Museum of Samos Wines

At the southwest corner of the inlet of Vathi, east of the main junction with the road to Karlovasi, is the Museum of Samos Wines (open daily, except Sun, from 8–8), laid out in a formerly active winery beside the water’s edge. Lateral rooms display vines, methods of pruning, different presses and torques; the central hall exhibits large wooden, storage and ageing vats—magnificent examples of the cooper’s art—which stand off the ground above recessed troughs which collect the constant stillicide of condensation drops. Modern artificially cooled caves, and a further area below dedicated to the art of barrel-making, can be visited. There is also the possibility of tasting.

   Byron immortalised Samian wine in his carousing refrain from Don Juan: ‘Fill high the cup of Samian wine! Leave battles to the Turkish hordes’. The wine that Byron has in mind was the rich Muscat-grape wine which is produced today; whereas in Antiquity, Samos mostly produced a dry red wine, which found little favour in the Aegean and could not compete with the more highly esteemed production of its neighbours, Chios and Lesbos. Although viticulture on the island goes back at least 3,000 years, there was a moment of dis continuity in the 15th, 16th and 17th centuries when the population of the island dropped dramatically as a result of insecurity and pirate incursions. When the island began to repopulate in the late 1600s a differ ent grape variety—better suited to its soil and climate, as it turned out—was planted: this was the Moschato Aspro variety which proved so successful that its sweet, golden, dessert wine became synonymous with the is land’s name. Red varieties continued to be cultivated until phylloxera decimated the vineyards in 1892, after which predominantly the moschato variety was re planted.

   The small-fruited grape has adapted perfectly to the mountainous areas of the island, with their suit able subsoil, cooler temperatures and long hours of sunshine. The prime area is Mount Ambelos, whose ancient name meaning a ‘vine’ is confirmation of the antiquity of viticulture here; the best vineyards grow at about 500–600m above sea level, and in places, even up to an altitude of 900m. The yield per hectare is low, and the grapes are picked over-ripe to give their fullest flavour. The wine has a golden, straw colour, and often a smokey quality to its nose; its pleasure is its complex and lingering, honied, after-taste.

Samos Island is part of the Northern Aegean Island Group, Greece.

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