Ktima Gerovassiliou was founded by Vangelis in 1981. But the vineyards of Ktima Gerovassiliou predated Vangelis. His family had been growing grapes in the region; so his decision in 1981 was not to start but rather to revive.
Vangelis was well prepared for the task when he founded Ktima Gerovassiliou. After studying agriculture in Greece, Vangelis attended the University of Bordeaux and studied oenology with his famous mentor, Emile Peynaud. And after his studies in Bordeaux, beginning in 1976, he worked as an oenologist at Domaine Porto Carras, where he managed 450 hectares of vines.
Check out the interview below the fold!
Where were you born and raised?
I was born and raised in Epanomi, a village just a few kilometers away from Thessaloniki. Epanomi is a beautiful rural village of almost 9,000 permanent inhabitants. It is surrounded by sea, and an abundance of different types of crops, hills full of olive trees and rich vineyards form a unique landscape. Viticulture has a long tradition in the region, since Epanomi was part of the wider region of “Kalamaria,” namely Kali Meria (nice place), a name given by French travelers denoting the good quality of the region’s agricultural products.
When and how did you get into wine?
While still an agronomy student I took my father’s wine to a chemist in Thessaloniki, in search of answers to why my father’s wine would get easily oxidized. Since the chemist was not willing to answer my questions, he only managed to arouse my curiosity and luckily drive me into the field of oenology.
What has been your career path to where you are?
I descend from an agricultural/viticultural family; it was only natural to continue on with the family tradition. I first studied Agronomy at the Aristotle University of Thessaloniki and then left for Bordeaux, France, to specialize in Oenology, Viticulture, Wine-Tasting and Technology of Oenological Machinery. During that time, I worked with the team of legendary consultant and guru of oenology Emile Peynaud. When I came back from France in the late seventies, I started working at Domaine Porto Carras and after a few years, in 1981, my love, knowledge, and experience in vine-growing and good wine helped me to begin the renovation of my family vineyard, 0.25ha back then, and to fulfill my vision to create my own estate and produce my own wine. Thus, I first planted Malagousia in 1981, a variety on the verge of extinction, and founded Ktima Gerovassiliou in Epanomi, now stretching over 63 ha.
In your view, what makes your vineyards special?
Ktima Gerovassiliou is a privately owned single vineyard estate. The climate in the region of Epanomi is Mediterranean with mild winters and temperate summers, cooled by sea breezes. The vineyard lies on the slopes of Epanomi and is surrounded by sea on its three sides at a distance of three kilometers with views of mythological Mount Olympus. The soil is mainly sandy with a few clayey substrates and calcareous rocks. It is rich in sea fossils, since the surrounding hilly area was formed by sea deposits.
At the estate, we cultivate our vineyards with great care and enthusiasm and we constantly research and experiment with Greek and foreign varieties, both well and less known ones. New technological advances blend well with tradition throughout vine growing and vinification processes.
What is your general winemaking philosophy?
The aim is to produce high quality wines from grapes cultivated exclusively in the privately-owned single vineyard estate; wines that carry all distinct characteristics of the specific microclimate (terroir) of Epanomi.
What’s your biggest challenge as a winemaker?
One of my biggest challenges was right after my studies in France. I returned to Greece and started working at Domaine Porto Carras as chief oenologist. I was in deep water, I was responsible for 450ha. Biggest challenges for me in general are the vines, which need a lot of care and attention, and the climatic changes. Every harvest is different. That can be challenging but also fascinating.
Who are your favorite winemakers in history, through personal account, or their wines?
My biggest inspiration was my dear professor and mentor Emile Peynaud. Throughout the years, I have found inspiration in the work of many French wine-producers.
What new winemakers are you most excited about, and why?
I admire my friend Vassilis Tsaktsarlis, winemaker of Biblia Chora. He is passionate, talented, and insightful.
What’s your favorite wine region in the world – other than your own?
Otago, New Zealand.
What’s the best wine you’ve ever tasted? The most interesting?
The best wine is Le Pin, Pomerol and the most interesting has to be a Pinot Noir from Burgundy made by Henri Jayer.
What’s the oldest bottle in your cellar? The most expensive?
A 1931 Chateau Montrose and the most expensive has to be a 1953 Chateau Petrus.
What’s open in your kitchen right now?
The estate’s Malagousia of 2015.
If you had to pick one red and one white to drink for the next month with every dinner, what would you choose?
Saint Clair, a Sauvignon Blanc from New Zealand and Ktima Biblia Chora Red, a red blend from Greece.
Is beer ever better than wine?
On a hot summer afternoon, without food.
How do you spend your days off?
In the vineyard.
What would people be surprised to know about you?
Very few people know that I paint.
If you weren’t making wine for a living, what would you be doing?
If I were to do something else than wine I would have failed.
How do you define success?
To be able to sleep peacefully at night, without any worries.