In the new issue of OINOXOOS magazine, Dr George Salpingidis, Head of Viticulture Department of Tsantali, explains how a chance that looked like temporary converted into a daily race for 20 years.
As “a semester that goes on for more than 20 years” is how Dr. George Salpingidis, Head of Viticulture Department of TSANTALI, describes his career at the historic Greek winery. Upon his return to Greece in1999 after completing his PhD in Great Britain and while expecting a notice of invitation to tender at the National Foundation of Viticulture Research, he replied to a TSANTALI job post looking for viticulturists.
“I thought that before continuing my research at the National Foundation, it would be useful to apply theory -all the knowledge acquired during my studies- to practice. That job post seemed a great opportunity. My interview with Angelos Dimitriadis, TSANTALI CEO, led to a 3-month contract job focusing on the implementation of innovative at that time models of plant protection. Indeed the results were extraordinary despite the fact that 1999 was one of the most challenging vintages”.
So, that first semester keeps on going till today. Along the way George came accross charismatic teachers and inspiring projects powered by the Tsantali family’s vision and high investment in the vineyard.
“I was extremely lucky. I had the privilege to meet, work with to sit at the feet of two of the greatest pioneers in Greek viticulture history, the late Kostas Kousoulas and mr. Yannis Nolas. No wonder they were the right-hand men to Evangelos Tsantalis, a larger than life wine personality that left a profound mark to our industry”.
Indeed, from day one, the projects at TSANTALI were ambitious and innovative. A dream-come-true for any young scientist like Dr. George Salpingidis.
Turning cultivation to organic at the Metohi Chromitsa vineyard on Mount Athos was one of the very first projects. “The moment I laid my eyes on that blessed land for the first time, I was awed by the unique beauty. 20 years later, I still feel the same way”.
“The next goal was acquiring a certification of Integrated Crop Management at our privately-owned vineyards, as well as helping towards this direction local vine growers in Halkidiki”. While the planting at Dion Litochoro started, replanting on Mount Athos, Halkidiki and Naoussa had to kick off.
“In 2007 we introduced -among the very first wineries in Greece- a pilot Precision Agriculture program at our vineyard in Maronia Thrace, in collaboration with the Viticulture Research Lab of the Aristotle University of Thessaloniki in the context of Industrial Research and Technology Development Program”. Since 2017, a Precision Agriculture pilot is implemented also on Mount Athos, crucial element of the strategic development of this unique vineyard.
From the secluded Mount Athos land dedicated to Virgin Mary to Mount Olympus, the renowned home of the Greek Pantheon. “Located on the southeastern foothills, Rapsani is a fascinating PDO zone that lives to tell its stories and to fill our glasses with this intriguing red wine thanks to Evangelos Tsantalis. It was his insight and defecation that gave incentive to local vine growers to return to their occupation and make the wine region and the local community flourish again. Taking into consideration this heritage and bond, you can realize how emotional and proud I felt when the Rapsani soil map was finished. A work for today and for the future”.
All those projects and the hopping between wine regions and vineyards in Northern Greece was an endless pool of inspiration and alertness for George. “The ideas, the implementation, the variety… that was a huge, eye-opening experience for me”. Today, two decades later than that first semester, Dr. George Salpingidis maintains his enthusiasm for the project to come aimed at research, partnerships with academic institutions and esteemed organizations. Always with great responsibility and deep respect.
“Yannis Nolas always advised me to pay extra attention to detail. Recording my every move, being well-informed of the legislation.
I can still hear Kostas Kousoulas’ voice. “George, when you plant a vine you must think of it as if you are getting married. You will have to live with it for the next 40 years. So you better make the right choices”.
“I will always remember my teachers and treasure their words of advice. I wish I will succeed in being as inspiring for my students in the future”.