When Master of Wine Yiannis Karakasis is asked to encapsulate the beauty, elegance and attraction of Greek wine, he drifts away into a riff on how his homeland’s wines are like “jazz music” or a favourite blues album.
“You know, Greek wine is not pop music, it’s jazz music to me, or the blues. You like blues? I do.
“We will never sell like Madonna, but it can be sold ... in smaller independent stores where you can tell a story about the wine.’’
Karakasis, an Athens native, likes telling stories about his country’s wines.
It’s a lush history of winemaking stretching back thousands of years, where the standard vine can be more than 100 years old.
And its varieties are now enticing new drinkers with offers of unique flavours and food pairings that can momentarily transport you to a sun-drenched Greek island in the Mediterranean or Aegean Sea.
“These wines, especially the whites, are very food friendly.
“Think about oysters with assyrtiko (a crisp white from Santorini) is fantastic, think about beef stew with agiorgitiko (a fragrant red native to the Peloponnese).
“Or think about malagousia (a white grape recently rescued from extinction) or moschofilero (an aromatic white) with ethnic foods such as sushi, Thai cuisine, spicy foods — and these are fantastic wines to pair and it makes you think a little bit more than the obvious stuff.
“The level of excitement around Greek indigenous varieties is incomparable to other wines,” Karakasis says.
“(They are) wines that go back into time, fantastic terroir, and just by smelling them and then tasting them is something completely out of world context as we know it in wine.”
Karakasis is in Australia with a delegation of Greek winemakers to educate, entice and excite those drinkers looking for wines outside the norm but still reminiscent of familiar local classics.
For meetings with restaurant owners, sommeliers and wine industry influences he has brought Greek wines from some of his home country’s best regions.
That means artisans such as: Argyros Estate, a fourth-generation family-owned vineyard in Santorini that draws from century-old vines and mineral-rich soil: Gentilini Winery, which grows its grapes from tiny, low-yielding vineyards on a high plateau on the slopes of Mount Ainos: and the 150-year-old Mercouri Estate in the western Peloponnese.
Domaine Skouras, whose first winemaking facility was in Pyrgela, a small village on the outskirts of Argos, one of the oldest towns in Europe with a wine tradition 3000 years old, produces a rose blessed with aromas of ripe cherries and rose petal notes.
It has won a string of international awards for its ruby-red agiorgitiko.
But any discussion of Greek wine will eventually smash against the issue of retsina.
Ask Karakasis, a former Greek navy helicopter pilot, and he shakes his head as he shares his views on retsina, a cheap table wine sold to tourists at cliched Greek restaurants that has unfairly tarnished the nation’s wine industry. “People still ask what about retsina? My answer is taste the wine, taste this assyrtiko taste this robola (a white mainly grown on the Ionian island of Cephalonia) taste this xinomavro (a red from central Macedonia) forget about what you knew, this is the new age of Greek wines,” he says.
That said, a number of winemakers produce premium retsina that could match any quality Australian white — far away from the bargain-basement retsina poured from jugs or fake Greek urns.
Another challenge is that many Greek wines are close to impossible to pronounce for those Australians without a Greek heritage, making many potential customers slightly nervous or embarrassed when ordering.
Much easier, then, many may think, to stick to something less risky, with an easily pronounced name such as “cab sav” and “sav blanc”.
“I wouldn’t say it’s risky, but it is more about explaining the wines to diners,’’ says Fabien Moalicis, head sommelier for George Calombaris’s The Press Club.
“But people are very curious and so happy to try it. And it is so much more a matter of explaining the wines with different grape varieties, explaining how it can be similar to what they already know and taking them out of their comfort zone — but still having something they can understand.’’
Karakasis knows Greek wine will never match the commercial volumes churned out by Australia’s wine industry. But again he turns to a musical reference.
“If we had the volumes, we could sell like Madonna or Michael Jackson. But we don’t have the volumes, so we need to find another (position in the market),” he says. “This is my idea on how the wines of Greece should only be premium — if you try to compete on price, you will end up in the bucket in a store, and there is no going back
Πηγή : TheAustralian.com