The wine and vineyards of Corfu
The Corfiots are renowned as great wine drinkers - and great singers. And the characteristics are connected. A local saying goes: 'The Corfiots put a lot of pepper in their food, which makes them crave quantities of wine; and then they throw themselves into song.'
Though commercially bottled wines have become more popular in recent years, country residents often consume the product of their own vineyards, made without preservatives or additives. The dominant grapes are the white Kakotrygis and red Petrokoritho grapes. Also cultivated on the island are the white Petrokoritho, Moschato Aspro, Robola and Kozanitis, as well as the red Kakotrygis, and Mavrodafni.
Just off a back road between Vatos and Giannades is an extensive estate, formerly the summer mansion of the distinguished and aristocratic Theotokis family. Their Theotoky Estate has been producing wine for at least 150 years, wine that for decades has been renowned as the among the best in Greece. A few years ago, under the management of the Antonopoulos Winery on the Mainland, the estate upgraded its equipment and facilities, at the same time reorganising its organic cultivation techniques, so that the wine is better than ever. The winery, however, is still housed in the original Venetian buildings, whose thick walls provide ideal conditions for cask-ageing the wine. One of the cellars contains a tasting area, which is open to individual visitors, and of course functions as an outlet for that great wine, as well as the estate's organic cold-pressed olive oil.
Not a huge distance away, tucked in the depths of the countryside just off the main road to Pelekas, the Ambelonas Winery combines a working vineyard with a museum and a restaurant. This extensive estate has a large acreage under local-variety vines, in addition to olive groves and forest. At its centre is an olive press and winery, reconstructed in traditional style, and housing pre-industrial olive presses and a large collection of associated agricultural equipment. Visitors can watch a video presentation showing the time-honoured process of oil- and wine-making. Outside, in a yard shaded by pergolas, the restaurant serves a very select menu of seasonal local dishes - many resurrected from old recipe collections. A small shop selling local products showcases the owner's much-awarded preserves and the estate wines.
Ambelonas hosts public events such as cooking courses, concerts and workshops, as well as private functions like weddings. It's open in the evening after 7.00 pm, Wednesday, Thursday and Friday. Closed all November. Open in winter on Sundays. Pelekas National Highway,