The Ligas family, in Pella, Greece, have been farming their vines naturally, according to permaculture, since long before it became a well-known term. Now headed up by Meli Ligas, daughter of Thomas Ligas, the winery is entering its second generation.
The future is brighter than ever. The vineyards continue to thrive, and in the cellar Meli is fine-tuning her winemaking methods, listening to each vintage and discovering how to manage her grapes to best express the terroirs from which they come.
The Ligas quest is one of biodiversity, purity and transparency above all else. These are honest, unadulterated Greek wines that speak to us from the place where they were grown and made with love.
LITTLEWINE spoke with Meli Ligas for this article in May 2022
People: Meli Ligas, Thomas Ligas and Jason Ligas
Place: Pella, Central Macedonia, Greece
Varieties: Roditis, Assyrtiko, Kidonitsa, Xinomavro, Moschomavro and Limniona
Farming: Organic & according to permaculture
Hectares: 9 hectares (with 4 additional hectares of young vines not yet in production)
Did You Know? Although famous for its soulful red wines that are often compared to Nebbiolo, Meli loves Xinomavro for its versatility. She says,
"Xinomavro is one of my favourites. You can work in so many different ways — Blanc de Noirs, light reds, heavier reds, solera, dark rosé, light rosé… there are so many possibilities. It has lots of acidity, lots of tannins, lots of colour, so depending on how you organise picking, you can have very different approaches to the wines."
Since day one, the vineyards have been farmed organically. However, it wasn’t simply a case of working without chemicals — this was also about a holistic connection to the land. Thomas was greatly inspired by Masanobu Fukuoka’s writing on agriculture; and has always worked according to observation, and by listening to his instincts. Meli says,
“He is very connected to the earth. He has always picked herbs to make teas for the wine, he follows the cycles of the natural world, pays attention to the moon cycles… At the time, he really thought he was on his own in doing so. Every other Greek winemaker said he was doing bad work, and that he thought he was a magician. He didn’t know what was happening elsewhere in the world of wine, so when my brother and I told him that working in a natural way was an increasing method for winemakers: ‘dad, you’re doing the same thing! You’re also working in this natural, biodynamic, permaculture approach.’ He was truly an autodidact when it came to this. He would learn about the particularities of a certain plant, and then say, ‘why can’t I use it for my vines?’ This was all done through feeling.”
They work according to a self-sustaining model. They make their own teas and their own preparations, to avoid the need to purchase from external companies. They go for walks into the mountains to harvest the plants, such as horsetail, and dry them in a designated room where their uncle had once cultivated mushrooms. They collect rainwater to make these teas, and they work with the cycle of nature to choose the optimal picking times. For horsetail, for example, they harvest in September, when the horsetail is brown as it contains more silica at this moment in time (silica is the element used to combat mildew).
They also work with beeswax when pruning to protect the wounds made when cutting the wood, as well as propolis, which has healing properties. Chamomile is used during hot periods in August to help the vines to cool down, avoiding sunburn on the grapes. They also work with a mineral called zeolite, also found nearby, which absorbs water and releases it slowly over time. They spread this on the leaves of the vines, and also put it in the ground when they plant baby vines, to help balance any periods of drought. Wild garlic is also used to bring more nitrogen to the soil, particularly in periods of heat and stress.