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The Aegina Vineyards

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Until the middle of the last century, there were no pistachio trees in Aegina; there were only vineyards - hectares of vines producing tonnes of grapes that were loaded onto boats for Piraeus. Old-timers still remember thestrong scents emanating from the grape presses hundreds of metres away, the sharp odour of must and how your shoes - or bare feet - would stick to the ground when you approached: the must would leak out of the baskets being carried by the workers and soak into the soil, making it sweet. And they remember how you could tell those who crushed grapes barefoot from their feet, dyed a dark brown colour that took months to wash out. They didn't care, though; it reminded them of how festive grape-crushing could be. Grapes would be crushed through the night at old man Rapanis' press, behind the phone company, under the light of an electric bulb and some oil lamps, as the crushers drank warm must from the stems with a ladle.

The island's main varieties were Rhoditis and Savatiano, ideal for making good Aeginetan retsina wine. The vineyards were later devastated by phylloxera and as pistachio trees had already been established, the island inhabitants focused on this new crop. But the memories of centuries are not easily forgotten - after all, ancient Aegina was also called Oenone, or Oenoe, daughter of King Oeneus ('wine man'), who was the first to popularise wine in Greece. Many families have thus become involved in grape growing once again and gather every September to crush grapes and celebrate the harvest with wine and roasted meat on spits. Dozens of local tavernas serve their own wine fermented in the wooden barrels of their ancestors. You will find local wine in bulk year round at many of the green grocers and general stores, such as De Luca's, Hatzopoulos, Koletzis and Nektarios, on the way to Vrohia.

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