by Irma Havlicek
Powerhouse Museum Online Producer
Our host at the Kantouni Pensione and Cafe, Giorgos Moustakas, invited us all to the Tsipouro Feast, which takes place on the last weekend of October, and marks the start of the annual tsipouro (spirit) production. More information about the festival follows – but for an introduction to the joy of the event, nothing can express it more eloquently than the following video (1 min 38 secs) of the most marvellous music and the enthusiastic cameraderie of the dancing which we all enjoyed – having been generously and warmly welcomed into the event as though we were family.
Tsipouro is made from the solid grape deposit (called ‘stemfyla’) that is a by-product of wine-making. The liquid is then double-distilled to produce a powerful spirit that warms the body and gives gusto to the dancing.
There are Tsipouro Feasts/Festivals all over Greece. We were invited to the feast at the village of Ano Provato (which means Upper Sheepless), up one of the most (if not the most) narrow, winding roads I’ve ever been on. We went in our two vans – both of which got lost, and had to do some fairly hairy backing and turning (especially when cars came in the opposite direction!) before we got on the correct road to the top of the hill.
We were told festivities would start around 2pm. But as it was a half working day on site at Zagora, we decided we’d fit in with the Greek spirit, and arrive late, so we turned up around 8.30pm.
We heard the music as we approached the building (which is a school by day). It was so rich and vibrant, I expected a band of at least four musicians. I was very surprised that the fantastic music was provided by just two musicians – Stavros Larios (lauto) and Yannis Rerras (violin). The music was so energising that we all got into the spirit of the dancing.
The feast was held by the Ano Provato Cultural Club – and the food, some of which you can see in the photo at right, was delicious. Food kept being brought, and the clear glass jugs kept being replenished with tsipouro. Later there was a dessert tsipouro, called ‘ponzi’, which is the spirit warmed with honey, cinnamon and cloves – so delicious! I developed a taste for that on the first sip. Aware of the potency of both the tsipouro and the ponzi, I was reserved in the amount I drank.
Thank you so much to all the lovely, warm people of Ano Provato, for allowing us to share your feast with you, and especially for the generosity of spirit with which you included us in your special feast. It is a night for us all to remember.