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The sweet white wines of Samos

The sweet white wines of Samos win plaudits from across the world

The hillsides of Mount Ampelos on Samos have a long history of winemaking that reaches back as far as 1200 BC and the island is noted for the sweet desert wines derived from the white Muscat grape.

Winemaking on Samos is also notable for its co-operative of winemakers, established in 1934, that controls all production from it's two wineries at Karlovassi and Malagari.

The Union of Winemaking Cooperatives of Samos (EOSS) has amalgamated all 26 local co-operatives on Samos and now represents all wine growers on the island, from striking deals with workers' unions to negotiating contracts with wine merchants.

It has proved a productive partnership with 80% of the annual 7,000 tons of Samos wines produced each year now exported across the world. France, the home of wine, takes the most Samos wine followed by the UK and Australia.

It's the Muscat grape that reigns supreme on Samos, a popular variety in Greece and all around the Mediterranean. But, on Samos, they specialise in Muscat Blanc G Petit's Grains which is grown on more than 90% of vineyards.

It is cultivated on the slopes of Mount Ampelos on terraced tiers up to an altitude of around 900 metres. In order to produce the famous floral Samos bouquet the vines are trimmed back to produce a low but exceptionally fruity grape yield.

The aroma or 'nose' of a Samos wine is unmistakable with a hint of refreshing orange blossom and piquant rose petals that elevate it above Muscat wines produced in other regions.

Although most of the wine made on Samos is sweet there are some excellent dry wines made from both white and red grapes, But all the sweet wines of Samos come with the prestigious Appellation d' Origine Controlee (AOC) label.

The EOSS has two wineries, each with its own tradition. The Karlovassi winery takes grapes from village vineyards to the north of Samos while the Malagari winery, just a short distance from Samos Town, serves the rest of the island.

Both wineries are open to the public, but visitors to the Malagari winery have the bonus of touring the excellent Samos Wine Museum which first opened in 2005 in one of the oldest buildings at Malagari.

The museum is actually housed in what was once a privately-owned winery and is a fully working exhibit, with huge wooden casks from the early 20th century.

There are displays of traditional winemaking tools, old vats and tubs used in the fermenting process and visitors can even learn the art of making a wooden barrel while a remarkable simulation depicts the cultivation of vines on the steep terraces of Samos from planting to harvesting.