THYMIOPOULOS
Decanter|July 2020
Committed to organic and biodynamic farming, and working with indigenous grapes, Apostolos Thymiopoulous is one of the winemakers steering Greek wines towards an innovative future and global recognition. Sarah Jane Evans MW meets the charismatic master of Xinomavro at his home in northern Greece
Sarah Jane Evans MW
The car screeches to a halt by an isolated, dusty roundabout to pick us up and we race off to the vineyards. But what vineyards! A hillside in the shadow of snowcapped Mount Olympus, in full sun, with a fresh breeze and a breathtaking view of the Aegean sea sparkling in the distance. There’s a glorious sensation of good health, appropriate for a producer who follows organic and biodynamic practices, and whose main problems in the vineyard are wild boars, greedy birds and, very occasionally, locusts. Our host is vivid in a pink polo shirt, blue shorts and shades. He definitely doesn’t look like the typical winemaker. I definitely have the sensation of being in a film.

We are in the tiny PDO of Rapsani, about a 90-minute drive south of Thessaloniki, towards Athens. I am visiting Apostolos Thymiopoulos. He’s one of a new generation of wine people in Greece who are driving a step change in the country’s wines – and in their international reputation. He’s a native of Naoussa, located about half an hour away (hence the hectic driving to and fro). His family home in Trilofos is close to Aristotle’s school in Mieza, where the philosopher is said to have taught Alexander the Great.

High praise

His rise to international recognition has been as fast as his driving, yet it may have felt as if he were pushing water uphill. He was the first in the family to bottle wine. He was using the local variety Xinomavro, hardly known outside Greece, and from a region few could (and many still can’t) place on the map. Furthermore, quality Greek wine had a low profile in export markets, the main exceptions being prestige red wines made from international varieties.

His progress has been impressive. ‘He’s one of the great winemakers of the world,’ says Freddy Bulmer, buyer at The Wine Society. ‘One of the stars of his generation,’ adds Mark Andrew MW, co-owner of the London wine bar Noble Rot and its accompanying magazine. ‘A mature Harry Potter, as he brings “magic” to every region he sets eyes on,’ states Yiannis Karakasis MW, stretching the point a little...

Thymiopoulos’ father was already farming organically, and his son has continued these practices. ‘It’s important to mention his commitment to organic and biodynamic farming, especially in a region that doesn’t have the best record when it comes to sustainability in the vineyard,’ says Andrew. ‘There are now a number of others who share his commitment to the environment, but a winemaker of his scale insisting on such highquality viticulture is incredibly important to the future of the region.’

Andrew cites winemakers such as Yiannis Economou [in Crete], Evriviadis Sclavos [Cephalonia], Kostis Dalamaras [Naoussa] and Panagiotis Papagiannopoulos [Patras] who are also driving the international perception of Greece in a positive direction. This generation is ‘rediscover[ing] the potential of indigenous Greek varieties and the country’s incredible terroir, while combining traditional, sensitive winemaking practices with an understanding of modern science’. He points out, however, that ‘the quality of [Thymiopoulos’] wines and his ability to engage drinkers in international markets have understandably given [him] a higher profile than many of his colleagues’.

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