your Thalassitis wine under the sea to see how it goes?'” the winemaker relates.

“I saw in this idea an opportunity”

“In the beginning I thought of it as a stupid idea, to be honest—but then, [being] the scholar that I am, since I am a professor at the University—I saw in this idea an opportunity for an experiment. My daughter the chemist can probably better explain the biochemical dimension of this experiment,” he says.

Lito explains how she got into the business of fine wine making by saying “Our winery is right on the beach, as you can see here. At first I studied biochemistry; I didn’t have this kind of thing in mind at all. I came back to Greece after lot of years in the UK and I was looking for a job.”

“I wanted to give wine production a chance,” she states. After going to New Zealand and working a wine harvest there, she discovered that she was “just one pair of hands in a big factory. I didn’t really get a chance to know whether I liked it or not. So I gave it another chance at another Santorini vineyard, without the father factor,” she says as an aside.

“That did actually work really, really well and I ended up getting promoted to the second in command oenologist,” Lito said. “Then after working there for a year I came to Gaia and I have been here ever since.”

As Lito explains to Greek Reporter, there is fascinating science behind the secret of aging wines under the sea. “Basically, when you have a bottle of wine and it’s out in the open air,—I don’t care what kind of closures it has, whether a cork or a screw top—even if you have enclosed in in concrete, somehow, air is going to get in there,” she says.

“The difference is astounding” in underwater wines

“So when we talk about aging, automatically we’re talking about what that tiny bit of oxygen does to the wine….the idea is that in the water there is no oxygen in the form that can be absorbed into the wine, because it’s liquid,” Lito explains, and “[B]y aging the wines underwater, we are basically uncoupling the aging process from oxygenation. And that’s the experiment.”

“And true enough, the difference is astounding,” she declares. “And basically what happens is you get the best of both worlds—both aging and ‘young’ wines. So let’s say you have a wine that’s been mellowed out; it’s gotten ‘softer’ and more aromatic.”

“If you have wine that has aged above the water you get honey, flowers, more mature fruit flavors,” according to Lito. “In this case (when aged underwater) what happens is that its mineral character is encouraged—which is what happens with Assyrtiko anyway—but it is just boosted so much more.”

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