Surf’s Up! A new wave of Greek wine is upon us…

Domaine Porto Carras vineyard. Credit: Domaine Porto Carras.

A recent push from Greek wine producers to introduce their wines to an Australian audience is perhaps of no surprise given the large and important role the community of Greek expats and their descendants play in Australia.

New Wines of Greece logoThe importance of the Australian market is clear as evidenced by the recent roadshow from New Wines of Greece, the second of its kind after the success of last year’s inaugural visit. Masterclasses and trade tasting events in Sydney, Melbourne and Adelaide together with the catchy “Eternally modern” byline heralded a concerted effort to educate the Australian wine trade about the complexities of Greek wine.

Historically, Greek wine production can be traced back more than 4,000 years and today’s modern industry boasts over 600 producers crafting wine from both indigenous varieties, of which there are at least 300 to choose from, and the more familiar international varieties.

Although the domestic market in Greece is very strong, the country’s financial woes have resulted in Greek consumers downgrading their budget for wine, seeking cheaper, albeit local, options. This in turn has pushed producers of quality wine to look elsewhere for revenue – namely the export markets. Recognised as a key mechanism to ensure the longevity of the wine industry in Greece, the European Union has allocated funds to support export efforts in the form of promotional and educational events in markets outside the EU. [1]

New Wines of Greece masterclassAlready a fan of Greek white wines I needed no encouragement to further explore the vinous offering from this ancient country. The masterclass I chose to attend was the “The Rising Stars – Emerging Greek Varieties”, led by Yiannis Karakasis MW.

A generous 12 wines were on offer for tasting, split evenly between white and reds. Of the whites there was not one grape I had heard of before, which was fantastic, but it was the reds that generated the most discussion amongst participants.

The use of oak kicked off discussions, centering on the need to exercise restraint when using this as an element in crafting wine. At times, enthusiastic use of oak over-shadowed the fresh acidity and restrained flavour profile of the red wines being tasted.

Australian currencyWhat generated the most passionate debate however, was price positioning for Greek wines. While it was evident significant investment had been made to produce these wines, it was the suggestion of positioning them in the medium to high price range that got everyone talking.

In all it was agreed that it is very much a ‘chicken and egg’ situation. While it might be difficult to list a Greek wine on a restaurant list at a medium to high price point, there won’t be customers requesting or open to trying these wines if the trade doesn’t get on board with promoting them – whether that be by telling the story to the restaurant customer, hosting a tasting for clients to create a personal experience with the wines or by being competitively priced without undermining the quality of wine on offer. As Yiannis Karakasis MW put it, “the story of the wine and the producer are the gateway to selling these wines”.

Another point touched on by the group was the considerable challenge faced in pronouncing not only the grape varieties but producer names as well. As a regular imbiber of the Greek white wine Assyrtiko I am relatively comfortable having a go at pronouncing it, but that is where my Greek pronunciation skills end.

It is well known that customers will not ask for something they cannot pronounce but the good news, at least for Australia, is that with such a large Greek community across the country there is likely someone nearby who can provide guidance, and if all else fails I find the “this one” and point method to be pretty successful. Pronunciation will not be getting in the way of my enjoying a fine wine!

Happy Drinking!

1. Reilly, Simon. Greece-ing the wheels of recovery March 21 2016.

Wines Tasted:

  1. Alexakis Winery, Vidiano 2015, PGI Crete
  2. Gentilini, Robola of Cephalonia 2015, PDO Robola
  3. Domaine Skouras, Moscofilero 2015, PGI Peloponnese
  4. Semeli, Mantinia Nassiakos, Moschofilero 2015, PDO Mantinia
  5. Cavino, Domaine Mega Spileo, Malagousia 2015, PGI Achaia
  6. Domaine Porto Carras, Malagouzia 2015, PGI Halkidiki
  7. Theopetra Estate, Limniona 2012, PGI Meteora
  8. Domaine Porto Carras, Limneon 2013, PDO Melton Slopes
  9. Palivou Estate, Ammos Terra Leone Nemea 2014, PDO Nemea
  10. Thymiopoulos, Earth and Sky, Naoussa 2013, PDO Naoussa
  11. Domaine Sigalas, Mavrotragano 2014, PGI Cyclades
  12. Lyrarakis Wines, Mandilari Plakoura 2014, PGI Crete

Published by Happy Wine Woman

Wine consultant currently based in Melbourne, Australia.

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