For Greek Reds, No Matter How Good, the Embrace Will Be Slow

For Greek Reds, No Matter How Good, the Embrace Will Be Slow
For Greek Reds, No Matter How Good, the Embrace Will Be Slow/courtesy of Facebook

Few wines are as mysterious and strange to Americans as those from Greece.

It’s no surprise that they’re unfamiliar. Greek wines, particularly red wines, are relatively new to the international market.


Given that Greece is one of the oldest wine-producing cultures on the planet, this appears to be a bit of a contradiction. However, as many ancient wine-producing countries have discovered, local winemaking and drinking traditions are insufficient to succeed in the global wine trade.


Before they can even expect to attract a foreign customer interested in buying their wines, producers must create production and distribution methods that ensure virtually flawless quality halfway around the world. They might then undertake the potentially equally difficult process of educating and marketing to generate demand.


That is where Greece is at the moment. A Greek wine business evolved in the last third of the twentieth century, focusing on good quality and selling bottles globally.


Moreover, many of the greatest producers focus on indigenous grapes rather than attempting to replicate well-known international types and styles, though this is also happening.


However, many customers appear to be hesitant to try Greek wines, particularly the reds, which are more recently introduced to the American market than the whites. What is the reason for this? Readers of Wine School who have been drinking Greek reds for the past month have developed a few theories.


“Even if Greek wine quality has improved dramatically in the last 20 years or so, there is still a long way to go in terms of knowledge,” remarked TLeaf of Denver. “How do you get the American palate to think beyond ouzo and retsina?”


Maybe I’m naive, but I don’t think memories of ouzo put off most American wine drinkers, an anise spirit served abundantly after meals at shtick-heavy Greek restaurants.


I also don’t believe they confuse other Greek wines with retsina, a traditional wine infused with Aleppo pine sap that tourist guides have cautioned against for years. (On the other hand, good retsina is a thing of beauty.)


No, I don’t think it’s so much dread as it is unfamiliarity, as a few readers noted, but the line between the two can be blurry at times.


“As a newcomer to Greek reds, I find their names to be a bit confusing,” Shweta of Michigan said. “Agiorghtiko doesn’t exactly glide off the American tongue,” observed Bunk McNulty of Northampton, Massachusetts (a wonderful alias borrowed from “The Wire,” I think).


Perhaps, but there’s a complication: Greek words must be transliterated from the Greek alphabet to the English alphabet. Because this does not happen consistently, most Greek grapes have various English spellings. Unlike Bunk McNulty, I would favor the spelling “agiorgitiko” over the alternate spelling “agiorghtiko,” as recommended by the authoritative book “Wine Grapes.”


We at Wine School are acutely aware of the subliminal messages sent by words and language, as well as the pain that might accompany new experiences. In any language, wine is tough and daunting. When you add in a new alphabet, it’s easy to become overwhelmed.


This is to be expected, and it highlights the critical role that restaurants and sommeliers play in introducing the general public to new and unusual wines. I alluded to the scarcity of opportunities to learn about Greek wines in my introductory article on Greek reds, partly because few restaurants exist to play a significant educational role, just as the scarcity of German and Austrian restaurants does not help Americans feel more at ease with Germanic wines.


The grüner veltliner wine is an exception to this rule. grüner was nearly unknown in America at the turn of the century, but it quickly became a popular restaurant wine. What happened to cause that? First, sommeliers from all over the world embraced it. Then, restaurants in the United States began providing it by the glass, with bartenders and waiters on hand to reassure nervous diners.


That isn’t likely to happen with Greek reds. It will be a long road with many baby steps, the first of which is simply tasting the wines because there is so much to discover. I recommended three bottles to drink during the last month, as is customary.


The winning entries were Domaine Glinavos Ioannina Vlahiko 2018, Argatia Macedonia Haroula 2018, and Kir-Yianni Naoussa Xinomavro Ramnista 2017.


I would advise patience if the language appears to be too difficult. The allure of fine wine is its power to transport you to diverse places and cultures, both familiar and unfamiliar. Of course, it’s nice to be comfortable and familiar, but the thrill of the unknown is also appealing.


If anyone knows anything about Greek geography, it’s the region around Athens and the islands, where white wines are the most popular. However, the best red-wine regions are in the country’s less-known northern regions, such as Macedonia, where the Argatia hails from, and Naoussa, a great red-wine location inside Macedonia, where Kir-Yianni is found. The most prominent red grape in the region is Xinomavro.


Domaine Glinavos is located near Ioannina, which is part of the greater Epirus area in northwest Greece. The wine we sampled was made primarily of vlahiko with a tiny proportion of bekari, both of which are indigenous grapes.


With rich, savory tastes and an apple freshness, the Glinavos was vibrant and energetic. It was juicy and peppery, with a good structure that came from the vibrant acidity. However, it wasn’t very tannic.


By the way, Shweta of Michigan was frustrated since she couldn’t locate a decent vlahiko pronunciation instruction. It’s pronounced VLAH-hee-coh, with the second syllable almost omitted.


The Argatia Haroula, which was mostly produced of xinomavro with tiny amounts of two lesser-known local grapes, negoska and mavrodafni, blended in, was similarly bright and vibrant, with tastes of red and dark fruits as well as licorice, xinomavro’s hallmark flavor.


The entire Kir-Yianni Ramnista is made of xinomavro. It matured in oak barrels and was a little more polished than the other two bottles, with 14.5 percent alcohol compared to 12 percent for the Glinavos and 13.5 percent for the Argatia.


It was silky smooth, with delicate tannins and rich licorice, dark cherry, and menthol tastes. Many individuals compare xinomavro to nebbiolo, including Steven Kolpan of Woodstock, N.Y., a lifelong wine educator, and the likeness was obvious in this bottle.


These bottles would not surprise someone conversant with the canon of current, dry red wines. They’re distinct in that they properly depict their origins through grape selection and other terroir features. Still, the distinctions between them and, for example, French or Italian reds are subtle and pleasant.


They do, however, necessitate explanation. Thus, the emergence of Greek wines outside of Greece will primarily depend on what the wine industry refers to as “hand sales,” or face-to-face meetings between authorities who can educate and curious consumers eager to listen.


The Glinavos, on the other hand, did not appeal to VSB of San Francisco, who described it as thin and acidic. He did, however, come upon a Troupis agiorgitiko that he liked. Other readers, however, were enthused about the Glinavos, just as VSB promised.


Martina Mirandola Mullen of New York remarked, “I absolutely loved this wine.” “It was light and complex, with fine tannins that would go nicely with seafood or meat,” says the winemaker.


Peter of Philadelphia described the Glinavos as “an wonderful wine for the correct feast,” by which he meant any robust Greek cuisine.


Rachel Semmons of Tampa, Fla, enjoyed both the Glinavos and the Argatia Haroula. She stated that she had sampled several unsatisfactory Greek wines, which had impacted her opinion, and would continue to do so.


“These bottles were promising,” she added, “but the lack of availability and residual concerns about reliability made it more likely that we won’t be drinking a lot of Greek wines in the future.”


To make your search a little easier, check for wines imported by reputable importers, such as DNS Wines, Eklektikon, and Diamond Wine Importers, as well as Greek wine specialists like DNS Wines, Eklektikon, and Diamond Wine Importers.


If you’re interested in learning more about the fruits, geography, people, and culture that go into making Greek wines, I highly recommend Konstantinos Lazarakis’ book “The Wines of Greece” (Infinite Ideas, 2018).


Experimenting in restaurants and learning from sommeliers is one thing. However, there are instances when you must take issues into your own hands. Read the original article here.


About Robert Oluoch

My focus is economic, politics, entertainment and gaming reviews. My aim is to depict the complication of life through the combination of words and creativity.

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