Tsipouro : Greek traditional distillation from grapes
On the 10th of September, until the 15th of October yearly, there’s the grape harvest.
The grapes are carried from the vineyard in plastic vans or metallic baskets inside special tanks (cistern), usually made of concrete, and of a capacity of 4 to 20 tons. They are put inside the tanks, where they’re being brewed (production of fungus that converts sugar to alcohol). So, the time comes for the production of traditional tsipouro, a very special occasion for our land, and a procedure that constitutes a ritual for us.
The months that signal the beginning of winter and the ending of a warm summer are October, November and December. But these months have always been very important to us, since they mark the continuation of a tradition, which survives to date. This is the time of the “cauldrons”, where the amvikes and the distillers work day and night around the fire, following the very same procedure of many years.
In the beginning there was the stemfyla. The Stemfyla or Tsipoura are the solid deposit of the grapes after removing the must, which will be used for the production of wine. The deposits are the peels, the stems and the seeds.
The stemfyla or tsipoura are being put in buckets inside the amvika (cauldron), which is a boiler of a capacity of approximately 130kgs. Part of the brewing liquid (tsipriaze) is added to the stemfyla with some water and various spices, for which the proportion and their kind are secret. However the most used spice is anise.
Then, the cauldron is impenetrably shut with a bronze lid. Under the cauldron there’s a furnace, slowly burning, where the boiling starts. As soon as the stuff begins to boil, distillation starts. The steam go through a pipe to the top of the lid, and move to the bow (loulas), which is another pipe, in Ð form, that ends to a special socket at a larger pipe, called lantza, which is inside a big tank of cold water, so that the steam can cool and be liquefied. The steam continues down the tank inside more narrow pipes this time, that are located around the sides (serpantina), lightly inclined, in order for the liquid to move freely. The water of the tank is being replaced constantly in order to remain cool.
We are now at the end of the first distillation. The degrees of the first distillation start from 27 and must reach 17, 15 or 14, by the end of the boiling. When they reach the relevant degrees, the first boiling, which lasted approximately one hour, ends. But the production of tsipouro did not finish. This first distillation is called “souma” or “hamiko”, because it smells a lot and is extremely spicy. êñýï). So it is being distilled for a second time, after we put it again in the cauldron, from where all stamfyla has been removed. This is called post-boiling, and is famous in our area, because this is when the good tsipouro is made. This second boiling refines the tsipouro and makes it more tasty. This whole procedure continues uninterrupted from the 15th of October until the 15th of December, in the cauldrons of our area. Usually the fire burns day and night, without stopping, in order for the producers of tsipouro to finish with the grape quantities they have, within weekends. It is part of the hard work, but also great pleasure, since the whole procedure is connected to eating and drinking and having fun. So the hours over the cauldrons pass quickly, joyfully, with friends, singing and sometimes dancing.
From the Greek ground, from the light of Mediterranean sun fire, from the limpid and crystal waters of Aigaias, from the air of Dionysus knowledge and from the ether of cosmic substance, we gather from vine in September a product that we call (stafyli), (votrys), (rax), (omfax), (tryx), grape.
With the method of ethereal distillation (apostaxi), we serve our love in the glass of knowledge, of happiness, of transitory Lethe, for our amusement, for our passions and our being.
From the gods and demigods to our fathers and from the fathers to the sons.
From the nectar, ambrosia and trimma, to tsipouro. That is our traditional.
To your health