Updated: Dec 18, 2021
The charming terrace of the Ktima Gerovassiliou winery offers sheer pleasure. The Aegean sea and its bay, the Sea of Epanomi, is seen very close to the slopes of Epanomi, Mount Olympus towers mightily in the distance, while the fresh breeze gives a clue why so many wonderful grape sorts can be found in this state of the art winery. Everything under the watchful eyes of local cats who seem to sovereignly rule this place. They are cute and cuddly as if they would also like to sip wine made from Greek and international varieties! And the wines at Ktima Gerovassiliou are simply great, due to sandy clay, mild winters, temperate summers, an ideal ecosystem for vine cultivation only a few kilometres southeast of Thessaloniki!
The owner Vangelis Gerovassiliou started his agronomy studies first at the Aristotle University of Thessaloniki and continue oenological studies in Bordeaux, France. When he returned to Greece, he worked for many years in Chateaux Porto Karas in Halkidiki, one of the historical estates in the country. After that, he started slowly to revive his family’s vineyard in Epanomi. His father, a farmer and wined grower, had the vineyards at the same location. Everything began with that first two hectares of the family estate in 1981 when Vangelis planted two white Greek varieties: Assyrtiko and Malagousia. Now it is his family that takes over and we had a sheer pleasure to talk briefly with Marianthi Gerovassiliou, the daughter of Vangelis. Besides her, the winery is run by Vangelis’ wife Sonia Tziola and children Argyris and Vasiliki. A proud second-generation make this place open to many oenophiles!
Soon, we are welcomed for wine tasting called “Topos” or land in Greek. It is the best presentation of wines from Ktima Gerovassiliou, styled under the impression of a Greek poet Yiannis Ritsos who wrote: “This land is much loved with patience and dignity”. We started this tour of Greek wines with a White blend of Assyrtiko and Malagousia. Assyrtiko comes from the island of Santorini and is one of the most famous Greek varieties, while Malagousia is an ancient Greek sort coming from Central Greece which Mr Vangelis revived and made it popular countrywide. This fresh wine is bright blond with greenish shades, it has a distinctive nose with impressions of exotic fruit and notes of green pepper, jasmine, orange, melon and lemon. It offers a rich, round feel on the palate, with a lemony aftertaste. We find it great fresh wine, enjoyable in summer months.
Watch our taste tour on Youtube, where Croatian winemaker Marino Rossi also took part!
This winery has 80 hectares of privately owned vineyards, with eleven different wine sorts. Besides Greek varieties Assyrtiko and Malagousia, the white wines include Chardonnay, Viognier, and Sauvignon Blanc. Four Greek red varieties are Limnio, Mavroudi, Mavrotragano, and Xinomavro, while international brands include Syrah and Merlot. The annual production is around 600,000 bottles of wine, and 30-35 per cent is exported to 25 different countries worldwide.
We continued our tasting with Malagousia itself, which is partially barrel-fermented and then matured on its lees for a few months. This process gives a brilliant straw colour with greenish shades and an aroma of matured fruit such as pear, peach and citrus. Malagousia has a rich flavour of lemon peel and is a perfect match for all Mediterranean dishes, seafood, and poultry. Indeed, Malagousia may be a wine of great pride for Ktima Gerovassiliou! Fresh white wines of Greek background stay in Inox tanks for three to five months, while the French sorts stay for four to six months in oak barrels.
Visitors can also enjoy discovering 46 different vine varieties in the experimental vineyard. Winemakers planted small amounts of the vine and they look at how they involve, which characteristics of the area influence them. The cold breeze comes from the sea throughout the year, reduces the humidity of the vine and gives a final product without much acid. This is a characteristic of this wine area, as the wines are almost acid-less. Grapes preserve their aromas, natural acidity, and as all grapes come from the vineyard, the winery holds an important PGI label of Epanomi. Red roses visible next to the vine rows are not only for aesthetic reasons planted in front of every vine but also for very practical reasons. The roses have the same infections as the vines but are much more sensitive. They warn the oenologists of illness, bugs or other hazards that can spread through the vines.
The next wine we tried was Xinomavro. It is a charismatic Greek wine from the region of Macedonia and perfectly adapted to the microclimate of Epanomi. It is the demanding processing of this wine that yields perfect results in the end: pale pink-salmon colour and aromas of citrus fruits, berries, cherries and strawberries. It is rich and well-structured with good acidity and aromatic finish, ideal for lobster, crabs, meat, pasta. It is the only Rose wine of the estate, made by following the French traditions of pink wines.
While we taste this goodness, we are struck by a glass moon in midst of the vineyard. In fact, more than 20 different sculptures surround the winery as the owner is also a dedicated collector of (mostly Greek) modern art. The vineyard also has two weather stations and an underground irrigation system that warns if the vine needs water, especially during the summertime. A lot of work in the vineyard is done by human hands, including the harvest which takes place in mid-August and lasts for a month.
Red wines are kept in French oak barrels and then at least for a year in bottles. These wines are very adaptable to be bottled for a longer time, some even up to 20 years or more. We were offered Avaton, a luscious blend of three indigenous Greek red varieties: Limnio, Mavroudi and Mavrotragano. Among these, Limnio is known from antiquity. It was mentioned by Aristophanes in his play “The Peace” written during the 5th century BC. Thus, it is the oldest known Greek variety. Avaton is entirely fermented in oak and has a dark ruby colour with a very complex structure. A very unique wine, with a blackberry nose and almost spicy aromas, will take you on a voyage of scents and aromas. Savoury dishes, game, and stews will be an excellent company for this wine!
Some Malagousia grapes are left to overripe in the vineyard to raise the sugar and this is used to create a beautiful sweet wine. This is done, of course, only if the weather is suitable enough and are not eaten by many birds that reside in this area! This wine ferments in oak barrels and stays there for at least two years. This is probably the only sweet wine made from Malagousia in Greece and it is great, with a lively aroma, flavours of apricot, pear, and orange. Anyone enjoying this wine will be left in meditation!
The winery museum was opened in 2008 by Vangelis Gerovassiliou. As a student in Bordeaux, he started to collect corkscrews from all over the world. This collection was the main reason why he started a museum that houses now more than 2600 corkscrews. There is also a smaller collection of bottles, various items used in winemaking from the past times, including amphoras and small barrels, tools for the vineyards and wine cellars, machines, etc. Next to the museum is the cellar with barrels with 225 litres.
Ktima Gerovassiliou is a founding member of the “Wine of North Greece” and actively participates in events organised by “Wine Roads of Northern Greece”. So, why not pay them a visit when you are in the vicinity! It is a pleasurable 25 km drive from the centre of Thessaloniki in a beautiful area of Epanomi:
Epanomi, Thessaloniki – Greece
Photos by: Taste of Adriatic and Ktima Gerovassiliou