During yesterday’s trip to the Ktima Gerovassiliou winery – my first ever vineyard visit – I tasted a delicious red wine called Avaton. In Greek, Avaton refers to an inaccessible and sacred place, and has mainly been used in the context of Greek religious sites. The rule of Avaton is still enforced for women at the spiritual site of Mount Athos, where more than 1,000 monks live in monasteries on the Greek peninsula.
In the case of Greek wine, Avaton describes the blend of three different varieties of grapes: Limnio, Mavroudi and Mavrotagano. The idea to combine the three grape varieties came from winemaker Vangelis Gerovassiliou, a former student at Aristotle University of Thessaloniki’s School of Agriculture who in 1981 began reviving his family vineyard in Epanomi, which became the Ktima Gerovassiliou winery. “It was Avaton to produce red wine with a blend of three different red grapes,” our tour guide told us.
The taste of Avaton is dry, complex, and uniquely Greek, and I wanted to savor it so much that I took a bottle home. Not only is the wine pleasant on the palate, the name is also a good summation of the memories I’ve made during my first week in Greece – from the sunset boat cruise to reporting at the book fair to the chocolate cereal my roommate, Hsiang-Yu Wu, and I bought on our first day. All of these experiences seemed unapproachable – or Avaton – before our arrival in Thessaloniki, but are now a part of my everyday life.
While Avaton literally refers to a place where “entry is prohibited,” for me it has come to represent something closer to Gerovassiliou’s definition: an endeavor that originally felt impossible, but became achievable. Sometimes that endeavor is combining multiple grape flavors to create a delicious red wine, and sometimes it’s turning in a first draft of an internationally reported story. Sometimes it’s even simpler than that – like the experience of trying a new restaurant or learning to traverse the streets of Thessaloniki without getting lost.
Whatever definition you like best, my experience in Greece – past, present, and future – embodies Avaton. Cheers!