Cyclades log: Tinos
Windswept island, great food, superb winery
By Panos Kakaviatos for wine-chronicles.com
11 September 2019
After several hours cruising from the port of Piraeus near Athens, I arrived to the gusty environment on Tinos Island, whose barren and hilly landscape seems perfect for dystopian cinema. Its beauty is evident from the many windmills and over 50 villages, some among the most charming in Greece, like Pyrgos, dotting the landscape.
With a land area of 194,464 square kilometers (over 75,050 square miles) and about 9,000 year-round inhabitants, this Cycladic island is rather large, but more discrete than the jazzy, jet set Mykonos, just a 20 minute boat ride away, which is lit up like Taj Mahal by night.
The strong winds – gusts of 40 kilometers an hour are normal – explain why Tinos is known as the island home of Aeolus, the Greek god of the winds.
In more recent times the island is special for the Virgin Mary, as Our Lady of Tinos church houses a miraculous icon which, according to tradition, was found after the famous Virgin once appeared to a nun Pelagia and revealed to her the place where the icon was buried. A rug wide enough for pedestrians is parallel to the road from the port leading to the church, and some pilgrims still insist on getting to the church to see the icon on their knees, although most use their feet to light a candle and kiss the icon.
A veritable grand cru in Tinos
Starting at about 400 meters above sea level and up to 460, the island boasts a unique winery on an almost lunar landscape of enormous granite boulders. Many Assyrtiko vines of the T-OINOS winery are planted on thick sands over this rock and the estate, in operation since 2002, is justifiably highly prized for its high altitude, cool terroir.
Its wines wet stone like flavors emanating from these soils are so impressive that famous Bordeaux wine consultant Stéphane Derenoncourt has been the consultant winemaker here since about five years, and he travels to Tinos almost once a month to focus on new plantings. A new winery will be built by 2021.
I caught up Bordeaux-based assistant to Derenoncourt Julien Lavenu over dinner, and we spoke at length of the qualities of this wine, which will be the subject of my next blog entry.
Suffice to say that T-OINOS has been getting loads of positive press from critics and writers around the world, from FAZ in Germany to Julia Harding and Jancis Robinson. As I was leaving, PR manager Eleni Blouchou told me that a Financial Times correspondent was coming to visit next week.
Stay tuned for more details in the next Cyclades tour blog entry…
A gorgeous setting: Aeolis Tinos Suites
While I paid my own way to get to Athens, it is important to point out that the visits to Tinos were part of a media tour, and the T-OINOS team covered my travel expense from Athens to the island and two nights stay at a most gorgeous luxury hotel, aptly named the Aeolis Tinos Suites.
This hotel with 45 villa like rooms can lodge up to 100+ people, but in September there were only about 40 people total. Some 20 people make up for an attentive, courteous and friendly staff.
It is a subtle architecture, built to blend into the barren landscape and terraced hills, providing for a hint of calm seclusion for each guest who, at 380 meters high, can get a spectacular sunset view from far above the port.
Tinos Island’s Greek mythical roots and Christian heritage have inspired the unique Cycladic design for the Aeolis Tinos Suites logo, which weaves together three iconic design elements: the Wind Spiral, the Compass Card and the Cross.
My villa, room 26, exuded sheer elegance with earthy colors of olive and white, a walk in Italian shower and separate toilet, a comfortable, queen size bed and outdoor patio to recline and enjoy fresh island air.
The patios are built in such a way so that the wind is not bothersome, and you can read a book in tranquility. When the sun shines above, dive into the lovely pool set on the hilly terrace and later order a drink or Greek coffee from the bar.
A stone oven, above, is still used for slow cooked meats at the Zoga hotel restaurant, whose glass walls offer yet more spectacular views of the Aegean and nearby islands.
Breakfast is excellent here, with home made orange and strawberry jams, local breads, cheeses and yoghurts, and the more traditional fare of cereals, eggs, hams, bacons and scrambled eggs. The fresh squeezed orange juice is delicious. And one sure sign of quality is the excellent coffee – both the Greek and regular.
As you can see on this link, the hotel has a wide variety of room options for couples or families.
Visiting Pyrgos means visiting the wonderful small museum dedicated to famous Greek sculptor and significant figure of Modern Greek art, Yannoulis Chalepas, known for his exquisite marble sculptures.
The village has a pristine and refined aspect, no doubt due to the tasteful marble architecture, including the most elegant bus stops I have ever seen. Contemporary craftspeople work with marble on the island and especially in Pyrgos, marble is seen almost everywhere, more so than in other Greek island villages, giving it a special shine.
Another reason to visit Pyrgos is for its charming square, which includes the best galatobouriko dessert pie I have ever had, see above. Well, maybe not quite as good as my sister’s 😊.
Top restaurant on the sea: Psarotaverna