It was definitely a ‘pinch-me’ moment when 72-year-old early Greek Australian Anastasios (Tom) Christopoulos heard the news that his own tsipouro had been awarded Best Alternate Spirit 2019 at the Tasting Australia awards, that were held in Adelaide last month.
With 162 entries Australia-wide across nine categories, the South Australian distiller took out four major wins. It was hard to believe that his tsipouro-making began as a backyard hobby less than two years ago.
“I always do my best and take pride in my work. I believe in the quality of our product but I never anticipated to win all these awards and make South Australia and Greece proud,” says the tireless entrepreneur who migrated from Kalamata at the age of 18 and settled in Adelaide, where he met and married his Spartan wife, Anna.
Together, the couple worked hard for over 50 years, operating various businesses within the food industry.
“In all these years, my wife has been my rock helping me make all my dreams come true. She has been a supportive business partner and at the same time the best wife and adoring mother to our three children. I am very proud of my family and I think that they are also very proud of how far we have all come together as a unit,” continues Anastasios.
The Adelaide-based family sources local produce from the Barossa Valley as well as the Riverland and McLaren Vale regions to create authentic tsipouro, using original recipes from Greek monks.
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“It has been a whirlwind for us trying to source the best local grapes and create an authentic product. When the judges announced we were the winners, it was an overwhelming and surreal moment that will be etched in my heart forever,” says Gina Sabaziotis, Anastasios’ daughter who is also actively involved in the distillery business. “I am very proud of my parents and to watch my father make another one of his dreams come true, was a very significant moment for our family,” adds Gina.
Tasting Australia started in 1997 with the aim of showcasing the best of the country, alongside the home-grown heroes – be they chefs, winemakers, producers and restaurateurs.
The awards aim to recognise ingenuity and energy, celebrating the industry’s achievements.
With the Australian distilling industry one of the fastest growing and most diverse in the world, it’s only fitting Australian distillers were invited to participate in the 2019 Tasting Australia Spirit Awards; a celebration of all things distilled around Australia.
“I have long been a supporter of the distilled spirits industry in South Australia and it’s great to see it going from strength to strength,” said SA Tourism Minister David Ridgway, who attended the event.
The objective of the family’s Vittorio Spirits distillery is to remain authentic in producing the highest quality product. Therefore Anastasios and Anna visit Greece twice a year to meet with producers and learn more about the art of making tsipouro the way their ancestors did.
Striving for excellence, the couple continues to explore different ideas and methods and even brought all their distilling equipment from Greece.
“We want our product to be the representation of what Greeks can do when they put their minds to it, and at the same time create a product that originates from our beautiful Greece leaving our own family legacy behind,” says Anastasios, who despite turning 73 soon, shows no signs of slowing down.
“To me, age is not relevant. I believe that a person can do whatever they put their mind to if they decide to work hard. After all, Greeks are the greatest example of success and determination.
“If we the Greeks of the diaspora don’t show the world what we can do, then who will?”