THYMIOPOULOS VINEYARDS & WINES
NAOUSSA, MACEDONIA, GREECE
Spotlight No. 15
As I arrived in Trifolos, my GPS was confused and I had no idea where I was. I had to call Apostolos, who told me to pull over and find someone who spoke Greek. I found a nice lady peeling potatoes in her kitchen window and handed her my phone. They chatted and the next thing I knew, she was standing beside me, her arm folded around mine, making sure I did not go anywhere until Apostolos arrived. It turns out Apostolos had known her since he was a kid bicycling through the village with his buddies. This is village life—rooted in the land and full of love—and it finds expression in the many faces of Xinomavro, the autochthonous grape of the region.
Thymiopoulos Vineyards emerged from a family of forward thinkers. Grandfather Apostolos grew grapes for family consumption, as everyone did. After the phylloxera epidemic, many farmers chose a more financially stable path, growing peaches, cherries or olives. But Grandfather Apostolos, alongside his son Sergios, regrafted their Xinomavro vines onto American rootstock. At first they sold their grapes to bulk wine producers but, bucking the trends again, they never surrendered to the ease of herbicides. It made them cringe to see the dead herbs surrounding the lively vines.
Then came the next generation: Apostolos II and his brother Theodoros. The University of Athens now offered an enology degree with a focus on the Greek heritage of vini- and viticulture, and it seemed the perfect time for the Thymiopoulos family to once again set a new direction: bottling their own wines. Theodoros had an affinity for the vineyards, which left Apostolos as the best candidate for learning how to make wine. Why not? He was curious, so he went to study winemaking with no illusions of grandeur. He was simply taking the logical next step to his family’s future. But things did not go exactly as planned.
Apostolos II graduated in 2000, the family bottled their first vintage of Ghi kai Uranos (“earth and sky,” labeled “Uranos” in the US) in 2003, and things were going well. Then, in 2009, his brother died in an accident. His father passed away from cancer a year later and his grandfather from old age two years after that. The path toward winemaking success became bittersweet, but Apostolos was motivated by a commitment to the Thymiopoulos name and the memory of those he had lost.
Today Apostolos has 28 vineyards. He cannot be everywhere at once, so he finds someone from the village with vineyard experience to care for each one, building a true connection with the vineyard, knowing each vine the way his family would. And the farming is always traditional, as it was before the use of chemicals. Some call it biodynamic. Apostolos just does what makes sense, like borrowing his friend’s cows to mow the grasses after harvest.
The kid on the bicycle is alive and well in Apostolos today. His favorite pastime is to drive his old motorbike around to all the vineyards (the only way to get to many of them). These are the best moments for him, visiting with his farmers, spending time with the vines. When the grapes enter the cellar, he knows where they came from. He has breathed the same air and looked out onto the same landscape. So yes, Apostolos believes farming naturally is important because to him, as the name of the family’s first wine suggests, the best wine is made in the vineyards, in the space between ghi kai uranos — earth and sky and nothing more.