Winemaker: Ody Vourvoukelis Part 1

Ody Vourvoukelis

Young Winemakers and Wine professionals of Greece

I have never met Ody (Odysseus) in person. It was through Facebook that we had our first chat and started talking about his winery, Domaine Vourvoukelis, in northern Greece. I always welcome the opportunity to meet wine professionals from all sorts of social media, so he will be the first young winemaker to welcome to my blog. During the harvest, life is insane in a winery but Ody was very enthusiastic and  found the time to answer the questions of our little interview. This is part 1.
When was the first time you realised that you are a dedicated wine lover and decided that your future would be associated with the wine industry? Which factors played the most crucial role to this decision? 

I was first introduced to winemaking and viticulture in 1999. It was then, when my father planted his first 20 vine hectares in his hometown, Avdira. I remember myself, 14 years old at that time, and my brother at 17 to not actually entertaining ourselves in the vineyards as our interests were quite diverse. Of course, with time we both realised that our connection with nature and more specifically with grape growing and winemaking gave us a deep satisfaction, motive and drive to all aspects of our lives. Our involvement in the estate gave us a vision, to recreate and resurrect an ancient vineyard, which was widely known in our own region and to make wines that carry both a heritage and a brand name. We aim to make special wines, that would feel like being grown in our own soil. This is how my journey as another Odysseus started in the world of wine.

Tell me about your background in the wine world, including harvests, studies, projects or qualifications.
Firstly, I would like to say that I have been involved in winemaking and everything around it since I was 14 in our vineyard, which at the time of speaking counts 100 hectares of Greek and French grape varieties. In 2002, I graduated from high school and moved to Germany, where I was accepted at the Chemistry Department of Heidelberg University. During my studies, I felt that they were quite general and therefore I applied at the Wine Marketing Department of Heilbronn University. It was three years after that I returned to Greece and enrolled to an Agriculture course. My dissertation was based on the research into the water potential of the  of the Antonopulos Vineyards in Peloponnese. In 2010 I completed my studies and since then I have been fully engaged to our estate in Avdira. Of course, during my studies I was very passionate in exploring wine regions in Europe, especially in Germany.

Domaine Vourvoukelis

Being part of the new wave of the Greek Wine Industry generation, which 3 things would you  change in the industry, including vineyard management, oenological techniques, communication, marketing etc.

 The Greek state is not investing in research, as far as viticulture is concerned. I have been trying to organise several exciting projects on Greek wine varieties, which are almost uncountable and I am confident that with hard work and the right management we will be able to promote them. This is directly connected to the winemaking of these grapes and the production of wines of higher quality. Another link in this chain is the planting of grape varieties in different parts of the world and the way we can approach different consumer groups and understand their tasting preferences. For instance, in a region where more red wine with soft tannins is consumed, more focus should be drawn to varieties with similar characteristics. Of course, I would insist on Greek indigenous varieties, as this is where I see the future of the Greek Wine Industry. In matters of communication, I feel that the older methods used involving publications in wine, food and lifestyle magazines have completed their circle, because of the rising power  of social media. I personally tend to invest in direct connections.

Ody in the cellar

Many wine-journalists suggest that Greece’s point of difference is the amount of its indigenous varieties and that in order to differentiate itself in the wine world, winemakers should focus on them. On the other hand, others claim that we should also cultivate international varieties, in order to keep up with the world’s competition. What is your point of view regarding this subject?

Greece has the great advantage to have a large number of indigenous varieties. However, there is a disadvantage; they are not systematically cultivated and evolved over the years as the French, for instance, which were refined and adapted around the world.  This is a process that should have started much earlier in Greece as well, for working and researching on our indigenous varieties is our most powerful is our distinctive advantage in a global competitive market. Of course, in order to produce competitive products, we should grow and international varieties according to the attributable aim.  The emergence of Greek varieties is the main goal.
Which Greek variety and which international are your favourites and why? Please, explain your affiliation and say a few words about the variety itself. Do you grow them in the estate you are working for? 

My favourite Greek variety is called Pamiti or Pamidi (Pamid); I feel it’s like a child to me or better an ancestor, as it is an ancient variety from Thrace, Northern Greece. It gives light dry and semi-dry whites and rose wines. We produce a semi-dry rose. This is my favourite variety as me and my family revived it; we meticulously collected grafts from all over the region, sent them to France for DNA identification and then planted them in the nursery. The Pamiti wines are very aromatic and fruity; they have great balance of sweetness and acidity. These are wines that go pretty match with everything; they match a great variety of food but are also very enjoyable on their own. Regarding the international varieties, my taste is different. Merlot wines with long ageing, high alcohol and rich tannins is the international variety I enjoy the most.  It may leave you wondering but it will finally let you discover its secrets, unlike other more complex varieties. We make a red wine blend with 50% Merlot, 30% Syrah and 20% Pamiti.

The wines of Domaine Vourvoukelis
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