On Saturday, 28th March, I drove to Christos Kokkalis on a mission: He wants to plant new vines at two new plots at his vineyard. I arrived in the evening and we went out for a good meal, we brought along a bottle of his 2006 Syrah. We had a nice medium rare fillet – Christos said that he had shown the cook how to prepare the meat, because in Greece, it is usually cooked well done. I stayed at his house and we went to bed early, as a lot of work was waiting for us the next day.
We got up at 07:00 am, had a cup of coffee and went straight to work: First we collected the new vines, 600 Agiorgitiko, and the equipment, a small machine to drill the holes. It looked like a miniature version of a drill used to drill for oil, about 130 cm in height. Two workers joined us in the vineyard. First we had to measure the distance for the holes to be drilled: The rows were set 2.5 meters apart, the distance between the holes were set at 1 meter. One of the workers started to indicate the exact points where the next worker drilled the holes. Christos took the new vines and cropped the roots. I then planted the cropped vines into the holes. I had to make sure that the roots were firmly in the ground, using both hands to fill up the space with earth and pushing firmly into the ground, ensuring that no air pockets were left. The first third of the plot was quite stony; the second third was clay and the last part made up of sand. Amazing how the soil structure can vary within one plot of land of about 2000 square meters. The hardest part for me was the plantation of the vines in the clay part. How on earth could I ensure that no air pockets existed? Soon my hands were cracking open from all the firm pushing into the soil. The sweat was dripping and the work is actually quite exhausting from all the bending. I was congratulating myself that I have been practising Yoga on a daily basis for the last 3 years; otherwise my back would have certainly made much more trouble. At midday, we took a 30-minute break to eat some food. Christos was very pleased with the soil structure. He explained that the stony part will be responsible for a mineral character in the grapes, the clay adds a firm texture, and the sand will produce elegance and finesse. This was the second time that I have seen true terroir in Greece! We finished the work in the afternoon, then we organised a tractor to work the soil of the second plot of land. We left at about 0530 pm. I decided to stay overnight and to help Christos again on Monday. We were both exhausted and Christos prepared a meal at his home, after which he fell asleep on the sofa at 0800 pm :)
The next morning we rose again at 0700 am and picked up the other vines: 400 Cabernet Sauvignon and 500 Syrah. We started work just after 0800 am. Christos showed me that the Cabernet vines had already began to grow, as the eye started to develop on quite a few vines. I had to be extra careful not to hurt the eye. The plot was mostly made up of earth and sand; and also some loam, about 3000 square meters. We all had learned from the day before, and the teamwork was excellent, allowing us to work at a much faster rate. It was quite a warm day. When I started to plant the first vines I told Christos that the soil was less interesting then on the other plot, as it felt so soft. He smiled and replied that once the moisture would be gone, the soil would become as hard as cement, making the vines struggle to reach deep down with their roots. “Wine produced from this plot will be very elegant indeed, and I hope that I live long enough to be able to taste it. The other plot where we planted the Agiorgitiko also has a fantastic soil structure, it might produce such good quality grapes that I might decide to bottle a single vineyard Agiorgitiko.”
We finished work in the afternoon and drove to his house where he gave me my reward for my work – a magnum of Trilogia 2005, and a bottle each of Trilogia 2006 and Syrah 2006 – I had a great time and learned a lot about the physical side of the wine business. I drove back home and arrived about 3.5 hours later. My children could not believe how dirty I was.