Last Saturday I became a “special tourist”!
I was a wine tourist at Nemea in Peloponnese. I visited Lafazanis’ Winery in Ancient Kleones.
I ‘ve never been a wine tourist before in my life. I have never participated in any kind of special touristic activity before, apart from the “rebel-tourism” of my youth!
Since you showed up to my blog, which is a great honor for me, let me give you some useful information.
According to the Encyclopedia of Tourism of 2016, and in my own translation (please keep that in mind, I‘m not a native speaker-I do my best):
Special interest tourism is any kind of entertainment trip on which the targeted activity dominates and determines the selection of the destination
From this point of view, I was a Wine tourist last Weekend. Our trip was specifically organized to visit Lafazanis’ winery at Nemea. We wanted to taste the great wines, feel the old barrels’ scent! Be part of a land activity which creates a strong connection with mother earth!
Did we achieve our goal?
Absolutely! More than expected I should say!
It was one of the most beautiful and interesting travel-visits of my life. I found myself full of colors (although wintertime), calmness and flavors! Our eyes relaxed while gazing at the beautiful mountains and meadows. Our lunges opened up filled with fresh air.
First time in Nemea, an ideal destination for any Athenian (and not only) as it’s only 1,5hour away from the city.
In such a short time you can escape and dive into rural life, into nature. Connect with a part of Greece we tend to forget that it exists.
Here is some historical info.
- Nemea is the mythical land where Hercules killed the Lion, achieving his first task.
- Nemea is the largest wine growing area in Greece and motherland of the PDO Nemea wines.
- Until 1923, the town’s name was Saint George, which is also the name of the most famous red wine variety of the area.
- You will “meet” the wine as Aigiorgitiko in spoken language or as Black Nemea due to its deep, red, almost black color.
Our destination was Ancient Kleones, existing under the same name since the “Homeric era”.
We left Athens at 10:00, in our little black car. We bought coffee and pie for the road. Before we knew it we were exiting the highway to Tripolis at Agios Vassileios at about 11:15. Followed the signs to Kleones and there was it!
We parked our car in the private parking area and loved the place at first sight!
To be honest with you, we were lucky. We had a special treatment during our visit. Our guide was Spiros Lafazanis himself.
(professional and friendly acquaintance of my husband’s from past years)
The tour had his personal “signature”. I know now that Lafazanis himself has the “strongest taste” of all his wines!
He was very generous, profound from all aspects and so down to earth although his great success in the greek wine industry. He shared with us his background. His family story as well as the present reality of the wine making world in our country.
The first person we saw when we arrived at the winery was his daughter, Hara Lafazani. The young blood of the company. I wish all successors shared Hara’s passion and personality!
The tour starts at the reception building where there is a luminous hallway and a large room. It can be disposed for private receptions and events. The rooms have simple, industrial décor, with some old, even vintage items and machinery from the family’s old winery.
You immediately get the message. The name of the game here is quality!
And yes! Beauty is great but comes second as the quality of wine and the “honesty” of the final product is above all!
At the basement, you can find the french barrels where wine mature. There is also a smaller boutique cellar for wine tasting.
Leaving the reception building, we enter the winery. The place where the stainless steel tanks “do their job”. There is everywhere the scent of wine making and vines. It come as a surprise how clean and tidy everything is in there!
The processing of vines was fully explained. From the moment the winegrowers bring in their product until the packaging of the valuable bottles. It’s a long process that sounds a bit complicated to my ears. There are lots of alternating methods according to the desirable product. White wines, red wines, methods of maturation and preservation all explained at the last detail. You see there is a lot of science behind a procedure that counts millenniums!
In the vinery, a distillery is introduced lately, producing Tsipouro. In Greece tsipouro is a traditional home made drink. It is quite strong and you can find it under different names. Tsikoudia, raki, tsipouro. Distillery products with hardly any differences in the production methods followed. The last decades this drink is also bottled with no great results according to my personal taste. By the way I come from a boarder district of the Greek mainland named Pogoni where excellent tsipouro is homely produced. BUT Lafazanis’ tsipouro is different. It is actually a great Tsipouro!
Spiros Lafazanis was always in the “wine business”. He has a degree in Chemistry and enology. Those studies were targeted choices. He knew that he wanted to run the family business himself some day. His father, founded his winery back in 1947 by near Elefsina. Later on, at the beginning od the 90s, Spiros decided to move the winery. He bought a small treadle at Nemea, at Anvient Kleones. He spent some years being the “foreign body” in locals’ perception. Now, everyone calls him “Spiros”, everyone stops in the middle of the road to say Hi. Since then, all his professional dreams come true, one by one!
We talked about wine tourism in general. We;ve learned about the size of Greek wine production and the possibilities rising for other relevant industries. It’s always interesting to hear the insiders’ voice.
I kept in mind something he said .
Tourism in Greece must be combined with local productivity. Otherwise we will be welcoming tourists so that strangers can sell their products to them
We must take control of this situation. Tourism is the “Ace” for Greek economy, but be careful! No point in becoming a piece of land in which strangers can win the lion’s share. We can do betterthan that! Work for our country, with our powers we must protect local industry and greek producers. Help Greeks stay in their land, bloom and offer new jobs to our fellow citizens.
Coming back to the winery again now! I want to give you a hint of the external space.
In the backyard, a mini treadle is constructed for school visits.
Next to it, there is a kitchen (a huge one) dedicated to catering services when private gatherings take place. Near the kitchen a huge BBQ is built, also hosting a wood oven. There are large tables and chairs for the receptions that are being held outdoors.
Hara informed us that on the celebration for the 1st of May last year (2017), she organized a pick nick at the winery’s premises. It was a spontaneous decision she took, with no time for lots of preparations. With only one facebook post an awesome fest took place. All you wine lovers, tay tuned to the winery’s Facebook page to get latest news and events plans.
We tried delicious local bread with cheese, to “escort” their great wines. I can’t drink red wine but I can drink white ones , EFFORTLESSLY! I had Asyrtiko and Malagousia that “stole my heart”!
My husband sticked to Agiorgitiko Nemea. I was paying attention to his small sips of the delectable wine. I coul see in his face he wished this day would never end!
We left the winery and took a short drive to the mountain across. In those mountains lies the historical area of Dervenakia. We visited the status of Theodoros Kolokotronis. He was a Greek “superhero” general back in the 1821. This was the place the he won one of the greatest battles that ever took place in Greek history. Today, there is not even one sign on the road to his statue nor to this historic area of Peloponnese.
We, Greeks are very bad at marketing ourselves and our great history! It’s very annoying, almost incomprehensible to me why we do that!
So, if you ever find yourself in this area, pay the general a visit. See the view he had while preparing this battle at Dervenakia. See the beauty he had in front of him and wanted to keep Greek.
We went back to the winery to say goodbye to all the people that offered to us this generous hospitality! I wanted to give a last hug to our friend Mae (means May in greek). The quietest white dog somebody abandoned outside the winery the day of last May’s pick nick.
Apart from Hara and Spiros’s partners, I must mention Stella his wife and his son Vassilis, who is also studying enology. They both offer their best to the winery, each one from a different post. There is also their youngest son, Theofilos. Who knows, perhaps he will also follow the family’s footsteps.
If you would like to see some more photos of our visit click the link below, it’s free!
We left Nemea at about 20:00. We arrived to Athens very energetic in spite of our 12hour day trip! Nature has done its magic!
I will certainly visit Nemea and Lafazanis winery again in summertime. When everything is in bloom! If there is one piece of advice I can give you, this is it. Visit the place in Spring or preferably in the summer! That’s the magical period for the vineyards!
Either you are Greek or a foreign visitor, wine lover or nature lover, go to Nemea! Have this wine tasting experience. It is off the beaten track. Play with the vines, drink wine, mix up with locals, it’s a great opportunity to get the feeling of Greek rural life! And remember! It will take you only 1,5 hour to drive back to Athens. You know! to have a swim, get your cocktail or have dinner at the stunning Athens Riviera!
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