Cheese & Wine

Cheese & Wine

Summer Highlights from Naxos

As summer slips away we look back at some of the highlights from our travels.


Farmhouse Cheese, from the Babounis Family




In Greek mythology, Apollo left his son Aristaios, the god of shepherds and beekeepers, on Naxos to teach the islanders the art of cheesemaking. Certainly in ancient times the island was a centre of Cycladic culture and famed for its agriculture - particularly its wine and cheese. Modern Naxiots are still fiercely proud of their abundant produce and self-sufficiency, deriding neighbouring islanders as ‘fish-eaters’ as they lack such land-derived luxuries. This ancestral cheesemaking tradition has just been officially recognised in Arseniko, Greece’s newest and the only unpasteurised, PDO cheese.





The first stop on our visit to Naxos takes us down the west coast of the island, past the resorts, down a road that turns from tarmac, to dirt, and finally to sand. Past the village of Agiassos, its smattering of rooms-to-let on a wide stretch of white sand and turquoise waters a throwback to Greek tourism of the 1970s, we turn in-land for the short climb up goat-hewn paths to find the Babounis Family Dairy.

We are met by Giorgos Babounis, who runs the dairy with his mum, dad, & cousins too. They start by offering us chunks of Dry Anthotyro cheese with whole tomatoes, as we seem to have interrupted their lunch. The dairy itself is a couple of small, newly built rooms, next to an open-sided barn that acts as the milking parlour. The enclosures surrounding it contain a few dozen sheep and goats on their way to or from milking, though we are now at the very end of the season. On their natural cycle the animals only produce milk for about half the year from January to July and spend their entire lives outdoors, roaming wild pastures.





Raising flocks of sheep and goats, shepherding them around the island’s pastures, milking, and cheesemaking is a family occupation that stretches back through the generations. However, like most farmers on the island, their production was for family consumption, perhaps selling some locally or more commonly bartering it for other produce. Giorgos and his brother Manolis have taken this legacy a step further by building this dairy and therefore creating something that is quite rare in Greece: a true farmhouse dairy that produces cheese entirely with milk from their own animals. This allows them to focus on quality the whole way through production, from the breeds of animals, their feed, and grazing that will maximise quality over quantity of milk to cheesemaking that incorporates generations of knowledge to produce the very best Naxos cheeses.




Browse Babounis Cheese


After lunch, we get to try some more of our favourite cheeses alongside some newer varieties we hope to bring over soon: a 16-month-old aged Arseniko, which had a texture similar to Parmesan, with delicious crystals, salinity, and flavour, and the fresh Xinotiri, a sheep's milk cheese that is both flavourful and refreshing and is a combination between a Xinomizithra and Dried Anthotyro.




Browse Babounis Cheese



Figs, Anthotyro & Mint by @cafe_deco_bloomsbury.




Island Wines, from Tranabelo





Next we had the pleasure of visiting Tranabelo, a small winemaker also on Naxos. It is run by Konstantinos and his father, whose family have been cultivating vines here for generations.

The Tranabelo vineyards are home to a wide variety of Cycladic grapes, including Potamisi, Assyrtiko, Savatiano, Harabraim, Little Athiri, Aidani, Monemvasia, Mavro Athiri, Fokiano, and Mandilaria. These grapes are used to produce two wines at the moment - a varietal Potamisi and a Field Blend containing 60% white varieties and 40% red. The vines are dry-farmed and cultivated organically.


Tranabelo derives from Trana Abelia meaning strong vines as Konstantinos wants to show the strength of the Naxos terroir, using the indigenous varieties, and focusing on exceptional quality with very low yields. The wines are all made with wild yeasts and minimal intervention. 

A quirk for natural wine is the screw-top closure, which is chosen as it has a lower environmental impact than both natural and synthetic cork and better protects these delicate whites from oxidation.


Browse Tranabelo Wines





The Field Blend is a unique wine that reflects the diversity of the Tranabelo vineyard. It is made as a white wine from both white and red grapes. Lemon-gold colour with a hint of pink, gorgeous aromas of scented peach compote. Delightfully dry, with delicate, saline, peach and stone fruit minerality. Lots of power and concentration albeit very elegant with a lovely long finish.


View Tranabelo Field Blend




Potamisi was once the most popular grape on Naxos, but is now relatively rare.  If you like Assyrtiko, you will love this single-vineyard Potamisi. Light lemon yellow colour, the aromas are really subtle, smelling of the sea and lemon and lime blossom. The palate is incredibly harmonious. Wonderful delicate dry vinous complexity. This is so well balanced between its exceptional saline, mineral concentrated palate of flavours, light alcohol, and terrific acidity. 



The visit wasn’t complete until we had seen the rest of the Tranabelo farm, located in a beautiful setting where Konstantinos and his father grow samphire, tomatoes, peppers and other vegetables that they use for their wine bar in town. If you are ever Naxos, we highly recommend visiting it!




Tranabelo = Strong Vines

Copyright © 2022-present Maltby&Greek Wholesale Limited. All rights reserved.