Haroula Spinthiropoulou - Argatia Winery
We are so grateful that Dr. Haroula Spinthiropoulou, agronomist, oenologist, specialist in viticulture, took time out of her incredibly busy life to answer these questions from us. As you will see in her own words, she plays a key role not only in her family enterprise, but is a major voice of Greek Wine. It is obvious that Haroula is one of the major forces behind the advancement of Greek Wines in the world and her humbleness is her most endearing quality. Read below to see for yourselves.
How did you get started in the wine business? Was there a certain moment where you knew wine was going to be a big part of your life?Tell us the story of the earliest stages of creating a wine business? What were the challenges and how did you overcame them?What has surprised you about being a winemaker?In the world of wine, who do you most admire and why? Who influenced you?
It was in 1989 when I started working in the wine business. I was just finished my university studies in agriculture when the Interprofessional committee of wine with the Appellation of Origin Naoussa was looking for a young agronomist who had the willing to work in the vineyards of Naoussa. So I went and gave examinations and I received the job. Till that moment I had no connection to viticulture and wine production.
For that time on I started my education in viticulture and enology (Diploma of Enology, DAA mention Viticulture, PhD in viticulture). In 1990 my husband entered in the same business as the director of this Interprofessional committee and later on as the director of wine roads of Macedonia then and now Northern Greece. So it was something natural to try to create our own winery and produce our wine, mainly with Xinomavro. It was our challenge.
So in 2000 we planted our first vineyard and in 2006 we built the winery, while we were working, Panagiotis in Thessaloniki and me doing consulting all over Greece
We planted 2 Ha of organic vineyards, which means a lot of manual hard work in order to protect the environment and produce healthy grapes with the minimum interventions.
In the beginning it was very difficult because we were trying to do all the necessary work in the afternoon and during the weekends. It was hard, so Panagiotis quitted his job in 2008 and worked full time in the winery and the vineyards, while me I continue to do consulting but also work in the vineyards and the winery.
Now it is easier because our son Christopher who studied enology entered the business as responsible of the winery, so we try now to expand our vineyards and our bottle production.
The most important think about being a winemaker is that every year you have a challenge. You are not bored anytime, you can’t be. Every year is different, the grapes are different and the wine is different, the same but always different. And you have to think what you did correctly and what was wrong. You never stop and you always see things more optimistically with a glass of your wine.
I had the chance in my first steps in the wine business to meet Dr Stavroula Kourakou Dragona and John Boutaris. At that time Dr Kourakou was the Director of the wine Institute of Athens, a very strong personality who influenced me the way I see and think about the Greek Appellations, their history, their varieties and their importance for the Greek wine sector. She taught me the respect of our Greek wine history. John Boutaris was the person who has the ability to inspire people to do their best, to have dreams and to try to see not only tomorrow but far away in the future.
And the good thing is that my husband was also inspired and believed in this dream of making wine a great part of our everyday life.
Do you think that Greek wines deserve more attention globally? Why?
Yes, because they have a unique character and a very good quality-money ratio. They travel you to the natural beauty of Greece remind you the sea, the Greek mountains, the Mediterranean
What is unique about Greek Grapes and Greek Wines?
Our unique varieties and their natural environment
How do you think people perceive Greek wines around the world?
As something exotic, and as so he wants to taste them. The thing is that we are still in the beginning.
How has wine production in Greece evolved over the last decades?
We have a decrease in the vine surface the last decade (-5900 Ha) but the last 2-3 years there is a great interest in new plantations due to the increase in Greek wine consumption especially abroad. Of course according to the EU regulation, Greece has the right to plant around 650 Ha each year while the demand for new plantation rights is almost triple. Most of the demand thanks God concerns plantations of indigenous varieties.
What have been some of the major technological advancements in winemaking in Greece?
Now most of the enologists and winemakers have studied enology, they travel a lot and they have made great investments in their wineries. So they follow all the new trends in winemaking and they make experiments with different style of vinification, use of barrels, amphorae etc.
They use belt for choosing the right grapes and berries for their wines, cooling-warming machines, they control the jus in every step of vinification, and now everything is under control. Of course there are winemakers who believe in minimum interventions and their wines have also place in the market but generally most of the wineries are extremely well equipped.
What do you think needs to happen in order for Greek wines to gain international recognition and gain the same status of Italian or France wines?
To work hard and support the common actions of wines of Greece. To believe in our wines and insist in quality, authenticity, typicity. To have patience and promote our regions and not the individual wines of each of us. To have a constant presentation in the niche markets.
What are the benefits or challenges of producing wine in 2019 in Greece?
It seems that despite the Greek financial crisis the wine sector is going to be one of the most healthy and promising business sectors in Greece.
Which varietals are grown at the winery?
Xinomavro, Malagouzia, Assyrtiko, Mavrodaphne, Negoska, Athiri
What is one of your favorite varietals to work with and why?
Xinomavro because it is the most challenging, it gives you great satisfaction but also great disappointment. It is the most intriguing and the one that keeps us always aware.
What goals in winemaking are you still working to achieve?
We always believe that we are still in the beginning, that we have a long road in front of us and we enjoy to drive it and to produce unique and unforgettable wines.
What do you find to be the hardest part of harvest?
To watch every day the meteorological weather and try to decide to harvest or not.
What is one of the hardest things about winemaking year in and year out?
To decide what changes you have to do depending on the quality of grapes that you have harvest and on the same time to try to express the characteristics of each vintage.
What have been the best vintages?
2007, 2011, 2013, 2017
What is the winery's volume of production?
Which wines are aged in barrels? How long are the wines aged before being bottled?
Naoussa is aged in barrels for 8-16 months depending on the vintage.
What is one of the most rewarding things about your job?
To hear people speaking with love and satisfaction about our wines and to hear them recommend our wines.
What is your winemaking philosophy?
To respect the character of each year.
How do you KNOW when you have a particularly good vintage?
By tasting the grapes and the wine after the end of fermentation and by analyzing the wines.
Any wine making tips for those just getting into winemaking or those interested in studying wine?
To be precise and have patience, the wine making business needs patience and willing to work hard.
What is one thing you have been most proud of in your work?
That our wines are considered as very honest and year by year are more and more appreciated.