Mount Olympus – home, as everyone knows to Zeus, Hera, Poseidon, Demeter, Hephaestus, Athena, Aphrodite, Ares, Apollo, Artemis, Hermes, Hestia, Dionysus*. And yep, I did have to look them up! What I hadn’t quite grasped was that Olympus is not just one mountain. The highest peak is Mytikas, Pantheon in ancient times, where the deities met and where the gods thrones were set. Apart from the gods, the foot of the mountain was also where the nine Muses lived. Did you know that Dionysus’ Throne was made out of gold-plated fir wood? It was decorated with grape bunches carved into amethyst, snakes carved in serpentine, and various horned animals carved in onyx, sard, jade, and carnelian. Gay, got to be…
The fact that today there are vineyards scattered over the range escaped me. And rather exciting they are to visit too.
Tsantali Rapsani Wine Adventure
Running since 2013 the Rapsani Wine Adventure gets you right up to those vineyards where you get to taste the Tsantali wines right amongst the vines. Bump your way in the back of a Range Rover (or if your buttocks are not quite as hard-core as mine you can get a padded seat in an actual car) up gravel roads to the first halt, at about 280 meters. Here wild bush vines spread out across the slope – quite breath taking with the valley and mountain tops spread out all around.
Then back in the truck to head further up and a stop at a more managed – trellised – vineyard at 680 meters and a tasting of the Tsantali Rapsani Reserve. A blend of Xinomavro, Krassato, Stavroto its a dry, tannic beaut full of blackberries and plums with a sprinkling of warming spice and a touch of earthiness. Tasting a wine in the middle of the vineyard where it originated which just happens to be on the side of Mount Olympus – priceless!
I could have spent all day roaming the mountain, taking in the views, waiting for the light for a perfect photo and sipping on the wines. As it was I did loose myself for a few minutes amongst the vines, vibrantly green in their flush of spring youthfulness. Camera around the neck, branded glass in one hand and the bottle of the Reserve in the other. Might well have upset a couple of people though, wandering of with the bottle :-)
The tour continued – a visit to a hidden monastery (Monastery Agioi Theodoroi – photos on Spittoon Extra) and a hearty meal in a wonderful tavern in Rapsani village itself. Tsantali Rapsani Reserve wines in magnum bottles were opened for us (vintages 1999, 2002 and 2010) and a wonderful, tomato-scented Grand Reserve 2008 demonstrated how gorgeously the wines from the red Xinomavro can age.
“beyond the standard vineyard tours and wine tastings, every detail had to be carefully planned in order to offer an amazing experiential discovery of this distinctive PDO zone of Greece. Convertible sportscars provide the best “adventurous” means of transportation, springing the participants into action. Moving onwards and upwards from 200 to 750 meters of altitude, wondrous sites keep revealing while the participants get to understand the assets that make Rapsani so distinctive: small vine parcels scattered in three zones, different altitude and conditions, different viticulture methods, yet always the same three grapes of Xinomavro, Krassato and Stavroto.” Rapsani Wine Adventure