Theodora Rouvali leads the charge at her family's storied estate started by her father in 1990. Her organically farmed, high-altitude vineyards produce wonderfully fresh, cool-climate wines.
Theodora's father, Angelos Rouvali, was at the forefront of the first wave of modern Greek winemaking over 30 years ago - he was the first winemaker to make PDO Santorini wines in 1982 and built the Rouvalis gravity-fed facility in the early 90's. Following her own oenology studies in Athens, Theodora embarked on a six-year winemaking journey replete with truly enviable experiences, including stages at Clos de Tart and Chateau Margaux. In 2017, Theodora returned to Greece, joined by her husband and agronomist Antonio Ruiz Pañego, to set out on her path as the future of Rouvalis.
Overlooking the Gulf of Corinth about 100 miles west of Athens, Theodora and Antonio focus on a handful of Greek varietals including Roditis, Tsigello (the local clone of Mavrodaphne), and Assyrtiko grown at altitudes up to 1100 meters. The vineyards are terraced on coveted north-facing slopes (so preferred for their exposure to cooling winds during the summer months). Elevation combined with unique sandy loam soils on a bed of calcareous rock along with climatic conditions decidedly cooler than much of the Peloponnese all coalesce to produce wines of singular vitality and vigorous structure. An area of some seismic activity, marine fossils (such as those one might find in the Loire Valley) are not uncommon despite the marked altitude. Soils are well drained due to the slope and bedrock, and the northerly exposition shields the vineyards from the heat of the south – notably distinct from famous regions such as Piemonte.
A member of the exclusive association CERVIM (Centro Ricerche sulla Viticoltura di Montagna, a research center based in Valle d’Aosta devoted to the study of mountain viticulture), Rouvalis is the only winery in Greece who can boast the “Viticoltura Eroica” (Heroic Viticulture) moniker. Requirements include vineyards at over 500 meters in elevation, slopes of over 30° of incline, and terracing. Most of the inducted members reside in northern Italy, France, or the Mosel.
The philosophy in the vineyards and winery rings familiar as a recipe for greatness: low intervention, minimal use of sulfur, practicing organic farming, moderated filtration, and native yeasts. Mirroring the vines themselves, the winery is built in six levels on terraces so as to create an entirely gravity-fed system, thus avoiding overhandling and overexposure to oxygen and minimizing the operation's environmental impact.