After every harvest and vinification we evaluate our vineyards and ourselves in order to continuously improve. The last two years are quite intertwined due to the pandemic, but are separate and unique in character considering the different climactic conditions of each growing season.
Just after harvest has concluded, thoughts immediately shift to the next growing season marked by the the long-awaited autumn rains. This year they came early causing the soil to soften before the first leaves even began to fall. This allowed us to start the fertilization process, which begins with spreading manure and ends with the sowing of the vetch. These two processes are the first steps in nutrition in our organic vineyards and essential for a healthy environment for our vines.
With the advent of winter, our attention turned to pruning; the next step in the process. The rain continued to fall, but there were several good days in between the rains allowing work in the vineyard to proceed at the optimal pace. The vetch grew well because the previous months’ growing conditions were ideal and it was able to be incorporated before budbreak. This, coupled with the addition of chicken manure, adds vital first nutrients for healthy plant growth.
We protect our vineyards with copper and sulfur, organic compounds that combat fungal outbreaks. Continual observation of insect activity via pheromone traps allows for minimal treatments at the best possible time for the best results and prevention.
This year was marked by three heat waves and no rain which took their toll on our vineyards. Our vineyards are not irrigated, and this leads to the root systems going ever deeper in search of the water they require. This has resulted in vines that are hardy, but temperatures that were close to 40 C in late June and early August were unprecedented and added stress to the vines.
Harvest began on August 4th, during the final heat wave of the summer. The high temperatures made work proceed at a breakneck pace; we were constantly reevaluating our timing by conducting berry sampling. This helps to estimate the maturation in each vineyard and this year, our sampling resulted in daily grape arrivals. Most varieties (Roussanne, Vidiano, Muscat of Spina, Syrah, Grenache) were harvested by August 25th. After this, we had a small break, as the other varieties (Mourvèdre and Romeiko) were delayed until mid-September as they tend to ripen later in the harvest season. The same was true of our Syrah that is planted at an elevation of 600 meters.
It will be hard to forget the intense heat and lack of rain during the 2021 growing season. Our production was reduced as a result, but not only were there less grapes, but they were also smaller in size, leading to wine that is characterized by high concentration, strong aromatic characteristics, and soft acidity.
With fermentation coming to an end, we are eagerly looking forward to the maturation of the 2021 harvest in order to evaluate the wine once in the bottle.
Many people ask us how climate change has impacted our vineyards and therefore our vinification process. This is not a simple question and of course it does not have a simple answer. The extreme weather conditions have affected our region greatly with extreme weather conditions reigning each season. In other words, when it's hot, it's hot; when it rains, it really rains, and so forth. Mild weather seems to be a thing of the past. So far, we have been able to face these conditions well and we hope that we will continue to be able to.
In the future if we are referring to the year 2020, we probably will not be thinking of the viticultural or oenological extension of the year. This year was an unprecedented year for our generation, where the events- apart
from the social impact on a global level- affected even the climate of the planet.
The 2019 harvest was followed by early rains that allowed us to sow the
vetch and incorporate the manure. These cultivation techniques have allowed us from year to year to visibly improve the physical properties of the soil but also to make it a living organism, with intense biological activity, ideal for growing quality grapes. The winter was relatively rainy but we did manage to finish the pruning in time. When bud break begun we had incorporated the vetch together with hens’ manure, in order to enrich the soil with nitrogen and other nutrients necessary for plant growth. The first weeks of growth went perfectly. The rain stopped reducing the risk of downy mildew. Organic interventions with sulfur to reduce powdery mildew were on the rise and pheromone traps were already in place to determine the population of the Grape Vine moth. The cool spring days contributed to a slow and steady plant growth. In April the temperature rose sharply and we found ourselves in front of a mild spring heat
wave. The plants, still having a lot of soil moisture at their disposal, grew very fast and within a weekend the scenery changed. Since then, the great race for the canopy management began. Shoot thinning, leaf thinning, shoot trimming were the daily routine until the end of July. In grape growing there is no quarantine but only social distancing, masks, gloves... and a lot of hard work!
The summer months ran smoothly and our attention was mainly focused on all the agricultural tasks that favor the ripening of quality grapes. Proper ventilation of plants to remove moisture and protection from fungal diseases; balance between sun exposure and shading to achieve maximum photosynthesis but also to protect from sunburn; mowing to reduce competition in the sun and competition in the water. From the weather point of view the summer was relatively mild, with no heatwaves and extreme temperatures. Also during the growing season we did not have any significant rainfall, something that worried us as our non irrigated vines depend on them. However, the combination of the above resulted in no intense water stress and we entered the harvest
period under the best circumstances. After a short breath at the end of July, we were now ready to dive deep. On August 1, the first grapes ripened, Roussanne as always. The next 10 days went smoothly, but after that the next breath we took was in early September with our tanks and barrels full. Our small network of collaborating producers, through communication, advice and supervision throughout the season, again delivered grapes of exceptional quality, completing this year's cycle. The year has given us high acidity and wines with high concentration and volume, once again dispelling the myth that in order to achieve this, you must aim for extremely low acreage yields. At the same time, the new blood in our production team brought ideas for experimentation and new techniques! Looking forward to seeing what the 2020 wines will be like. Hopefully better wines than the circumstances the world has faced this year.
After having gathered and organized our thoughts and experiences from the 2018 harvest, we were ready to take on the 2019 vintage. Rain started early this year and in early October we had already spread the manure and sowed the vetch for green manure of our organic vineyards. Autumn was filled with rain and that gave us hope for a good year ahead, as vetch was growing beautifully and the underground water reservoirs- that are going to provide irrigation during the growing season- were being replenished. The first months of 2019 were far from what we could have expected. The ongoing rain throughout January allowed us to work on the vineyards only for about 10 days thus delaying pruning. Through February, the ground was saturated with water and each rain meant flooding of the creeks and rivers. The 1202mm rainfall from February 1st to February 26th set a Europe–wide record that resulted in the collapse of bridges, floods, road damage and a plethora of other disasters. Fortunately, our vineyards survived these unprecedented conditions and continued developing for the growing season. The winter pushed back vine growth for almost a month...
The rain slowly faded away and the water–filled, sun–drenched vines grew vigorously. June started with several days of high humidity, which favored the spread of powdery mildew but luckily, our timely,organic treatments held any mildew at bay. The most important enemy of our vines for the season was undoubtedly the Grape Vine Moth. Due to such a wet winter its population surpassed anything we have seen before, making its restriction a crucial matter. Having planted a new vineyard in 2018, our summer labor was split in half. The new vines grew fast, the first elements of the trellising system were added and the small stems were fastened to their vertical position. Given all the conditions mentioned above, we expected a late harvest. August 13th was the day we received the first Roussanne grapes; right after was Syrah, Vidiano, Grenache and almost all vineyards in the altitude of 300 – 350 meters. Next came our Muscat of Spina and Assyrtiko from our cooperating growers. For about 10 days we patiently waited for the ripening of Mourvedre and the rest of the grapes from our high altitude vines (600 – 650 meters) and finally picked the last ones on September 14th. However harvest and winemaking does not stop here as the late Romeiko, the only local variety of the Chania region, is scheduled to be harvested gradually, until the middle of October. The first feeling of this year’s harvest is that for many years we haven’t seen such aromatic must to fill in the winery. Now having fresh wine in the tanks and barrels we are patiently waiting to see how it will evolve over time.
In recent years we have become accustomed by weather alterations and since our work depends directly on it, we thus learn to adapt accordingly. This year, the weather phenomena varied heavily from one place to the other in our region, which brought new criteria.
Winter was warm, with not much rain. Pruning finished just in time, and the incorporation of green manure and chicken manure was done a few days before bud-break. As the first leaves appeared, with them came the yearly struggle with vineyard diseases. Even though some regions did have rain throughout the cultivation period, that was not the case in Vatolakkos. Due to an arid spring we were restricted to only doing the absolute necessary (and as always, organically) interventions in order to prevent Powdery Mildew infections, where as Downy Mildew was not an issue. Further in the season we were forced to pull up our sleeves since high humidity in combination with the first hot summer days of June created favorable conditions for a Powdery Mildew attack, especially upon our sensitive Roussanne. The season ended in mid July, having the pherormone traps for the grapevine moth, guide our intervention.
2018 was an important year for the Manousakis Winery since the required extension of our vineyards has now become reality. After years of search, on the historic Gouverneto Monastery in the region of Akrotiri near the Chania airport, 3.4 hectars have been planted and will now be cultivated under our strict organic standards. For many years this specific area was cultivated by monks and now instead of a neglected vineyard a beautiful sea of new plants of Roussanne, Grenache, Mourvèdre, Vidiano, Kotsifali and Romeiko have been rooted. Some years of patience are obligatory until we have the chance to evaluate the possibilities of the new Terroir. Sandy deep ground, low altitude, continuous cool sea breeze but also strong winds with fewer rainfalls than in our well-known Vatolakkos, are the elements we have so far in our hands!
After the refreshing experience of planting the new vineyard, harvest is now a reality. The lack of rainfall and the relatively hot year brought harvest early, before August. First it was Roussanne, Vidiano, Grenache and then it was Syrah that positively surprised us all with its long hanging time. In the meantime, Muscat of Spina and Assyrtiko that was brought in from the cooperating producers filled the stainless steel tanks but also the winery with great aromas. Just before September, the high altitude vineyards of Mourvèdre, Roussanne and Grenache were harvested. Just then, the much needed rain came and stopped continuous months of drought. Syrah at 600 meters altitude, still not harvested but in perfect condition positively received the rain and with the days that followed one more successful year of harvest was completed for our winery. However, our work is not over yet as the Romeiko is still waiting. A local variety grown mainly in the prefecture of Chania and with late maturing. Our bet to bring it back to the forefront of Greek wine is still on!
The last vintages in Crete are characterized by their diversity, leading us constantly to new challenges." That was the first sentence of the 2016 harvest report, and we couldn't think of anything more appropriate for the 2017 vintage!
After a very dry 2016, plenty of rain fell during the autumn months. The cold and humid first months of the year, alongside the unprecedented- for our climate- snowfall, delayed budbreak, giving us some extra time to prepare for what was to be a very harsh season. Even during Spring the rain continued, allowing the vines to grow vigorously; we were kept on our toes however, constantly looking out for and trying to prevent fungal diseases from growing. With our main weapon being our knowledge and experience in organic viticulture since 1993, we managed to overcome all challenges unharmed!
Just after Easter Holidays we found a window to realize a plan that we have been preparing for more than 18 months. The replanting of 0.2 hectares with Roussanne vines reminded us how tough of an enemy (quite literally) is the schistolithic soil on which we grow our vines.
May 29th was the last major rainfall of the year, accumulating over 40mm in two days. After that the weather changed! A month later the temperature would reach 44 degrees Celsius for four consecutive days. That was the first of three more heatwaves of the season, during which the grapes were hiding, protected under the shade of their canopy.
These exceptional weather conditions had an impact on Syrah's biological clock, which, unlike most of the time, went through veraison before Vidiano and also Grenache, which normally go through veraison together. During July, one by one all of our varieties were entering the last stage of their maturation, with Roussanne and Mourvèdre being, as always, last in line.
The high temperatures continued and no one could safely guess whether we would have an early or late harvest. Finally, and after consecutive sampling on several vineyards, the first grapes were harvested on August 16th- almost 20 days later than what we are used to! Syrah on the lower vineyards of 300m, was in a hurry, and for the first time in 20 years it was harvested first, on the same day with our Roussanne. The next few weeks were remarkably calm, since one by one each vineyard was reaching the optimum maturity level, giving us time to think and organize our next steps. Later, Vidiano, Grenache at 300m altitude, the rest of our Syrah and Roussanne from the lower vineyards were harvested. During that time we received the extraordinary Muscat of Spina, from the un-grafted century-old vineyards of Spina, as well as the Assyrtiko.
Starting at beginning of September and for the next 17 days it was a non-stop race of everyday harvesting, sampling and organizing for the next day! Grenache and Roussanne at our high altitude 600m vineyards had reached their peak. Straight afterwards we went back to 300m for Mourvèdre before returning to 600m for the final Syrah.
When all the tanks were finally full, and no grapes hanging on our vineyards, we had the time to choose among the best vineyards of Romeiko grape for our surprise wine for this vintage. Stay tuned.
The past few vintages in Crete are characterized by dramatic weather inconsistencies, having us constantly face new and intriguing challenges. After a wet and cold 2015, we experienced a very dry 2016. Winter brought us some feeble rainfalls, which ended after March. This resulted in one of the driest years of the past decade. Although this may sound a bit dreary, this"drought" actually gave us an easy year with no disease usually caused by humidity! With the help of our brand new tractor, we were able to carry out vital viticultural practices efficiently, leading us to produce some of the best quality grapes we've had since our very first vintage back in 1997. Our non irrigated vineyards, having established their roots deep in the soil, managed to get through this dry time, not only untouched, but with increased yields! Our newly planted Vidiano and Roussanne vineyards were the only ones that struggled with some water stress, making us have to monitor leaf area and beware of weed overgrowth.
In the begging of July we had the first signs of veraison. Vidiano, Syrah and Grenache were the first grapes, soon after came the Roussanne and last but not least, our Mourvèdre. All the vineyards planted at 300m altitude showed that their maturation was 15 days ahead compared to those at 600m. Apart form the fact that we did not face any major heat waves, all indicated an early harvest. However, the great variation in temperature between night and day (even from 18°C at dawn, to 32°C at midday) during the maturation period, prolonged the hanging time and lead us to harvest at the normal dates for our vineyards (July 27 until September 15). Every year our Roussanne is the first grape to be harvested; so before the end of July, the first barrels were full of our most sought after wine. In the beginning of August, we had to deal with the major challenge of this vintage which was that all Vidiano, Grenache, and the higher altitude Roussanne grapes came to maturation almost at the same time! We made it through and couldn't be happier with the results. Those initial signs from our vineyards confirmed our assumptions for higher yields, so expect to be drinking plenty of Nostos next year!
The Cretan sun is always on our side and helped the vines produce an adequate amount of sugars. This paired with the slightly lower acidity of the grape must, gave us our strong 2016 character. As harvest progressed, the really mild August resulted in a prolonged hanging time for Syrah and therefore was very rich in phenolic compounds.
Mourvèdre is known for its late maturity and, as we expected, was the last grape variety to be harvested from our 300m altitude vineyards. Syrah grapes from our higher vineyards followed the same maturation path as the ones at 300m. Constant sampling- every two days- was absolutely necessary in order to reach the desired maturation point and complete harvest in the middle of September.
Currently, our local Romeiko grapes are being sun-dried for our experimental sweet wine and now we can sit back and relax... at least for a bit!