Geomorphology of the Slopes of Aigialeia
A unique formation molded by the sub-terrestrial travel of tectonic plates! Enceladus’ creation made a unique terroir to bear unique vines!
A unique sub-terrain has been formed in Aigialeia from the tectonic plates’ movements over millenniums. Thus the soil is full of elements, we would normally see on soil of different altitudes.
The creation of aigialian slopes is the outcome of the movement of tectonic plates that are still active in the area. Their dance, created the Corinthian Gulf. The slopes have been raised up to 2000m from the sea level and they continue to rise.
It is this elevation that created strong reliefs and high tilts. The medium altitude of the Aigialeia –Kalavryta region is 862m and the medium gradient is 33,5%! Most of our vineyards are at the altitude of 840m that we meet the most extended areas for vineyards. These areas used to be ancient coastlines that the tectonic movements elevated from the sea level.
It was the marine terraces, geological cracks (up to 700m), landslides and tidal waves that created this multileveled scenery of Aigialeian Slopes. The waters that drain down the mountains with the subterranean limestone played a great part on the surrounding scenery. These waters have altered the formation of numerous slopes, used today as the main vine-cultivating zones. They have also formed the 7 rivers in Aigialeia that empty to the Corinthian Gulf.
The materials carried by these waters, are bound with marine deposits. They form cohesive layers of earth made mostly of sand, volcanic rock and clay. That enhanced the geological background of the area. It is known as the Plattenkalk or finely grained limestone. It is an ancient formation of earth, the continuance of the mountain terrain of Pindos. Pindos runs through the central part of Greece.
So it is not uncommon for the vine growers of the area to find pebbles, rounded rocks and shells. Reminiscence forgotten from another era!
The climate of the Slopes of Aigialeia
On the slopes of Aigialeia the climate combines characteristics from both, mountain and sea. These qualities form the unique microclimate for our vineyards.
The climate is perhaps one of the most determinant factors that influence the terroir in long-term. The other 3 are: plant, soil and human factor.
In general terms, the climate is Mediterranean. The Mediterranean climate is temperate but does not favour the growth of plants as it separates the two most important components of growth: water and heat. In temperate zones there is a significant amount of water during winter but plants cannot grow due to low temperatures while in summer the temperature is much higher while the water supply is low.
Therefore, the plants need to adjust to drought, something that is not easy for all of them. Vines are capable of this adjustment just like the olive trees and wheat. Those three, are considered to be the holy trinity of the Mediterranean diet.
But what is so special about the climate of Aigialeia?
The climate in Aigialeia has some very particular features that make the vinegrowing zone on these slopes one of the most interesting and important on a national and global basis, concerning the production of white wine varieties is concerned. Those features are:
- the altitude
- the strong and unique relief
- the exposure of the slopes to northern winds
- the proximity to the Corinthian Gulf
- the exposure to constant winds
Τhe honorary President of the World Wine Organization Mrs. Kourakou states:
From a perspective of terrain and climate, the viticulture area above the Corinthian Gulf is one of the most interesting in the world.
The importance of altitude in the Mediterranean
Fernard Braudel, this great historian of the Mediterranean, named the high mountains “the North of the Mediterranean”. That is because the temperature gets lower as the altitude gets higher. In the wine growing zone of Aigialeia the higher we get the chillier it gets. The temperature reduces 0,72 ℃ every 100 metres in altitude. While rainfall gets heavier in higher altitudes with an increase of 46mm of rain for every 100m in altitude.
Hence, our vineyards that average 840m in altitude, have a temperature difference of 6 ℃ lower than the temperature of the valley and they receive 386mm more rain compared to the valley.
These differentiations from the typical Medieterranean climate are extremely important and beneficial to the formation of our unique terroir and the quality of the vines cultivated there.
To always be informed of the weather conditions, we have installed two meteorological stations at the 840m level, in order to monitor the climate elements and changes of our vineyards.
The importance of the area relief
The exposure of the Slopes of Aigialeia is North by Northeast allowing the vineyards to benefit from the cool winds (meltemia) that have a soothing effect on the vines during the difficult hot summer months. We get two types of wind in this region: the northern wind which is a current coming from the northeast and the Maistros (Maestral) the wind that blows from northwest.
Right on the opposite direction, behind the vineyards, 4 high mountains (Panahaiko 1,926m, Helmos 2,355m, Erimanthos 2,224m and Killini 2,374m) create a wall that protects the territory from the warm southern winds that come up from the Mediterranean Sea and Africa.
Mountain and sea: The natural cooling phenomenon!
In the vineyards of the slopes of Aigialeia, there is a natural cooling phenomenon, like a natural air-conditioner. This happens thanks to the difference in temperature between mountain and sea that causes the air to move. During summer, the sea temperature is at around 24℃ all day long. On mountains though, it can go from 30℃, during the day and down to 18℃, at night. The cool currents of air always move down, towards the soil, caressing the vineyards with their breeze, while the warm air goes up. This way a cool current is being formed. It is called aura when it comes from the sea during the day, or katanti when it comes down from the mountain slopes during the night.
This airflow cools the slopes naturally making the climate more favourable to the growth of the vines.
The temperature differences and the development of the aromas of wine
One factor that is being studied in depth in the oenological research is the temperature difference in the vineyard between day and night. It is a factor of great importance in the formation of the aromas and malic acid mainly for the white varieties and white wines. On the slopes of Aigialeia this temperature difference is one of the highest globally, between 10 to 20οC!
It is a fact that this is one of the strongest advantages of the vineyards on the highlands.
In Aigialeia, a festival of white varieties is blossoming!
On the mountainous slopes of Aigialeia, there is the festival of white wine varieties. The climate, the altitude and the relief of the slopes form the conditions that favour the aromas of these wines to bloom as well as the presence of malic acid and low PH.
The main grape varieties that we cultivate the varieties of Roditis, Malagousia, Assyrtiko, Chardonnay, Kudonitsa, Malvazia , Robola, Assyrtiko, Sauvignon Blanc, Chardonnay, Riesling, and Viognier.
Malagousia and Kydonitsa are two of our most recent cultivations. Both are varieties with a long history that are making their comeback on slopes of Aigialeia.
Malagousia is a Greek variety of grape that came only recently back to the limelight. It is a resilient variety that, according to the agronomist Haralambos Kotinis, used to be cultivated by the mountain communities and shepherds at an altitude of 1,100m. Malagousia thrives in dry climates and steep slopes. It’s harvest takes place mid-September. It is a variety that can endure even in soil that is poor in natural nutrients.
Kydonitsa is cultivated in the southern side of Peloponnesse, in the Monemvasia region. Its name suggests a tasteful sensation of either dry or sweet with subtle notes of quince in its aromas and taste. This particular variety has been acknowledged by Jose Vouillamoz (the writer of Wine Grapes with cowriter J.Robinson) as a potent one. And has been characterised as able to pass from the local recognition to global acclaim.
Today, the name of Aigialeia is being associated with the reddish Roditis whose skin has a lovely pink colour but produces white wine. According to a modern oenologist: “If there was an IQ test for grape varieties, then Roditis would be a genious.” This is due to its remarkable adaptability and its response to the climate changes and cultivating methods applied to this enduring grape.
Roditis traced its routes from ages ago. We find it with two different names: Roditis and Alepou (Fox), in the writings of Plenius (1st century BC). There is even a verse in Zante (1600 AD) that states there was no other grape with quality as high as this of Roditis.
It is in fact, a variety with the ability to ripen late in season. It manages to maintain its acidity in hot climates like those found in Peloponnese. It is resilient in dry climates and grows in light soils of “mid-fertility” and at higher elevations. This is why Roditis is a perfect fit for Aigialeia. Its slopes are where the variety shows its best features most potently.
In our winery we collaborate with the agronomist Mr. Kοstantinos Bakasietas in a project of studying different clones of Roditis. With this project we aim to seclude the best one of this Greek variety of excellent quality.
Our varieties include the local Greek Mavrodaphne but also national ones such as Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Syrah, Petit Verdot and Merlot. All of them together form the profile of Aigialeian region, on whose slopes; wines of a potent character are growing.
Syrah grows on the plateaus where the red soil is more acidic and the PH level is lower. Cabernet Sauvignon on the other hand, grows on the slopes. It gives us wines with fresh fruit flavour (when combined with Merlot) or robust aged wines.
Τhe legendary variety of the area though, is Mavrodaphne. It is the variety that gives both the renounced sweet wines with protected domination of origin (PDO), but also dry wines of top level quality! The name, Mavrodaphne, is being used to describe two very different versions of this variety: Tsigello and Renio. In Rouvalis Winery, we have chosen to cultivate Tsiggello grape which is the original old version of the variety, because of its unique quality.