Haridimos Hatzidakis, the man who helped put Santorini wines on the menus of Greek restaurants around the world, has died. He was 50 years old.
Hatzidakis was born and raised in Crete and studied oenology in Athens before settling in Santorini, the crescent-shaped Greek island whose rugged landscape was formed by a series of ancient volcanoes. The volcanic soils were perfect for producing mineral-driven Assyrtiko wine.
He worked as a winemaker for Boutari Winery, one of the island’s largest, before setting up his Hatzidakis Wines in 1997. Just outside the highest village on the island Pyrgos, Hatzidakis replanted a vineyard abandoned after a 1956 earthquake and eventually leased about 10 acres, tending century-old vines owned by monks and nuns. In 1997, Hatzidakis transformed a traditional cave into a winery, or “Kanava,” and released his first wines in 1999.
He was highly regarded for producing wines expressive of Santorini’s terroirs through experimentation, organic farming and minimal intervention in the winery. He was the first on Santorini to use indigenous yeasts, a practice now widely emulated, and was a fierce advocate of the potential of indigenous varieties such as Assyrtiko, Aidani and Mavrotragano. Hatzidakis produced the island’s first single vineyard Assyrtiko.
“He put Greek wines on the map,” Mary Pateras of Eclectic Wines, who has imported Hatzidakis’ wines into Britain, told Beverage Industry Enthusiast. “He once told me his inspiration was the volcanic soil of the island and certainly he was happiest in the vineyards connecting with the terroir. He was a pioneer, never afraid to experiment and always pushing the boundaries. His legacy will continue–he has influenced so many people.”
He is survived by three children, Stella, Ariadne and Antonis. His eldest daughter Stella, who is currently the director of Hatzidakis Wines, is said to have plans to take over the winery.
Close friend Apostolos Thymiopoulos of Thymiopoulos Vineyards will make a reduced vintage of Hatzidakis’ wine for his family this vintage.