3 November 1995

GREEK WHO GROWS THE GRAPES SO NATURALLY…

Lazing on a small Greek island, James Evans happened on an organic wine grower whose joie de vivre and idyllic life-style would surely

be the envy of anyone

And wine that maketh glad the heart of man. Psalms 104:15

WHEN Odysseus was imprisoned on the island of the goddess, Calypso, in the Odyssey, Homer based the narrative on Lipsi, a tiny speck in the Dodecanese group in the south-east Aegean. At least, thats what the islanders claim.

Lipsi is still comparatively new to tourism, being a half-day ferry journey from Kos. Until the past couple of years, the island has been the well kept secret of Italian holiday-makers who tend to monopolise it in August.

But times change and a small specialist UK holiday company has now opened up the island to other interests.

It is a three-quarter hour walk from the main port to the sparkling waters of Koklakoura beach and en route is the vineyard of Dimitris Makris.

Unfortunately, Dmitriss English is as fluent as my Greek, so most of our communication was through grimaces, shoulder-slapping, vigorous pointing and mime.

"Yassus (hello). You English? English good. English soldiers I like," he beamed in welcome, shaking my hand in a digit-crunching grip. I was told by a third party that the lively septuagenarian had been torpedoed on a British ship during World War II but the circumstances were hard to fathom.

We sat at a table in front of his farmhouse and contemplated his 2ha (5 acres) of white grape vines. "Bad year this year," said Dmitris, pointing sadly at signs of disease on the plants.

It was hard to see how Dmitriss "organic" methods differed from most small Greek growers. Organic production is pretty well the norm in the sense that chemical inputs are unusual. However, he seemed proud of his "organic" appellation, so why argue the toss?

I was offered the obligatory figs and grapes, with a few tomatoes thrown in, before he grabbed my arm and dragged me, through a yard of squawking chickens and complaining goats, to his dark, cool winery.

I politely rolled a slurp of Lipsi wine round my palate and agreed to buy a bottle. With a refreshing disregard for the principles of modern packaging and brand identity, Dimitris drew off the order into a litre-and-a-half standard Greek plastic drinking water bottle. The cost was 1000 drachmas (less than £3).

Dimitris radiated pure content and, judging by his prodigious stores of fruit and vegetables, plus feta cheese from his goats, and eggs and meat from his chickens, he and his wife were almost self-sufficient. It was all I could do to pull myself away from his hospitality.

The question, of course, is: What was the wine like? Dimitris is a man who nobody would ever risk offending. Let it simply be said that the classic wine producers of France, Spain and Italy need lose no sleep.

AGreek plastic water bottle is Dimitriss minimalist brand policy. His sign catches the eye of any visitors to Lipsi.

Dimitris Makris, organic wine grower, is a man at peace with the world and his environment. His vines (below) provide sustenance for his family and a small source of income to help pay for essentials.

Lipsi is an unspoilt speck in the south-east Aegean, featured in the pages of Homers Odyssey.