About twenty years ago, I had the good fortune to work with an investor – an avid wine collector – in a restaurant in Athens.
One of the many incidents that I remember was at our first meeting, in a wine cellar full of the best vintages of the greatest houses of France, when, naive and perhaps a bit embarrassed, I asked him about his preferences in Greek wine. I can still remember the expression on his face as he let me know, calmly and politely, that Greek wine was not among his priorities. He explained to me that, while he had quite a few Greek wines in his personal collection, every time he went down into the cellar for supplies, he came back up with more tempting options.
It took me a while to understand that I wasn’t dealing with a snob, but rather someone who was just fairly assessing the selections he had in stock.
Twenty years have passed since that afternoon in that wine cellar somewhere in Athens, and I’m afraid that the conversation we had that day remains relevant because, although Greek wine has taken several steps forward, it hasn’t managed to establish itself in the preferences of consumers at a global level.
I don’t like to focus on the negative side of things, so let’s first take a look at what we have achieved so far. It’s been a while since we shrugged off the bad reputation Greek wines used to have. If Greek wine was once considered in the same light as, say, as televisions from Algeria, nowadays appellations such as Santorini, Naoussa, Mantineia, and Nemea are leading the way and gaining the appreciation of more and more consumers.
I’m sure that other regions of our country will follow, including Crete, Kefalonia and other Ionian islands; the rest of the Aegean islands, which seem to offer us more and more interesting examples every year; Attica; Goumenissa; Amynteo; and Rapsani. Inevitably, we have to concentrate on native varieties, as the price range of our wines made with international varieties is not competitive with their New World counterparts.
Taste-wise, we may not yet have achieved the iconic great wine that would act as a headliner with the potential to drag the rest along, like Vega Sicilia has done in the case of Spain, but across markets around the world we do have dozens of good-quality wines that could be considered competitive for the mid-range wine cellar shelves.
The increasing numbers in the tourism sector are both a blessing and a heavy responsibility, as many visitors from abroad are trying our wines during their stays here and will, in all likelihood, be eager to find them at home, too. I believe that we also need to find better ways to promote Greek gastronomy abroad, particularly the local cuisines of our country; if these were to become part of the daily eating habits in other countries, they would serve as a much better vehicle for the promotion of Greek wines than the existing (not so decent) Greek restaurants abroad.
As for the question “Which is the best Greek wine?”, I’m sure that we all have an answer based on our own personal tastes, but it would be wonderful to be able to answer this question while taking into consideration the global realities of wine, not just the narrow reality of Greek winemaking.