“Let this place be your inheritance and your garden, a paradise and a haven of salvation for those seeking to be saved”. With these words, the Holy Mountain in northeastern Greece was consecrated as the garden of the Mother of God and became out of bounds to all other women ever since. Thus the Mother of God recognized the uniqueness and distinct character of Mount Athos, the Orthodox Christian monastic state comprising 20 monasteries. The brethren of 17 monasteries are predominantly ethnically Greek, whilst 3 monasteries are Serbian, Bulgarian and Russian.
The Serbian monastery Hilandar (Hilandariou) is regarded by Serbs as the spiritual anchor outside Serbia which preserved Serbian identity, culture and religion from numerous conquerors and historic difficulties.
Nowadays, contact between monks on Mt Athos and the rest of the world is much easier. One still requires a special permit to enter the territory of the Holy Mountain. Mount Athos is still accessible to men only, but the travel is now easier, whilst plenty of information about the monasteries can be found on internet. A similar change happened with the winemaking of Mt Athos.
Medieval manuscripts testify that wine production in the monastic communities of Mt Athos ranged about 8-10 tons per year. Wine was made exclusively for the needs of the monastery. Traditionally, monks produced dry wines, wine made from grapes dried in the sun and fortified wines that were used only on special occasions, eg. important Christian holidays. Saint Sava proscribed that in Hilandariou monastery wine should be served during meals to everyone. Since the establishing of the monastery, wine was produced in the old cellar, situated under the dining hall. This wine cellar will continue to store wine for daily needs of the monastery, whilst a new state-of-the-art wine cellar has been built in the “arsanas” (the harbour) of Hilandariou.
Typikon (Tragos) from the year 972, the first document that outlines administration and governance of Mt Athos contains chapter 15 which relates to wine trade. According to this Constitution of Holy Mountain, the sale of wine outside Mount Athos was strictly prohibited. Thus, having an opportunity to taste wines from Holy Mountain was a rare privilege for anyone outside the boundaries of the peninsula. The only exception to this rule was in the time of hardships. Wine was allowed to be exchanged for goods that were lacking, but without taking money.
Times have changed. Nowadays, wines from Mount Athos have become available outside the Holy Mountain. Not only in Greece, but also in Russia, Serbia and other countries. Wine from Mt Athos monasteries can be purchased online and delivered to your home.
Transformation of winemaking on Mt Athos began in 1969. While hunting in the forests of Mt Athos, Evangelos Tsantalis sought shelter from a sudden storm, in St Panteleimon monastery. During his stay, he spotted old deserted vines. Already in 1971, a cooperation contract was signed with the monastery, investments began in the vineyards at the plot Metohi Chromitsa as well as full restoration of the winery with an intention to reflect the tradition of Mount Athos. Nowadays, Tsantali produces grapes from vineyards covering 70 hectares on Mt Athos.
Mount Athos wines are officially designated as PGI area wines (PGI Mount Athos). Varieties that are commonly found in vineyards of Mount Athos are virtually all those present in the wine region of Halkidiki, both indigenous (Athiri, Assyrtiko, Limnio, Roditis, Muscat of Alexandria) and international (Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Merlot, Syrah, Grenache).
Vineyards of Hilandariou
Following the terrible fire that broke out in Hilandariou in 2004, which burnt almost half of the monastery complex and the urgent need to allocate substantial funds for reconstruction of the monastery, Hilandariou monks realized that winemaking could be a winning combination to raise much-needed funds. Until that moment, a small quantity of wine had been produced solely for the needs of the monastery. Now the moment arrived to grow big. In cooperation with experts from the Faculty of Agriculture in Belgrade, the project of planting vineyards on the plot called Savino Polje (St Sava’s Field) was initiated. This particular plot was selected as old vineyards once stood there. The total vineyard surface covers 17 hectares. The vineyards predominantly contain international varieties: Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Grenache, Marselan, as well as limited quantities of local Greek and Serbian varieties: Prokupac, Vranac, Smederevka, Žilavka, Athiri, etc.
Recently, in Belgrade, the Holy Monastery Hilandar Foundation, Wine Art Cellar and Revin company have organized a première of SAVINO POLJE 2010 from Hilandar Winery. One would think that entering the market with just another Bordeaux blend is a courageous step, as such wines face a lot of competition on the Serbian market. But, actually, Hilandar Monastery remains unrivalled, regardless of varietal composition. Even wines from other monasteries that are available on the Serbian market (Bukovo, Studenica, Tvrdoš, Petkovica, Dečani, etc) cannot compare with it. Simply, Hilandar is a specific brand. For Orthodox Christian Serbs, it symbolizes the centuries-old relationship with Saint Sava. Wine labelled “Wine from Mount Athos“ and “Savino Polje“ doesn’t need extra marketing.
Savino Polje 2010 – Hilandariou Winery
(50% Merlot, 25% Cabernet Sauvignon, 25% Cabernet Franc)
Wine in good condition. The first harvest of the young vineyards located on Savino Polje (Sava’s Field). Although 6 years old, the wine exudes youth and freshness. Somehwat untamed acidity adds to youthful appeal. Fruity aromas prevail, accompanied with delicate notes of leather, cedar, coconut, sweet spices. The wine captivates the power of sun-drenched Mediterranean soils.
A promising start for Hilandar Monastery Winery and an indication what these young vineyards will produce when they reach maturity and give full expression of Savino Polje which combines different types of soil in a single plot ranging from alluvial soil, limestone to layers of basalt and granitic stone.
Retail price in Serbia: €16.30.