WWC22 – Christos Fatouros

WWC22 Fatouros - Ms Mahalin in her winery

See our WWC22 guide for more. We're publishing this entry to our 2022 writing competition with heavy hearts. The climate crisis continues to ramp up and it's leaving long scars on landscapes and lives. Entrant Christos Fatouros, who has written for our wine competition more than once, sent this email yesterday, 26 July 2022, not even a month after submitting the competition entry below.

Dear editorial team,
it is my unfortunate position to inform you of a catastrophe in the Melampes area of Crete. Nearly 80% of the pre phylloxera vines owned by villagers that Ms Malihin had brought together, were burned by wildfires, along with centuries old olive trees. The people of Melampes are farmers and are now facing a grim future. To this end we are making efforts, we are holding charity auctions with a lot producers and people giving from their cellars and the money will go towards supporting the farmers. Also Ms Malihin initiated a crowdfunding campaign. On the bright side its us coming together, same as last year for evia, a fear years before that for Mati etc. I don't really know where I am going with this, just thought to let you know in case something got uploaded and there was no mention of the situation as it is (it was the winery for this year's article I chose). Thank you for your time. Be well.
Christos Fatouros

The link to the crowdfunding

Please donate if you can.

Christos Fatouros orignally wrote I am working in 360 Degrees Pop Art Hotel as a receptionist, and it is our prerogative and goal to turn its cellar to the service of its guests and to become a full fledged wine hotel! Also a contributor to the online encyclopedia of greek wine with a great sommelier algorithm, oenosco.gr. I enjoy wine with good company and consider it a vital part of storytelling around a table. 

Melampes and Malihin, not a Miyazaki movie

Water salinization, land degradation, pesticide pollution of soil/water/food chains show us that the current path we are on is not sustainable. Back to the drawing board, with a daunting task to feed a global population that is at an all time high, and yet somehow manage to do it while reversing the damage we have done to our environment. While it is very easy to check a newsfeed and feel overwhelmed, it would be more prudent to take a different approach and see what we can do and how we can impact this situation. 

Our story is not a Miyazaki movie, but it very well could be. It takes place a few years ago in Crete, Melampes, when a young oenologist in her dissertation isolates the native yeasts of Vidiano and uses them in its vinification. The results justified her, as it showcased the potential Vidiano has.

Life goes on as it does, and work in Cretan wineries brings experience. But to what end? Time passes and she finds a like-minded individual, willing to combine the two islands they each used to care for and work in, Crete with Santorini, and their pre phylloxera vines. What was to become Rizes2 is born, first in thought. It combines Assyrtiko with Vidiano and by this point the young winemakers are making ripples. Vidiano comes from Fourfoura in Rethymno at about 500 meters altitude, and the Assyrtiko from Louros, Santorini. The two varieties compliment each other, Vidiano adding stonecore fruit, herbs to the razor sharp acidity and minerality of Assyrtiko and having great aging potential. Iliana Malihin and Spyros Chryssos succeeded in their venture. The aftermath finds Iliana looking for more Vidiano, and especially the old vines of her memories. During the 1970s’ there were 700 plus acres of Vidiano pre phylloxera vines around Melampes, which were tragically destroyed due to wildfires. However, Ms Malihin did not relent and initially started working with a team of five producers. That became the first piece of what would become a larger picture. Seeing the commitment that was put in, as she was there in every step from tending the field all the way to harvest, word of mouth was generated. When harvest came and the yield was significantly better, more producers started flocking to her. Thus, a young girl with memories of her grandfather showing her his fields and the result of one's labor in them was able to revitalize a local economy, and get the producers to implement protocols that regenerate the land. Her efforts brought together many different farmers and brought to the spotlight hundreds of acres of abandoned pre phylloxera vines. Now the number of acres and vines have significantly increased, giving purpose to once abandoned land. Her respect for the earth would sound almost spiritual, were it not so deeply rooted in science (Ms Malihin is an agronomist as well as an oenologist). Her calling is to restore, be that vine or soil health. The team she leads has not denied their assistance to any that ask for their help, be that producers that have a business interest with them or not, because it is in their mindset that for one to flourish and thrive, you need a support system, you need everyone pulling each other up. Often enough that used to be found in communities, so why not once again? 

WWC22 Fatouros - Iliana Malihin in the vineyards
Iliana Malihin in the old Vidiano vineyards of Crete

Organic and biodynamic practices are implemented on the vines and a curious eye will find biodiversity in plantings. Between the vines we will find herbs and shrubs, adding value as fire retardants and assisting with plant stress. Land degradation is prevented and/or reversed by meticulous care and by allowing the surrounding ecosystem to flourish. Pesticides are not used and the water supply is pure. 

Seeing all this, I think of the impact one person can have. In this all too true story, Iliana brought together the producers of villages in Rethimno, revitalized the local economy, regenerated abandoned vineyards and soils and applied practices for long term soil health. I would argue that is not the most impactful goal Ms Malihin has achieved however. Being at a critical junction in the equilibrium with our environment, I would say that showing to all of us that we can still effect change and igniting hope is the most impactful effect Ms Malihin has had. After all, if a 24 year old with no winery ties or extensive land (just a little plot the grandfather owned) can go against the current and make lasting change, then surely we can take a page out of her book. I have a funny feeling she won’t mind.

Photographs were provided by Christos Fatouros.