Vasilis(or Bill; as I have met him)is Boutari’s Naoussa enologist in Northern Greece. Anyone, who’s in Greek wine already knows how big Boutaris name and heritage in the Greek wine scene is. Hence, I recknon that the fact that a young, talented and very well educated man, as Vasilis is, works at this winery and is building the future of Greek wine with his colleagues, is of great importance. Investing in a highly educated generation of wine professionals is mandatory if Greek winemakers want to thrive and continue progressing.
When was the first time you realised that you are a dedicated winelover and decided that your future would be associated with the wine industry? Which factors played the most crucial role to this decision?
I have to admit that coming from a family with a very long tradition in producing and distributing spirits and wine played an important role in deciding to become a winemaker. My family has been distilling spirits in Nafplio since 1869 (Karonis Distilleries) using technology and equipment brought straight from Italy and France making the Distillery one of the biggest producers in the 1930s. It was actually my uncle, a wine connoisseur who runs a wine shop in the heart of Nafplio that visited me in my early high school years and took me on a range of winery tours in Northern Greece. Watching renowned winemakers speak so passionately about wine immediately made me realise that continuing a family heritage such as mine was exactly what I wanted to do (the scents of wine and oak barrels also helped!).
Tell me about your background in the wine world, including harvests, studies, projects or qualifications.
At the age of 15 not many kids have decided what to do with their lives career-wise. My mind was set by that time and I started planning my steps carefully in order to achieve my goal of becoming a winemaker. After I graduated from high school I decided that studying abroad would expand my horizons and opportunities. I attended the University of Reading in the UK where I graduated with a bachelor of Food Science which gave me an extensive knowledge of food chemistry. During my studies I joined the winemaking team of a winery in Chalkidiki as an intern to help with grape quality control during vintage. That was my first hands on experience with winemaking and I have to admit that I loved it. After I graduated from Reading I had to pick where to specialise in the art of winemaking. Choices at the time were quite many including France and the US. However, Australia’s uprising wine industry at the time and all the innovative research that was being conducted there to support an uprising industry helped me choose. I went to Adelaide where I graduated from the University of Adelaide with a Masters degree in Oenology. That was a once in a life time experience which shaped my thoughts about the wine industry for life. I performed a vintage in Australia where my favourite moment was the opportunity to tamper with Aussie Shiraz! After I came back to Greece, I started looking for a winemaker job. It was only when I met with Dr. YannisVoyatzis who inspired me to become a winemaker like him and make the most out of Greek native varieties. His passion and experience has provided me with valuable guidance throughout the six vintages as Boutari’s Supervising Winemaker in Naousa. Being a winemaker for Boutari is an ongoing journey of knowledge due to the interaction and experience sharing of the winemaking team which is made up of promising oenologists. Boutari has six wineries in all major wine regions of Greece and one in France. Sharing knowledge with the winemakers in these other wineries is what makes the Boutari winemaking team so successful in pursuing quality in our wines.
Boutari’s beautiful winery in Naoussa
Being part of the new wave of Greek Wine Industry generation, which 3 things you would change in the industry, including vineyard management, oenological techniques, communication, marketing e.t.c.?
The Greek wine industry has made enormous progress in the last years. Increasing competition amongst the many wineries that operate in Greece and the technology that winemakers brought with them from abroad has created solid foundations for a quality orientated industry. I am also very proud to see that a national marketing strategy has been planned in order to promote “the New Wines of Greece” as a brand. This same concept I came up in Australia where “wine Australia” was being promoted in export countries with remarkable results. It is my strong belief that our wines can clearly benefit if they are promoted as a brand which focuses on our indigenous varieties. What we need to focus on now is the vineyard. New vineyard practices and other innovations in viticulture need to be applied throughout the whole Greek vineyard in order to keep up with competition abroad. Yes we have made enormous steps in making quality wines, but the next step in continuous improvement is the vineyard itself. Individually, many wineries excel in their vineyard practices experimenting with new techniques but many grape producers are still growing their grapes traditionally based only on the notion of terroir in their vineyard. Making changes in the Greek vineyards will not only improve quality of the grapes but produce new opportunities for employment for young viticulturists and grape growers. We are promoting “new wines of Greece” but we must make sure we have the supply to meet the demand we are aiming for…