During our trip to Mallorca earlier this summer, my sister, Scarlett, had told us about the benefits of sulphite-free wines. She informed us that it was the sulphites within wine that are responsible for hangovers and as a result, one should look for wines that don’t include ‘contains sulphites’ on the label.
This dabble of information was only the start of our voyage into natural winemaking.
Upon researching wines, I was shocked to find just how many artificial chemicals are poured into wine. Even organic wines can be produced using up to 50 different additives. Don’t believe me? Just take a look at this lengthy approved additive list.
Organic certification with wines only guarantees that the grapes have been grown without the use of artificial pesticides and herbicides. However, what it doesn’t regulate is the vast number of additives that are then added to the wine.
Wines these days are riddled with sugars, preservatives, flavourings, artificial sweeteners, artificial colourings, artificial yeasts and much, much more. What’s shocking is that the wine manufacturers don’t need to disclose what’s in their wine so you have absolutely no idea what you are consuming.
Modern-winemaking has the goal of producing as much wine as possible for as little as possible. Watering down the alcohol with cheap additives is what makes wine so cheap these days as well as consistent.
As well as being bad for our health, these winemaking processes are also bad for the environment.
Fortunately, there’s still a handful of wineries today that still produce wine alongside nature. Sclavos wines, just north of Lixouri on the peninsular of Paliki is one of those vineyards.
Lewis and I were booked in for a morning of wine-tasting at Sclavos’ wine estate. As we crunched down the gravel driveway into a small carpark beside the factory, we were overjoyed to discover that we would be having a private tour today.
We had a brief look at the factory where two workers made their way around wine barrels in wellies, before we were taken outside where a relaxing bench awaited us.
From here we had a beautiful view of the vineyards which circled round the factory.
The wine-tasting was being hosted by the head wine-maker who was incredibly knowledgable about Sclavos’ biodynamic winemaking practises, as well as winery in general.
All of Sclavos’ wines are made with old-vine original rootstock bush vines and natural, wild yeasts. The wines are unfined, unfiltered and they use minimal sulphites – under 15 mg per litre when they use it.
The head winemaker started by bringing out four of their wines.
The first wine which we sampled was the Sclavos Vino di Sasso Robola de Cephalonie. This is a white wine made with vines grown in the Robola Zone, on the eastern peninsular, under the slopes of Mt. Ainos, in limestone soil. From our table in the vineyard, we could see Mt Ainos in the far distance.
The wine tasted exquisite. The winemaker offered us a bucket which we could use to spit out the wine but I just looked in horror. Why would anyone want to do that? It’s safe to say that I politely declined.
Lewis and I were very impressed with Sclavos’ minimal intervention processes. Lewis especially, had done a lot of research on natural winemaking and must have impressed the winemaker with his knowledge and appreciation as the winemaker took a moment to excuse herself before coming back with yet another wine.
“This is a very natural wine.” She began. “I don’t normally get it out for the tasting but you said you like natural wine so I thought you may like to try it.”
We felt very humbled to be trying the special wine.
This wine was called Metagnition. It’s an organic wine made with 100% Vostilidi grapes on vines which are over 100 years old. These vines are an indigenous variety. The wine is vibrant orange in colour and tasted unlike any wine I had ever had before. It was beautiful! The name Metageitnion, refers to the second month of the Attica calendar which is the month of the harvest. The wine is fermented and matured in old oak barrels for 8 months. Yields of this wine are very small with 700 bottles per year.
The third wine we tried was a rosé called Alchymiste. This wine is made with 50% Moschatella grapes and 50% Mavrodaphne grapes. Mavrodaphne grapes are very phenolic (chemicals in wine which affect colour and flavour) and the colour of the rosé occurs during the pressing.
Next, we tasted the Orgion. This red wine was the first wine produced by Sclavos wines and is their most popular variety. It is made with 100% Mavrodaphne grapes. The grape skins stay with the wine for the entire length of fermentation. After fermentation is complete, the wine is separated from the skins and is put into oak barrels for 1 year.
We were then tasting the final wine which was a sweet dessert wine called Vin Doux du Soleil. Made with Muscat grapes, the grapes are laid under olive trees and are sun-dried. Water is lost in this process, leaving mostly sugar. They dry under the trees for 10 days before being taken into the winery where the fermentation stops and the grapes are then put into oak barrels for 1 year.
At the end of the wine-tasting, the winemaker offered us a glass each of whatever we wanted. I selected a rosé and Lewis had the red.
Now it came to selecting just which wines we wanted to purchase. Honestly, they are all incredible so it was a really difficult choice! In the end we chose the white, the red and the very natural white. Clearly seeing the painful decision we were making, the winemaker then kindly offered us a rosé bottle completely on the house. I was blown away by her generosity.
Now we were leaving Sclavos wineary with 4 bottles of wine to drink over just 3 days in Kefalonia. We weren’t too sure how that was going to go!
Our experience with Sclavos wines was incredible. Both Lewis and I learnt so much about winemaking and were impressed with the vineyard’s ethics and natural wine-marking process. The head wine-maker was incredibly knowledgable, passionate and generous, making the experience unforgettable for us!