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P.D.O. Samos (O.P.E.) / Σάμος
Description to P.D.O. Samos (O.P.E.) / Σάμος
The Greek island with about 470 km² in the eastern Aegean Sea is off the Ionian coast of Asia Minor (Anatolia, Turkey). According to legend, the Argonaut and first Samos king Ankaios brought the vine to the island in 1,000 BC. Three famous men were born here. The first was the mathematician Pythagoras (580 to 496 BC) to whom the mathematical theorem named after him is attributed. The mathematician Aristarchus (~310-250 BC) was convinced of the heliocentric system with the sun as the centre. And the third was the philosopher Epicurus (341-270), whose doctrine of the needless, wise, withdrawn enjoyment of life (Epicureanism) was later defamed into hedonism.
In the second half of the 15th century, a considerable part of the population moved to the nearby island of Chios for protection from the Ottomans. Samos became more or less deserted and most of the vineyards were destroyed. A hundred years later, the Ottoman rulers offered support to the Samosans, who were willing to return to their homeland. The vineyards were replanted again, this time with a greater proportion of white varieties. Towards the end of the 19th century, wine from Samos was exported to Europe, but it was mainly red wines from autochthonous varieties. Then in 1892 phylloxera reached the island and destroyed almost all the vineyards on Samos.
Vineyards, soils and climate
Reconstruction followed, mainly with the white variety Moschato Aspro (Muscat Blanc). Finally, in 1934, wine law defined that only white wines made from 100% Moschato Aspro could use the Samos origin. Today, this variety covers 95% of the land. The remaining 5% are occupied by the two red varieties Ritino (Mavroudi Arachovis) and Fokiano, from which rosé wine cuvées are pressed. The vineyards cover around 1,800 hectares of vines. The sites are mostly on steep terrain on barren, calcareous subsoil and are often only planted in two rows in terraces. The best sites are at altitudes between 600 and 800 metres above sea level, where the vines are well ventilated by the frequent Meltemi (the prevailing wind in the summer months in the Aegean) and the uphill rains also provide sufficient humidification. For example, on the slopes of Ambelos, named after the mythological satyr Ampelos, from whose body the first vine is said to have sprouted. There are other significant areas on the north-eastern slopes of Kerkis (1443 m), the western mountain on Samos. Yield-limiting regulations are still relatively loose; however, quality-conscious cooperatives and winemakers limit yields per hectare to less than 50 hl/ha.
POP/OPE and PGE wines
There are three different quality wine appellations on Samos (POP or, alternatively, traditional OPE). All of them are made from 100% varietal Moschato Aspro. There are, however, considerable differences between the individual quality levels in terms of the timing of the grape harvest, spriten (alcohol enrichment), ageing and maturation.
Samos Vin doux
In this simplest version, the Greek grape marc spirit Tsipouro is added to the grape must before fermentation. The 15% alcohol by volume is achieved almost exclusively through this addition of alcohol. The residual sugar is around 200 g/l. The light golden, sweet wine is characterised by an aroma of oranges and spices. The version Anthemis (old name of Samos) matures at least three years, but mostly five years in oak barrels. These wines are sweeter and more powerful.
Samos Vin doux naturel
This version is made from grapes from the best sites with a low yield of around 35 hl/ha. Only pre-run musts or grape must obtained with low pressing pressure is used. Fermentation is stopped early by spriting to 15% vol. The residual sugar content is around 150 g/l. The Samos Vin doux naturel Grand Cru is made from late harvested overripe grapes from the best vineyards. This version is aged in oak barrels for at least five years, but usually longer. The wines only reach their peak or drinking maturity after five to ten years of ageing in the bottle
Samos Vin naturellement doux
The best, naturally sweet version (that is, without sprites) is made from sun-dried grapes and is called Nectar or Samos Nectar on the label. These wines may carry the sub-designation Liastos, which in Greece (i.e. not exclusive to Samos), names an unspritted straw wine. The grapes are harvested exclusively from the best sites; the overripe grapes are picked selectively and then dried on straw mats for about a week. During the slow fermentation, about 14% alcohol by volume and a residual sugar content of about 360 g/l are achieved. The wine matures for at least three years in oak barrels and another two years in the bottle before it is released to the market. It has a golden brown colour with often light red tones and a delicate, finely nuanced acidity structure.
Other wines and spirits
There are also two PGE classified land wines on Samos. The white wine Samena, named after the ancient warships on Samos, is made from not quite ripe Moschato Aspro grapes, vinified dry and reaches 12% alcohol by volume. The Golden Samena variant is also made from fully ripe grapes and is dry with a low residual sweetness. The rosé cuvée mentioned above is made from the red wine varieties Fokiano and Ritino and is characterised by its almost orange colour. There is also a Retsina made from Muscat grapes.
By far the largest producer, UWC Samos (United Winemaking Agricultural Cooperative of Samos) was founded in 1934 following an initiative by winegrowers. UWC Samos is one of the oldest winegrowers' cooperatives in Greece and is one of the 10 largest wineries in the country. The approximately 2,200 members cultivate 1,400 hectares, which is more than three quarters of the island's total vineyard area. About 5 million litres of wine are produced annually, of which about 70% is exported. Other well-known producers are Kourtakis, Nopera Wines, Tsantali and Vakakis Wines.