This is the place where you can find the highest-elevation vineyards in Greece. On these steep slopes of Pindus – at an altitude of one thousand meters – the locals have managed to grow grapes of rare quality. Maybe it’s the neighboring forests or the crystal clear rivers, maybe the harsh mountain climate that make the grapes mature slower, as the vines take their time ripening, following the slow pace of the change of seasons… But the fact is that it is not easy to find wine that good in a place frequently covered by snow, where wild boars and brown bears roam around.
Oh yes! As the experts of the Averoff winery explain to visitors, it is hardly unusual to spot the footprints of bears or their little cubs near the vines. In fact, the local bears used to consume almost one third of the white Traminer grape variety production! Even today bears visit the vineyards and enjoy the grapes of their choice. After all, bears are pretty “spoiled” and honored around here. For examble, Ursa Trail, a mountain marathon race, is organized every year in Metsovo. The starting line is at the Metsovo village, and the route follows the mountain paths in the bears’ footsteps. So it was only natural that one of the wines was named after the bears that like it so much, hence “Mare Ursa”.
The Katogi Averoff winery is a place you shouldn’t miss. Just a short walk from the town’s center, the building stands out for its notable architecture and its exterior blending harmoniously with the traditional Metsovo houses. Inside, its facilities are decorated with unique artwork installations, filled with the wonderful smell of oak and the allure of a place with a story strongly intertwined with the history of the area.
It is named after Evangelos Averoff, the man who spearheaded the vine cultivation in the area. In the late 1950s, he planted the first Cabernet Sauvignon vines in Greece, on these steep slopes of Mount Pindus. And in his home cellar (called “Katogi” in the local dialect) at Metsovo, he bottled the first vintage of what would become famous as the “Katogi Averoff” wine.
On the label, which he lovingly designed for that first wine, you can still read “vines of France on the mountains of Greece… “. His love for this wine made it more than a hobby. His vision to replant and transform the abandoned slopes of the Pindus into vineyards, as well as revive the local tradition of viticulture that flourished in the 18th and 19th centuries, formed part of a far-reaching effort to boost economic and cultural development in the region.
So today in the “Yiniets” vineyards (Yiniets is the Vlach word for vineyard) you can find Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Cabernet Franc, Pinot Noir, Traminer, Syrah, as well as the region’s lesser-known indigenous varieties, such as Vlachiko, Gudaba and Pyknoassa.
Their taste, aroma and history are part of the identity of the wider region and a visit to the winery is on every visitor’s list along with the Evangelos Averoff Art Gallery and the Metsovo Museum of Folk Art. And the best way to taste this place’s charm, warmth, and heritage is in a glass. Accompanied with the equally delicious and famous local Metsovone and Metsovolone smoked cheeses.