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“I hope to find reality in the wines. I don’t want things to be perfect, I prefer them to be real.”

Chatzivaritis Estate

Chloi Chatzivaryti has an aura of determination and sensitivity. As soon as she begins to speak, the room immediately falls quiet and you find yourself taking in—and hanging onto—every word. 

Her energy is found in her wines. They tell a story of self-belief, trust in nature, and open-mindedness. Born from experiments, they are compelling and unlike any wines that Greece has seen before; beautiful in their rainbow shades of almond and nectar. And importantly, there’s not an off-flavour to be found. This is natural wine, Chloi style: pure, precise and moving. 

Meet Chloi 

“I hope to find reality in the wines. I don’t want things to be perfect, I prefer them to be real.” 

It’s a sentiment that echoes not only what you find in her bottles of Greek magic, but also her attitude when she first decided to explore the world of wine. 

Chloi

Her mother grew up in Goumenissa, but moved to France to work in agro and enotourism. On moving back to Greece she met her father, who initially worked in masonry; selling the marble that the region is famous for. They had a shared passion for wine, and while drinking the wines of the 80s they decided they’d like to plant a vineyard one day. So, in 1993, the first vines were planted, and they began making some wines for fun—for family and friends. By 2005, they’d decided that was that: the winery would become their next chapter in life, and deserved all their attention. The first Chatzivariti vintage was 2007. 

Chloi decided to follow in her family’s footsteps’; not out of family duty, but because she also found the realm of wine fascinating with its deep-rooted links to the history of her country. She studied agronomy and viticulture in Greece, and then travelled to France to pursue the Montpellier SupAgro Master’s Degree in Oenology and Viticulture.

While there, she also studied in Lisbon, as well as interning with Leon Barral—where she was the “reine de la pressoir” / “the Queen of the press” (ie. her job was to clean, as so many interns’ first jobs are), followed by Château Margaux (aim high, right?!) Next, she also travelled to New Zealand, where she worked at the giant Pernod Ricard in Marlborough. This would be the polar-opposite experience to her parents’ winery back home. She smiles as she says, 

“It was interesting to know how big cellars work, even though it’s not exactly my style…”

She came back for one harvest in Greece, then departed for the last time: to Argentina and Chile. With her thirst for travel and learning quenched, she returned to Goumenissa in 2017 for good.

The Vineyards 

Before phylloxera, the vineyards of the Goumenissa region totalled 1,100 hectares. Now, they’re down to just 450, with only six wineries in the area. The region is particularly renowned for Xinomavro—the celebrity of Greek varieties—but also for its indigenous, lesser-known but equally charming black variety, Negoska.  

The family estate consists of almost 50 hectares, which have been tended organically since the first 20 were planted back in 1993.  The majority of the vines are the aforementioned Xinomavro and Negoska, as well as the white Greek grapes Roditis and Assyrtiko, and some international varieties: Sauvignon Blanc, Merlot, Chardonnay and Cabernet Sauvignon.  

When she returned to Greece, Chloi took on 13 hectares for her own project, and she has planted a further five hectares to Xinomavro, Malagouzia, Muscat of Samos and Roditis. Next, she's thinking of planting some additional Negoska. Chloi’s passion for environmentally-friendly viticulture doesn’t stop at organics. She’s modest, knowing it’s only the beginning of the road:

“I still have a long way in front of me. I’m starting to experiment with permaculture, and I’ll be in the vineyards much more this year.” 

It is the notion of permaculture that really makes her eyes light up. 

“My family has always worked organically, but I want to go further than that. I’ve always had the idea in my mind that monoculture is not the solution. I don’t know if I’ll go towards biodynamics yet, as right now I believe more in agroforestry and permaculture. I think this is the solution for creating an ecosystem amongst the vines. Of course, our focus lies with the vines, but if you introduce trees, then they attract bugs which will eat the enemies of the vine. It’s about giving the vines a better defence mechanism, all with the goal of intervening less.”

She will experiment with planting specific cover crops, and one day hopes to have her own cows, so she can use her own manure:

“When you have animals too, then it’s a real ecosystem. Monocultures aren’t ecosystems. Nature has never seen a monoculture. In the forest, one thing helps another—that’s why there’s balance—nothing exists alone.” 

The Wines

Chloi first came into contact with the idea of natural wine in 2012, in France. She says, 

“I was first introduced to biodynamics and permaculture before I discovered natural wines. Back in Greece in 2012, nobody knew what natural wine was. In France it’s easier to come into contact with producers making wines in that way.” 

It was then that she decided when the time came for her to produce wine, she’d do it her own way. 

“I want the varieties to express their characteristics. For me, it was always the idea of drinking a glass of wine and really understanding where it comes from—to taste the grapes and find that in the wine.”

In order to achieve this, she feels the wines must be made with as little intervention as possible, ageing only in old wood (or amphorae for her skin-contact wines), and with minimal sulphites added (never exceeding 30mg/l). Her Negoska undergoes a “totally DIY” carbonic fermentation—she adds a touch of juice at the bottom of the tank to encourage CO2 production as quickly as possible, after which she seals the tank with nylon and has a heater by the side to get the temperature up. Rudimentary, perhaps, but the resulting wine is so astonishingly good that it’s evident this method was born from much thinking. 

Her wines are created as a result of her interpretation of what each vineyard site brings to the table. She explains, 

“My ideas come from my experience with the parcels. In my first year, it was very hard to understand what the vines would give me, as I hadn’t worked with them before. I harvest all the parcels separately to get an idea of what each soil type and variety brings. As time goes by, you begin to understand how each parcel reacts according to the year.”

The winery

Gaining a better understanding of her vineyards means she feels more confident in her winemaking: 

“Now, it’s a little easier to be in control. I know which parcels have sandy soils, which produce more phenolics. And if I’m looking for lower pHs, I know to look for the vines at higher elevation. Then, it’s all comes down to sorting the grapes. Sorting, sorting sorting. We sort for 12 hours a day sometimes...”

Even while thinking about the gruelling, repetitive task of sorting berries, Chloi is beaming. Whether or not you believe in destiny, this is a woman clearly following her heart, and we sense an enlightening life journey ahead of her. Although she might say she wants to start slowly, we have a feeling that within the blink of an eye her wines—and indeed the ecosystem they come from—will flourish even further.   

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