The organic vineyard, Volacus Wine, is situated at Gardari, near the village of Falatados, in a moonscape with ‘volakes’, as the locals call the area’s rounded giant granite boulders. I first saw the place as a tourist, like so many thousands of other visitors who come to marvel at this geological phenomenon. What I didn’t know back then was that the area was famous for its grapes and that it had a long history of wine production. I discovered that a few years ago when I visited Tiniakoi Ambelones (Tinos Vineyards), the first vineyard that dared to invest in this surreal setting in the 00s.
The success of Tiniakoi Ambelones as well as the exceptional quality of the wines produced from these mountainous vines encouraged the young Michalis Kontizas to follow their example. In 2004 he bought about 30,000 sq m in the area, planted his vines in 2010 and three years ago started selling his first bottles of Malagouzia.
We met him at his vineyard, where he told us about his venture:
“This estate is my dreams come true. I fell in love with the landscape, so beautiful and yet so wild that it needed a lot of work to tame it and make the terracing for the vines among those stupendous boulders. To begin with I planted Malagouzia and then put some Assyrtiko and Mavrotragano, that are ideal varietals for this soil. The sandy clayey earth with some granite, in combination with the special microclimate of the area, favours the production of quality grapes. Our Malagrouzia is different from those of the mainland; it’s aromatic but lacks that characteristic slight aroma of fruit and flowers, it’s fresh, quite sharp, a bit acrid with an intense metallic finish – features of Cycladic wines”.
What one admires most about Michalis is his modesty and the passion and care he brings to his profession. After he managed to tame the landscape, an exhausting process, he made use of the old stone-built houses, the cells, a venerable wine press and two threshing floors – indications of agricultural life in the past – and has created a winery that is open to visitors. At Volacus Wine not only can you view the scenery, you can taste his Malagouzia – the others are not yet ready – along with local island delicacies like louza and cheeses, and find out more about the history of this unique place.