“Humans love to be sinners.”
Tip! From May to October, make sure to stop by Gaia Wines for a wine tasting session by the Black Beach. Try the beautiful rosé, and if you’re fanatic about IPA then ask for the Crazy Donkey beer tasting on the same site.
The wine which comes from the sea…sounds more like something which would slip from the lips of Shakespeare himself, and in a way, they kind of did. Located on a small stretch of black sand, Gaia Wines is unlike any winery you would have previously imagined, and to be completely honest I was fairly taken aback. Having driven on what seemed like a frontage road leading to the airport for about five minutes, I would have never envisioned the peaceful oasis which I would soon be sitting in. Yannis, owner and true visionary of wine and other alcoholic beverages (his brewery Crazy Donkey has an IPA that will blow your mind,) was sitting at the aged wooden tables overlooking the vast blue sea which surrounds Santorini. It was but a second after we sat down that my frantic journalistic hands were met with the coolest glass of rosé I had ever laid my eyes on. I don’t know whether it was its contrast with the surround ocean and black sand, the dappled light, or truly the wine itself; but the color was identical to that of some slightly watered down ruby.
Yannis Paraskevopoulos, an Athenian by birth, moved out to Santorini in 1974. Originally purchasing a home in Oia, he has recently relocated to a less crowded portion of the island, ever so slyly hinting that there are much greater wonders on Santorini than those found in Oia. We delve into what the island has become and the unique relationship that is beginning to form between Greece and its overwhelming touristic industry. A country which is openly in economic shambles is propping itself up on the only consistent characteristics it has left: the sun, the sea, and the people. Yannis himself does not hesitate to admit that in his line of work, he can not complain about the tourists who come to the winery eager to try some of the famous Santorini whites, check that box and hop back on the boat. But, it has to hurt a little. Yannis is running some sort of fine mixture between a science experiment and a fine oil painting. Simply put, if Gaia were a coloring book, it would constantly be redrawing the black outlines but it would never be coloring outside the lines.
We leap from one intoxicating conversation to the next before we finally land on the one that matters. The question of wine and the question of nature. Yannis begins by saying,
“Nature hates wine, nature hates alcohol.”
After all, it is poison. But then again, “humans love to be sinners.” We go onto discuss the current buzz label, “natural wine” a concept which Santorini in particular seems to be focusing its industry on. Yannis explains the flaw in this definition, enlightening us on the actual restrictions put on wine labels.
“Anyone can call their wine natural, after all, the fermentation process of making wine is, in fact, natural.”
Laughing at how this whole trend seems to be a mere manipulation of the human intellect, I am now fascinated by what this man has to say.
There is no doubt that Yannis sees the world a little differently than the rest of us. He seems to read between the lines more often than not, and has no problem cutting through the bullsh**t that many of us get distracted by. As we sit sipping glass after glass of truly remarkable wine, I too begin to feel as though I am seeing the world in a different light. A much simpler light. Yannis goes on to explain his other entrepreneurial endeavors, including his Crazy Donkey brewery which he started only a few years back. After taking my first sip of the beer I knew he had created a fierce IPA, and this was by no means a matter of luck. Yannis has recruited some of the finest crafters the area has to offer, in addition to a brewing mastermind from San Francisco – the IPA capital of the world.
Yannis spent a long time describing to us the Greek culture, something that, before speaking to him, had been extremely perplexing to me. Much like my experience with Italians (both in and outside of my family,) the Greeks value daily quality of life above anything else. By this, I mean daily happiness comes before business, money, financial stability, and especially before preparation for the future. Yannis describes it as the Greeks’ inability to foresee what may be to come. He laughs and says,
“The Greeks, they have the sun, the sea, the salt on their skin. They have the best food in the world and the most lively culture. The Greeks have everything they need, naturally. They have never needed to fight the elements or stock up food for a long hard winter, there is no real hardships when you live on the Greek Islands.”
I have to admit, after only a few days in Greece, I wholeheartedly agree with what Yannis is saying.
When living in a terrain so naturally blessed as the Greek Islands, why would you bother with the capitalist “rat race,” for lack of a better term. After all, the Greek economy has crumbled, nearly every business is in failure, and the country is completely bankrupt; yet here, everyday people jump in the ocean by 9 a.m., open a bottle of fabulous white wine by noon, eating fresh fish on the sand by 5 p.m., dancing and listening to live music for all the hours in between. So where are the real problems, really? Greece’s lack of industry may be confusing to tourists, and frustrating to the rest of the world, however to them, it seems to have had no direct effect on daily life.
Our experience and conversation at Gaia sparked one overarching question: What things should we really value in this life? And after my time spent sipping wine by the ocean, I’m starting to think that the Greeks just might be onto something.