Georgios Hadjistylianou is the Head Sommelier and co-owner of Fat Fish, a restaurant located in the city of Limassol in Cyprus. It also owns a wine shop with focus on terroir wines called Vino-Thiki. Georgios studied Culinary Arts and Hotel Management in different universities in the world. It is well known and respected in the wine industry of Cyprus. It has a unique way of thinking and the wines with which he works have special qualities.
GZ: How were your beginnings in the wine industry here in Cyprus?
GH: The first time I got involved in the wine world here in Cyprus was in 2001. I lived in New York and after 9/11 there were no more opportunities there. We were ready to open a restaurant but everything was canceled. So I came to Cyprus to work in my brother’s restaurant.
At that time it was the competition of Best Sommelier of Cyprus of which I did not know and of which I was informed by a wine supplier. I decided to participate, I had nothing to lose. And I won.
With my brother, in the restaurant, we began to expand the wine list. In a year we went from 120 labels to 300. We even imported some wines from Greece. It was fantastic, we were doing very well. Once people trust you, you can offer them things they do not know. Maybe it is not a Bordeaux wine of 100 euros but it is a Bordeaux of 30, 40, 50 euros. And especially in the summer, in Cyprus temperatures range between 35 and 40 degrees. The humidity in Limassol is 70 or 80%. It is not easy to drink heavy wines, you have to go more towards the whites and the lighter reds. For me, the most important thing, and it continues today, is to offer customers to taste a wine blindly. They thank me and they like it.
GZ: You have a very original wine list. What do you look for in the wines and how do you find them?
GH: It’s not easy to find them. A little is luck. In my time in New York, I lived there for 16 years, I was very fortunate to work with many people who taught me a lot. For example, Paul Gregor who is Mr. Riesling. I do not think anyone else has done more for Riesling in the USA than he did.
With regard to wines, it may not sound very good but I’m not looking for what people might like. The most important thing for me is to be honest with the customer.
It is not possible that we all like the same wines. If that happens, the wines would go up in price. What I look for in working with vignerons, with people who are really involved in the production and cultivation of the vineyard. I like to shake the hands of these people and feel the roughness of their hands.
GZ: You worked in USA, in Greece, here in Cyprus and in France as well. You traveled to other wine regions: Italy, Spain, France, Sardinia. With regard to the way of thinking related to wine, with what region or country do you identify yourself the most?
GH: With Beaujolais. I like Burgundy, the Loire, Chinon, the Rhône, Champagne, Chablis. Beaujolais is a region, which especially here in Cyprus, is underestimated. When you say Beaujolais, people think of Beaujolais Nouveau. I was very fortunate to work for one of the best houses in Beaujolais, at the house of Marcel (Domaine Lapierre). Unfortunately I did not meet him, he died in 2010. I was very lucky with Mathieu and Camille, who now run the Domaine with their mother Marie. In addition, especially with Alex Foillard, son of Agnes and Jean Foillard I could taste very old vintages of Domaine Lapierre. I tasted from 1995 to 2015, except 4 or 5 vintages. The wines were spectacular.
Then I really like Spain. It is difficult to choose but for my three producers that I like a lot are: Laureano Serres, Escoda Sanahuja and Viña Tondonia. And then Sherry, I love Sherry. From dry to sweet. It is a region that is not respected as it deserves.
GZ: You know many producers in Cyprus. What do you think are the challenges they face in the wine industry?
GH: The biggest challenge they have is to understand that wine is a product of nature. It is necessary to give time to the wine to finish all its stages, if this does not happen the wine will not be good. Producers are often pressured to put their wine into market, because of consumer needs. But this is not good for anyone because everyone must wait until the wine is ready.