Domaine Florian: The story of the German family that invested in the Greek vineyard.
The story of Florian Schneider, owner of Domaine Florian in Thessaloniki, who managed to follow his dream and become a winemaker in Greece, is definitely an inspiration to every wine lover. Let us follow his family’s journey from Germany to U.S.A. In 2002, the Schneider’s, found their dream place in Thessaloniki: the region of Trilofos with the stunning view towards the sea was where they settled and established Domaine Florian in 2012.
As far as we know, your family is third generation winemakers from Germany: How did you end up in Thessaloniki? It would be very interesting to share your wine journey with us…
“I am originally from Germany but I moved in Thessaloniki with my family back in 2002. Although I have been living in Greece for more than 18 years, even today people keep on asking me why my parents chose to move in Trilofos and build a winery here and the truth is that their story is quite interesting. It all started back in the early 1950s, when my great grandfather set up a family winery near Kaiserslautern, a town in southwestern Germany, on the Rhine Valley, where they could grow vines thanks to the mild climate of the area. Despite the fact that my father chose a different career, he has always been very passionate about the world of wine thanks to childhood memories in Germany where he was helping my great grandfather with the production . My parents have always loved travelling and they have lived in different countries. A very important milestone was the year that we spent in California”
What made you leave California and move to Thessaloniki?
“Basically we chose the quality of life that Greece has to offer. Opportunities in Los Angeles were countless but the lifestyle of this metropolis wasn’t what we were looking for. My parents’ connection with nature made them look for a quiet place to enjoy life away from the lights of big cities. My father’s love for Greece that he visited several times in the past with his old citroen, was what made them think of moving here. Looking for a suitable location in Greece, my parents decided on settling close to Thessaloniki because of the German school, for my brother and me and the proximity to the Airport, since my Father travels a lot for work.”
How was the idea of the winery born?
“Initially the winemaking was meant only for personal consumption: since 2004, my parents started buying grapes in order to produce wine for personal use. As the years went by, the production started to grow and gradually they took the decision to plant some vineyards in the area. The idea of the winery was born in 2008 and to save time & money we started constructing the current building almost by ourselves. At the same time, we started searching for land with favorable conditions for wine growing in order to cultivate different grape varieties. After years of hard work and huge delays due to bureaucracy and in between harvesting our first vintage, we managed in 2012 to get the official license for the winery. That year was the first one to bottle officially our wine labels and we launched them to the market.”
How did you decide to become a winemaker?
”My father except for wine, he has a second passion: old cars. He has been collecting old Citroens for years and we have a special selection of vintage Citroens. He really likes spending hours fixing them by himshelf in our garage. As you can imagine, I grew up surrounded by old cars (my dad’s collection of Citroens) and wine from our own grapes and so I began sharing this love for engineering and winemaking. For some people these are considered to be two completely different activities & hobbies but if you give a closer look you will understand that if you are into collections, be it for wines or cars, and if you love manual working, then you appreciate both cause they are unique and authentic.
Personally, I didn’t follow the easy path to get into the wine world: I started as a car mechanic, and worked for a couple of different companies while figuring out what I wanted to do. The coine to become a winemaker and continue the family legacy, gradually grew during the years of making our own wine .
In 2011 I moved to Vienna where I studied oenology for 5 years. Later I visited & worked for wineries in South Africa and New Zealand in order to explore different winemaking techniques and methods that I could implement here. Returning to Greece was my opportunity to turn my passion into my main job and become a winemaker in a country I love.
Despite the challenges, we were fascinated by the potential of the Greek vineyard and in 2012 we decided to create the family boutique winery here in Trilofos and to produce authentic wines that stand out for their unique character. Most of our labels are wines of protected geographical indication and they have been rewarded with several medals in international competitions. ”
You seem to love what you do. However, the work of a winemaker is not a piece of cake: what are the biggest difficulties that you face on a daily basis & how do you manage to overcome them?
“There are many difficulties, especially due to bureaucracy and the paperwork that needs to be done. However, people are so open-hearted and warm here and our everyday life is easier. The Greek lifestyle & weather, combined with the uniqueness of the Greek vineyard give us the strength to continue our effort to produce qualitative Greek wine. “
One last question: in what way do you believe that a boutique family winery like Domaine Florian can contribute to the promotion of the local region and at the same time of the wines they produce?
“Wine tourism is a sector that has become a priority for our winery because we believe that it can highlight both our wines and our beautiful region. It is a differentiation of the classic tourist activity. The tours organised allow producers to advertise and promote the quality of their wine: the exchange and interaction with the visitor, the reception and hospitality, the sharing of knowledge on wine making – render our daily job more enjoyable. After all, it’s a unique experience for every traveler who is discovering the region.
Taking into consideration what a positive impact it had for local societies in other wine destinations of the world such as France and New Zealand, it certainly has incredible potential. Therefore, it is up to all of us to integrate new technology and innovation in the coming years in the wine tourism sector order to have the expected growth for our local economy and tourism.“