Wednesday 11 February 2015

An interview with Nikos Manesis

Editor: Kassiani Natsiouli
The internationally renowned prolific writer, wine-writer and wine–critic, Nikos Manesis, talks to Linto Organisation team on the occasion of the screening of the film/documentary The Pelican’s Shift, in which he participates as a co-producer.
Originating from Corfu and with a brilliant career and studies abroad, where he lives, it is beyond any doubt that he knows the Greek wine like no one else does because he has specialized in this for the last 20 years.
Mr. Manesis tell us a few things about the documentary The Pelican’s Shift and about your cooperation with the director Mrs. Lea Binzer?
The Pelican’s Shift is a special film because it is a look into a closed society by a person who does not belong to the wine world, as Mrs. Binzer is a dedicated filmmaker. It is therefore the voice of Santorini, a cry of the local people. Our cooperation was excellent; we had very good communication and consultation, although we did not previously know each other. We are both "half-Greeks” since we speak Greek but do not think Greek...
What was your motivation to become a co-producer on this film?
At the beginning of our acquaintance Mrs. Binzer suggested I participate in the film, appearing as one of its heroes, but when I became aware of her cinematic style I thought it be more appropriate that I let the residents themselves talk about what concerns them... Maybe I would be more denunciatory and more torrid than I should. So I became a co-producer because all that the film involves had to be become known sooner or later.
In your opinion, what is the value of tradition in viticulture and what is it that makes Santorini vineyards so special?
The value of the tradition cannot be measured- it is simply priceless. People and their ways are a living museum. Their method lasts since the middle ages. Their technique is special because the vineyard of Santorini is extreme, with extreme wines. An important factor is the wind, both an enemy and an ally, and the soil. The vine is pruned accordingly in order to be protected by the strong wind and for the plants to survive. The sudden, local gusts can be catastrophic. Moreover, the desert conditions, the stony ground and the new soil, despite the age of the vineyard, hinder cultivation.
What made you get involved with the world of Greek wine and what are your feelings from this “journey”?
I came to Greece in 1992 to make a wine guide, because by then there was nothing similar neither in Greek nor in English. The people’s need for updating and information led me to it. There was a terrible lack of knowledge and the public’s knowledge (of wine) was only that of retsina, muscat and Mavrodafni. A terrible confusion! For me that was a challenge. Also, all unfair things I read and listened about Greece and its wine hurt me and I wanted to change them. Every time I went on a plane and left my country behind I was thinking what Greece could really be. Without any intention of idealism! So I accepted the great challenge. As for my feelings I feel joy and gratitude because "what I have lived cannot be bought”. I feel rich because I have met and still meet new lands; I discover new places and people. I have traveled over 500,000 kilometers and multiple miles. I have met Greece through its vines and vineyards, I have met good people, genuine and enlightened farmers, educated and industrious, like N.Pelekanos that appears in the film and S.Thymiopoulos in Naoussa.
What are we to expect from the upcoming, new, Greek vineyards and what is the future of vineyards in Greece? Please refer to some excellent Greek wines.
The future is uncertain unless some problems are tackled. The big problem in Greece is that we do not have many vineyards. The vineyards shrink all the time. Many have been uprooted or abandoned. Everyone focuses in technology, in the barrels and they do not plant or they focus on other kinds of crops, more profitable ones. Most of all, we need good raw material; clean genetic material without viruses. The good and great wines are made in the vineyard! A lot of harm has also been done by the unions, which despite receiving money they channeled it elsewhere. I am in favor of unions, but the petty interests must not get involved and proper work should be done. For example, it is necessary for the vineyards to be categorized. We need to invest in the land! I am generally optimistic because there are young winemakers who work honestly, consistently and in close collaboration with the producers. A worth mentioning case is that of the growers in the prefecture of Pieria, the Chrysostomou brothers and their Xinomavro Limnionas wine, Mousaios. It is a delicious, different wine and the people are down to earth – they know how to listen and to learn new things so as to become better. They cooperate with Angeliki Biba, an amazing oenologist and find the perfect balance. In total, it is important that people listen to the earth and control their raw material. More suggestions can be found in
What are your plans for the future and if you would like please share a secret you discovered through the undoubtedly great and long experience you have had in the world of Greek wine.
I am preparing a book about the Santorini terroir along with the excellent cook V.Zacharakis, who is very knowledgeable regarding his field, and the photographer An. Eleftherakis. Although we do not have anything in common and we are three completely different personalities we share the passion for work and perfectionism, and thus we communicate and collaborate perfectly. Patience and perseverance is needed in everything! I have been fighting for two years for this book. The secret I have discovered from the beginning of my course is that the label "produced in Greece" is the biggest problem of the Greek wine; the notoriety that follows us, though we are to blame for our lack of organization. We are our own worst enemies! The financial crisis may have been the best thing to happen to the Greek wine because it has made people more extroverted. The crisis has forced many to turn to abroad practices and thus learn how things work there. The fairy tale is over! Young people, the 30-year-olds are now at another level, relieved by old complexes. Fortunately there are people like Melina Tassou and her brother Vasilis (the Kikones), Apostolis Thymiopoulos, Christos Zafirakis from Tyrnavos and the Lyrarakis brothers from Crete.
Impressive, torrential and true... Many Thanks!

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