The Greek island of Mykonos may be best known as a picturesque cruise ship, upmarket shopping and beach party destination. But what many don’t realize: there is also a quieter, less crowded side to the island. All you have to do is hop on one of the public buses that connect Chora with the villages across the island or hire a car for the day and drive yourself around. If you’re a foodie, make sure you stop by Mykonos Vioma, an organic farm and vineyard near the village of Ano Mera. You won’t regret it.
What and where is Mykonos Vioma?
We drive through narrow, winding country lanes north-west of Ano Mera. Thanks to MapsMe, we don’t get lost. You could even walk here from the village: it’s only 2.5 kilometers from the bus stop in Ano Mera.
A big wooden sign over a driveway flanked by vines signals: we have arrived. It’s a beautiful, sunny October day. The temperature is just right.
Upon arrival, we are greeted by Dimitra. Her father Nikos, once an inspector for the Bank of Greece in Athens, invested his retirement, and a lot of passion and dedication to establish the farm and vineyard. Measuring a total of 11 acres, the farm is made up of land belonging to Nikos’ family and land leased off the Monastery of Panagia Tourliani in Ano Mera.
Cultivated since the 19th century, the monastery’s historic vineyard was abandoned for decades. Nikos replanted it from scratch: watering the vines for three years and waiting for another two until he was able to produce his first wine. A true labor of love…
Dimitra herself joined her parents on the farm in 2013. From here, she runs her own business, Yummy Pedals, taking holidaymakers on guided cycling tours through the Mykonian countryside and to secluded beaches. Today, she’s showing us and a few other visitors around the farm.
What is unique about the vineyard?
One of the first things we notice is that the vines are pruned low. Having owned its nickname island of the winds, Mykonos can get very windy (hence those iconic windmills in Chora). Letting the vines grow as they do elsewhere would just destroy them.
We also learn that Dimitra’s father planted special grape varieties, called anydres (άνυδρες) which means without water (aneu/άνευ = without and ydor/ύδωρ = water). Perfect for the dry, hot climate on the island: once established, these vines don’t require irrigation. They survive on the moisture they get from the air and out of the soil, thanks to their deep roots. The arid climate also makes the vines less susceptible to diseases.
The family grows five grape varieties (for five different wines): Agiannitis, Asyrtiko, Athiri, Malagouzia and Mandilari. Asyrtiko and Athiri make up the Paraportiano white wine. Agiannitis and Mandilari grapes make the red wine of the same name. These wines are named after the Paraportiani Church in Chora.
Mandilari grapes are also used to make the Veggera rose wine.
Vioma’s white dessert wine is made of Malagouzia grapes. Malagouzia and Mandilari grapes make up the red dessert wine. Aptly named Heliofilos (meaning friend of the sun), these grapes are allowed to sun-dry 7-10 days before being crushed in the wine-press, giving them the extra sweetness you’d want in a dessert wine.
The vines are cultivated using biodynamic principles: no chemicals and the only mechanical intervention are the farm’s animals – Marika the donkey, Marousso the sheep, three generations of goats, and a few chickens and turkeys – which are allowed to roam freely around the vines once the grapes are harvested.
Not only that: Dimitra’s father had read in studies that vines grow healthier with music. Unsurprisingly, speakers dotted around the vineyard stream classical music.
What else makes Mykonos Vioma special?
Being a farm, there is also a small veggie garden. Manure from the farm animals mixed with straw is used as a natural fertilizer, and crushed eggshells are spread between the plants for their calcium.
Produce changes with the season and is served on delicious tasting plates with local meats, cheeses and more on the shady terrace above the vineyard.
That’s where we relax after our farm tour, tasting different wines and devouring a plate of traditional mezze:
- Salty, air-dried Louza ham
- Varies types of cheeses: Kopanisti (a salty, tangy Mykonian cheese), Feta, Xynotyro (a sour cheese from Mykonos) and Gruyere (plain and with chili)
- Sun-dried tomatoes and olives; served with
- Mostra, a typical appetizer of Paximadi (double-baked barley rusk) topped with tomato and Kopanisti cheese.
By the way, the Louza ham, Kopanisti cheese, sun-dried tomatoes and olives don’t require refrigeration (as in prior times, fridges didn’t exist). And the double-baking of the rusk means it can be eaten for months.
Listening to Dimitra as she talks about her family and the farm, we also learn more about Mykonos, its history and culture, and how different (and hard) life was only two generations ago.
While tourism has helped lift Mykonos out of poverty, it has also changed the face of the island – sadly not always for the better. Thankfully, there are still places like Mykonos Vioma where you can experience a slower, more traditional pace of life away from the luxury boutiques of Chora and the crazy beach parties.
I’d love to visit. What do I need to know?
Mykonos Vioma welcomes visitors every day from the beginning of April to the end of October, between 11:00 and 15:30 (April and October) or 17:00 (May to September). The farm is busiest from 13:00 to 15:00, and during the months May and September.
While organised groups from cruise ships visit about twice a week in the morning, most of the farm’s visitors are independent travelers. Send Dimitra an email to confirm the times for the farm tours. You don’t want to miss them.
If you happen to visit in the second half of August, you could even get your hands dirty and help with the harvest. If that’s something that interests you contact Dimitra and her family via email. You won’t get paid (and you’ll have to sort out your accommodation), but the family is super sweet, and you’ll get homemade meals and maybe even wine or honey to take home.
For those who’d like to combine a visit to the farm with a cycling tour: The Yummy Pedals tours run from early March to the end of October (there may even be tours in February and November – just ask).
Group sizes vary, but on average, there are 6 to 8 people. Dimitra even has a few e-bikes, a toddler seat and kids’ bikes. There is really no excuse – everyone can join. For details, check out the Yummy Pedals website and contact her.
Where can I buy Vioma’s wines?
While visitors can buy a bottle (or a case) straight from the farm, Vioma’s wines are also available at local super markets, and even some hotels and restaurants in Mykonos. Just keep an eye out for the names listed above.