Greece is steeped in ancient winemaking tradition, but not known in modern times for exceptional wine. In the past 40 years, young Greek winemakers, passionate and educated in France, returned with a vision, to be a player on the world wine stage, producing modern Greek wines that are expressive, with juicy acidity, earthy perfume, and unusual flavor profiles. Today, there are many thrilling wines coming from Greece. Channeling their ancient wine culture, modern day Greek wines blend indigenous varietals, and revive long forgotten grapes. Many wines sparkle with contemporary highlights, blending international grape varieties with native grapes, and crafted with cutting edge technology. Ktima Gerovassiliou is one of Greece’s leading modern wineries, experimenting with the old and the new, and produces a high quality lineup of white, red, and sweet wine.
The single vineyard of Ktima Gerovassiliou sprang from the Gerovassiliou family farm, located southwest of Thessaloniki, Greece’s second largest city, in the heart of Greek Macedonia, revived and transformed by Vangelis Gerovassiliou. As a young man, Vangelis studied hard and became a winemaker, spending time in Bordeaux under the legendary Emile Peynaud, who is credited with modernizing and improving winemaking worldwide. Vangelis returned from France, and worked as Chief Oenologist at Domaine Porto Carras, where he made history, by bringing back the ancient Greek wine grape, Malagousia, from the brink of extinction. During this time, Vangelis began renovating the family vineyards, a mere 2.5 hectares, turning it into a living laboratory, planting indigenous Greek wine grapes, like Assyrtiko and Malagousia, along with the international varieties of Sauvignon Blanc, Chardonnay, Viognier, Syrah, Merlot, and Grenache.
Today, the Ktima Gerovassiliou vineyard stretches over 56 hectares in Epanomi, caressed by a mild Mediterranean climate, and so close to the Aegean Sea, its influence can be felt in the wines. All work is done by hand, virtually in sight of Mount Olympus. Always tinkering and experimenting, Vangelis planted more Greek varietals, Limnio, Mavroudi, and Mavrotragano for the reds. It is here in this family owned, single vineyard estate, that first-rate Greek wines are made, reflecting the distinct microclimate and biodiversity of the adjacent wetlands area. The state-of-the-art winery not only produces and stores the wine, but has a visitor’s center, where wine culture is celebrated. The Gerovassiliou Wine Museum is where Vangelis‘ personal collection of antique wine making equipment, such as amphora, presses, and bottles, is displayed, in addition to one of the largest corkscrew collections in the world, with over 2,600 openers to ogle, dating back to the 18th Century.
Ktima’s Assistant Winemaker, Thrass Giantsidis, has worked alongside Vangelis since his days at Porto Carras. On this sunny Spring day at Ledlow Restaurant in downtown Los Angeles, Thrass has come to spread the word, that Greek wines, and especially Gerovassiliou, are refreshingly distinct and are of the highest caliber. Thrass shared his passion for the wines, tasting through nine of the ten wines that Gerovassiliou produces. Although a white wine star, with over 250,000 bottles produced, a small amount of intriguing red wine is made, about 50,000 bottles. Ktima Gerovassiliou was anointed Winery of the Year five times in the past six years by Wine & Spirits Magazine USA, and Vangelis is considered to be among the six best wine producers worldwide. With so much attention lavished on Gerovassiliou wines, exports have been booming, that’s good news for the winery. With all of Greece’s financial turmoil, taxes were levied at the beginning of this year on wines consumed within Greece, and as Thrass notes, “it’s frustrating to do business, we are uncertain for the future”. But exports were spared, thank goodness, because these wines are fabulous.
The Ktima Gerovassiliou Estate White 2014, 50% Malagousia and 50% Assyrtiko, is very distinctive, with an exotic nose of tropical and citrus fruit, accented with a floral note of jasmine. It’s a rich round wine, mineral, with good acidity, and a lemony finish. This is a match made by the gods, Malagousia’s aromas and body are balanced by the intensity and acidity of Assyrtiko, yielding a crisp white with good mouthfeel. Recognized as one of the Top 100 Wines of 2014 by Wine Spectator, this fresh white blend is perfect with grilled fish and shellfish, ceviche, and sushi.
The Ktima Gerovassiliou Malagousia 2014 is aromatic, with ripe aromas of pear, pineapple, and citrus, and that jasmine note. On the palate, its rich texture reflects its partial barrel fermentation, with lees aging for depth of flavor. Floral and fruity, with grapefruit, lemon, and white peach flavors, and an oaky undertone, this 100% Malagousia finishes long, perfect for grilled seafood. It made the cut for the 2015 Top 100 Wines by Wine Enthusiast, recognized as a truly unique wine.
The Ktima Gerovassiliou Sauvignon Blanc-Fumé 2013 channels a white Bordeaux, with tropical fruit and melon, while the Ktima Gerovassiliou Viognier 2010 is floral, with a fleshy body and medium-high acidity, infused with peach and apricot fruit, accented by spice and honey, it’s elegant and intense. The Ktima Gerovassiliou Chardonnay 2014 is classic, with citrus and apple fruit, framed by toasty oak, balanced with good acidity and a touch of nuttiness on the medium long finish. All three of these wines are fermented in barrel, giving them texture and a touch of oak in the final wine.
On to the reds, the Ktima Gerovassiliou Estate Red 2010, a blend of 70% Syrah, 15% Limnio, and 15% Merlot, is delicious, with its brooding black fruit, plum, spice, and bittersweet chocolate highlight. Balanced and round, with a mineral tang, and slightly herbal character, its polished tannins lead to a pleasant, lingering finish, a perfect companion for roasted pork or lamb. The Ktima Gerovassiliou Avaton 2008 is their first 100% Greek red varietal blend, 50% Limnio, 20% Mavrotragano, and 30% Mavroudi. A big wine with stewed plum and dried cherry fruit, accented with pepper spice and black olive, its vegetal notes take center stage, Limnio’s herbal character comes through the blend. It needs more time to integrate the tannins and alcohol, but would be good with food, especially steak.
The truly fabulous Ktima Gerovassiliou Evangelo 2008, named for the founder, is made in the classic Northern Rhône style, 92% Syrah and 8% Viognier, co-fermented for color and aroma. Macerated for 20 days, fermented in oak, with malolactic fermentation and 15 months aging, this is a complex wine. Blackberry fruit, meaty and smokey, spicy with dark chocolate highlights, this is a big, mouth-filling wine, with delightful acidity, ripe tannins, and a long finish. Excellent drinking right now, but will age well, the Evangelo would pair well with grilled meats, charcuterie, and eggplant dishes.
Who needs dessert when you have Ktima Gerovassiliou Late Harvest Malagousia 2009? This spectacular and distinctive sweet wine is 100% Malagousia, with a seductive nose of apricots, honey, and flowers. Only made in years when weather conditions are right, the grapes are left on the vines, shriveling and intensifying its flavors. Fermented very slowly in French oak barrels, it’s aged for 3 years before release. The palate is rich and honeyed, with an herbal tinge, great acidity, and an extremely long finish, it’s an amazing wine.
Ktima Gerovassiliou’s premium wines are fragrant and delicately balanced, and are deservedly the recipient of many international awards. Vangelis continues to refine his vision, inspired by his original dream, to produce the highest quality wines from his estate grapes. You’ll be thrilled with the sense of place, the pristine quality, and the novelty of modern Greek wines.