Greek wine asset
Gerovassiliou’s vineyards, in the Papamola region of Epanomi of Macedonia in Northern Greece, grown on mainly alluvial and sandy soils. Summers here are cooler than in the rest of the country and the winters are colder. The landscape is picturesque and the immediate area around the winery is like a piece of art with its sculptures and installations.
Vangelis Gerovassiliou was born into a farming and vine-growing family. He was always destined to follow in his family’s footsteps, which was more or less what happened – although not exactly in a way that was expected. He certainly continued the family tradition, but he took their operation to a new and different level.
After graduating in agriculture from Aristotle University in Thessaloniki, he travelled to Bordeaux in the early 1970s to study oenology.
There he met Emile Peynaud, often referred to as the modern ‘god’ of oenology who changed the way of producing wine forever. Peynaud became his teacher, mentor and inspiration, providing him a solid base of priceless knowledge. This encounter was – and still is – his spiritual compass. Not only did Gerovassiliou continue the legacy and tradition of his family, but he was able to imbue it with the insight and knowledge of his great teacher.
Gerovassiliou returned to Greece in the mid-1970s at a turning point in Greek oenology. He took part in the renaissance that improved Greek wine out of all recognition. He started working as an oenologist at what was then the pioneering winery of Porto Carras, while at the same time he began reviving the family vineyard, bottling his first wine in 1986.
After that, Vangelis Gerovassiliou established different ventures and won award after award, garnering praise both in Greece and abroad.
One great contribution of Gerovassiliou to Greek wine production is the rediscovery of little-known grape varieties. Malagousia is the most famous example, which was saved from extinction by Gerovassiliou and went on to become the Greek diva of wines throughout the country. His promotion of forgotten and obscure Greek grape varieties was not just innovative at the time, it was revolutionary.
Although he devoted a lot of time to the development of lesser-known old grape varieties, this didn’t stop him from proving that international grape varieties such as Chardonnay, Viognier, Syrah and Merlot could also flourish in the local terroir.
When you talk to Gerovassiliou about his new ventures, experiments and bottlings, he speaks with the enthusiasm of a 20-year-old embarking on a great adventure, while at the same time explaining himself with the expertise of an established scientist.
None of his achievements would have been possible without hard work, specialised knowledge, inspiration, courage and passion.
Visiting the estate and walking around the single huge vineyard with its well-designed modern winery gives an insight into wine history and culture. It should also be added that Domaine Gerovasilliou follows AGRO 2.1-2.2 and ISO (9001 & 22000), which in simple terms are environmental management and quality-control systems that ensure the land, the vines and – most important of all – the employees are treated with utmost respect. The ultimate beneficiary, of course, is the consumer.
No matter where he is in the world – whether he is abroad promoting his wine, collecting an award or collaborating with partners – Gerovassiliou’s mind is never far from the vineyards. He thinks about them night and day and nurtures them as if they were his own children, talking on the phone to offer advice and find out how they are doing even when he cannot be there in person. This could almost serve as the very definition of passion.
A man who has found success and fame, produces great wines, wins awards and has earned widespread respect probably deserves to sit atop Mount Olympus. But Vangelis Gerovassiliou is a mortal, like all of us. His research into both indigenous and international grapes is fundamental to his success. His care for different grape varieties produces a wide range of delicious wines. He has also invested successfully in different ventures outside Epanomi and even reached the prestigious Stellenbosch in South Africa.
And, like so many successful men, Vangelis Gerovassiliou is still learning. Already a master of white wine, he is now focusing on red wine production with Greek grape varieties. His ambition is to prove that Greek red grape varieties – especially Mavrotragano – can have an international career. And, better still, his three children are already involved in the winery. Ktima Gerovassiliou looks set to go from strength to strength.
Photos by Ktima Gerovassiliou