‘My name is John Boyer, and I am a professor of Geography here at Virginia Tech in the United States, where I also teach huge classes on wine to an ever increasing, wine-avid audience here at the university. My classes on wine have grown from 50 students back in 1998 to over 1200 students just this last spring 2015. I also sporadically teach on an educational cruise ship with a program called Semester at Sea and will be teaching multiple wine classes while on board the ship this fall. I am looking for help in educating students about Greek wine while we are visiting the country in October. I am leading a 2-day field excursion from Athens for the students and faculty into Greek wine country, and was really hoping I could get some help from you. I am personally fascinated with Greek terroir and all the Greek varieties.’
I received the above email on the 2nd of July, after Jon Troutman, who has worked with Gary Vaynerchuk for years, kindly introduced me to the professor’s colleague Katie Pritchard via twitter (yes, twitter still is an invaluable tool for making real life connections).
— Markus Stolz (@elloinos) July 1, 2015
I replied immediately, offering my help. The next message I received really got me excited:
‘I am currently scheduled to teach at least 2 different sections of my class entitled ‘Geography of Wine’, with each class having roughly 35-45 students in it. Each class we teach in the ship has a field lab component, and I chose Greece to do the labs for both my wine classes. The general outline of what I thought would get the most out of would be visiting a winery, having a classic Greek lunch paired with wines. It would be cool to see something of the countryside as well, and even cooler if we could show the students how elevation affects wines by visiting different wineries with some variations in elevation: a true ‘vertical’ tasting, as it were. We heard rumors that some wineries actually have different vineyard blocks on a wide variation of elevations.’
A professor of Geography who plans to lead 70-90 US students on a 2-day field excursion into the Greek vineyards and who wants to explore the effect that different elevations have on wine? I had to meet this man!
Finding the wineries to visit was actually more complicated than I thought: Their location had to be within a 2-hours bus ride from Piraeus port; English-speaking winemakers were preferred, the facilities had to be sizeable enough to host a large group, lunch was to be offered at the wineries, and the wineries and/or vineyards should be eye-catching. The fact that the planned dates for the visits coincided with the harvest of Moschofilero and Roditis grapes limited the options further.
After much planning, we finalized our selections, and both turned out to be perfect. On Tuesday, our first group visited the Kokotos Estate in Stamata, just north of Athens. The owner, Anne Kokotos, and the winemaker, Anna Aga, spent several hours with us. Anna went through all sorts of technical details in regards to wine making, as the group was seriously interested in learning as much as possible. She even had prepared a PowerPoint presentation, which was very useful indeed.
The following day our second group travelled to the Tetramythos winery in Aegialia, in the northern Peloponnese. Here we were really able to dig into wines from different elevation sites, as the vineyards are situated at multiple altitudes ranging from 450 m (1500 feet) up to 1000 m (3300 feet). We had a great educational time, and I am especially thankful to the folks at Tetramythos who interrupted their harvest to spend time with us!
Seventy plus students received much more than an introduction to Greek wines. The ‘Geography of Wine’ is a serious course, where students will be tested and graded on. Apart from the great insights from the winemakers on all technical aspects, I had a Q&A session on each day, covering the wine history, current state of the Greek wine industry and effects of the financial crises, grape varieties and much more. They tasted wines from many grape varieties, indigenous and international, and also explored the modern styled Retsina. This was actually very interesting, as very few of the students had ever tasted a Retsina before. As such, there were no negative preconceptions about this style, simply a deep curiosity. It is fair to say that this group will become valuable ambassadors for Greek wine in their home country. John and I were so pleased with the results that we are exploring additional ways to deepen our collaboration in the future.
While discussing many issues with John Boyer, we also found out that we both have met Gary Vaynerchuk several times. To get a picture of John’s energy, check out the videos below on how he managed to persuade Gary to pay a visit to Virginia Tech:
This is our shout-out video to @garvee and @trouty, holding a bottle of Tetramythos Malagousia, the first wine I presented on Wine Library TV all these years ago.