Kostis Dalamaras writes a truly superb blog, albeit it is currently only published in Greek. A few days ago he alerted me to his latest post, a reprint of an article by a local newspaper in Naoussa from 1988. In it, his grandfather Kostas discusses whether vines should be watered or not. It is a fascinating read, as we are taken back nearly 90 years in time, when his grandfather was a young boy. With Kostis’ permission, I have translated the post into English and I am delighted to re-publish it here.
Please keep in mind that Naoussa was declared the “City of Wine and Vine” in 1987, the year before the newspaper article was printed. At this time there were numerous events focusing on Xinomavro.
Konstantinos Dalamaras (to be seen in the photo that was taken in 1949):
The past year was the year of wine and vines for Naoussa, and there were numerous discussions on the subject. I carefully followed all the lectures and read all that was written about related issues. Undoubtedly, everything was very interesting and will benefit our vineyards and our wine.
But I too, after many years of practice in the vineyards, would like to mention a few things on the topic, starting with the years 1925-26. I was then an eleven year-old child and my father took me to our vineyard. The vines grown were the local variety Xinomavro which we called the “Black of Naoussa”. The stump most commonly had three branches, sometimes four. We left two new shoots on every branch, each of which gave one bunch of grapes.
The original ungrafted vines that were growing on our local vineyard soil had great resistance to drought, as opposed to today’s grafted vines that use American or French rootstocks that are common in most vineyards. As a result, we have to talk about whether the Naoussa vineyards need watering or not. I will refer to my observations I’ve made over 28 years.
I have a five acre vineyard (Editor’s note: This is the old original part of today’s Paliokalia vineyards) that is slightly inclined and that I do not water at all. During dry years when the drought is strong, one of the five acres demands water, else it does not produce good quality grapes. This is because the components of the earth are different from the other four acres. So we see that the soil composition and the slope of the plot both play an important role. Some soils need water, others, such as the more heavy soils, do not.
We cannot make an absolute statement that Naoussa vines need watering or not. And by “watering” I do not refer to regular watering, but only to watering when there is great need because a year is extremely dry. In this case, the vineyard is asking to be watered; this would typically take place around the second fortnight of July. This technique should rarely be applied for a second time, if we want to achieve high quality grapes.
Also we should not clog the young vines, but ensure that there is rich foliage on the tops of the vines during the ripening period, as the leaves will help with nutrition and the ripening process.
In Naoussa it was considered correct that any vineyard should be on a slope facing east so that the morning dew evaporates with the first rays of the sun. If the dew is exposed immediately to the strong sun at a later time of the day, the vine suffers from mildew and other diseases.
When the vines got too old, they were not simply replaced: A cut was taken from the roots so that it grew anew, creating a new vine from itself. This was called “Gerontofytia” (Editor’s note: old plants).
In the decade of 1930 almost all the local vineyards were destroyed by phylloxera. It was then that most vines had to be replaced with American or French rootstocks, which were thought to be resistant to phylloxera. Unfortunately, these vines did not last long, because in the 1940’s the agriculture for peaches, apples, and pears started to flourish. Only few vines were left as a result, among which were our own.
From then onwards, grapes from other regions started coming to Naoussa, more often from Saint Panteleimon, which is known as Pateli. The grapes from Pateli are the same variety but not of the same quality. In the end, it is the specificity of the soil and the climate of Naoussa, which make the wines originating from Naoussa so special.
Finally, I would like to tell current and prospective growers that by working conscientiously, with passion and by relying on the advice of experts, we can make high quality wine. By doing this, we can lift and position Naoussa’s image as the city of wine and vine, as it rightly deserves!
Voice of Naoussa Saturday, March 5, 1988
Konstantinos Dalamaras was 73 years old at the time of this interview. Today, he is 96 years old and still enjoys walks in the vineyards and a glass of red wine each afternoon.
The Dalamaras family still grows the original “old black Naoussa” vines mentioned in the newspaper article by applying the technique of “Gerontofytia”. The ungrafted vines are now more than 90 years old. The label “Vignes Franches” is produced from these vines and is distributed in a very limited number of bottles in the French and Japanese markets.