When you think of wine what parts of the world come to mind first? France? Italy? California? Maybe Argentina or Spain? What about Greece? Wait a second Keith…Greece?

Yes, ladies and gentlemen. Greece.

I have seen an ancient light creeping through time slowly but surely to rest upon my soul (poetic chessey-ness is always fun to dish out) in this great city of ours at an event on the west side of Manhattan.

Ok Back to reality…

Andres and myself recently were at a huge wine tasting. These events can be quite overwhelming and hard to navigate. There is more wine than one’s palate can handle and not all of it is good. You have to strategize and hope you have hit all the good tables before Dionysus says you have had enough and numbs your lips, stains your teeth and rosies your cheeks.

We got there a bit late and the place was packed. It was hard to even get tastes with all the people crammed in the large room. We sat down, got out the list of producers and started marking our focused journey. For an hour or so we plowed through the huge room, tasting, spitting, taking notes and shaking our heads. Because of In Vino we had specific tables we had to stop at concerning potential additions to our wine list but when we finished the obligatory visitations it was time to branch out and have fun.

We did a quick French exposure and a skosh of Cali and Australia but the whole time Andres and I had other parts of the world on our minds. Andres really wanted to see what was up in the Portuguese section and I kept wanting to check out the Greek section. We cleansed our palates with a bit of cheese and some imported Italian bread crisps and off we went to Portugal. The wines were fantastic. They reflected tradition while embracing new winemaking techniques and never giving up balance. We were very impressed with the quite small yet focused selection.

We jotted down some enthusiastic notes, shook hands with the producers and started off in the direction of the area of the room that would change everything.

As packed as this event was there was a hole in the crowd. It was in the corner of the huge event space along the back wall with tables assembled in one long L shape. It was the Greek section. Most wine regions have so many tables that they are in the center of the hubbub but Greece was hanging out humbly in the corner. The amount of people crowding the other tables was out of control while here it was spacious and refreshing. We could actually breathe.

My wife’s father is Greek and the cultural references are all over their house. The kitchenware is all blue and white and there are many Greek artifacts displayed around their home. My father in-law is obsessed with history about as much as I am obsessed with wine so their library is filled with historical literature a lot of it Greek of course. He also has a quite intricate hobby: mini soldiers. He will create entire battle scenes from ancient history all the way up to post Second World War II. We have been to every Greek restaurant in Hilton Head Island South Carolina as well as most of them in Queens.

Every time we go out to eat I am given the wine list and as I look at it I always say to myself, Keith you really gotta get into Greek wine. You need to really get into it and understand how wine came to them and how they spread grapes throughout the world. In the is city the Greek wine that is available is not always good because I don’t know that people think about it when buying it (merchants and restaurant owners, that is). Maybe it’s one of those things were they just buy it for there store or wine shop to be diverse or for their restaurant because they are Greek.

People buying wine don’t go straight to the Greek section of a store if there even ever is one because no one understands it or can pronounce it. Or they are only familiar with Retsina; a wine that pretty much tastes pine resin (there is a historical reason) which can be very off putting to the point of saying, OMFG I am so never drinking Greek wine again!

Well this geek is here to tell you that Greek wine is wonderful. The grapes that grow in the valleys and mountains of the peninsula when done well can be clean and crisp whether red or white and can have a gripping structure while not weighing down the palate yet can have depth on the level of some nebbiolo or Aglianico wines.

So with all the room in the world and two clean wine glasses Andres and I stepped into Greece and tried the first bottle we saw not really knowing what to expect. We both haven’t been exposed enough to Greek wine to understand it fully. The history, the geography, climate; its all very new.

This is how it went down. This was the situation.

Me: anxious and excited hoping the wine would be good so I can put some in the shop and learn a little more about the wine of my Father-in-law’s ancestors so I can give a mixed case for Christmas for some brownie points.

Andres: Interested yet understandably skeptical of this unfamiliar territory but outwardly excited to try unfamiliar territory.

It all started with a white wine called Robola. The humble winemaker was pouring and speaking of slight oak exposure and vineyard location but I only heard it in the background because I was trying to assess the nose. The color was light straw with a nose full of minerals and mild citrus that carried to the palate which boasted gripping acidity and clean fruit concentration. It reminded me of a refreshing island wine that would love to join you for a bowl of garlicky steamed mussels or fresh calamari. It was familiar and new at the same time. For me it was love at first sight. I was in my own world swirling and sipping and understanding. The excitement was growing inside me. I felt as if I had just discovered new land and wanted to claim it as my own.

I looked up from my vision and saw Andres looking at me with a dropped jaw and an empty glass.

Red please.

The next wine was red as we thrust our glasses toward the smiling yet almost cautious winemaker. This might have been the most excitement he had seen from his wines all day.

The wine was called Agiorghitiko [ah yor yee tiko]. It was dark red in color with an aromatic nose. The palate was clean with a mild fruit depth and soft acidity. It had all signs of a potential age-worthy wine and the experience in my head described above happened all over again.

Andres and I proceeded to taste every single Greek wine in the space and took very detailed notes. We were in this section of the event for the next hour and a half or so going bonkers over how wonderful these wines were. The importers are a mother/daughter team from Greece and their passion is reflected in their portfolio.

That was is it. It was over. We thanked them when we had tasted all the way through which was probably a little under hundred or so wines and ran frolicking into the city to find a wine bar and strategically prepare for the Greek wine renaissance.

That’s right we loved these wines so much that we believe it is time to bring New York City into the world of Dionysus. It is time to understand and appreciate Greek wines. I feel people will really love these wines when they know a little more about them.

Understanding a wine goes beyond drinking it all the time (although that is very important as well). Behind every wine there is a story and tied to every story is a culture with a history that is important to grasp mentally to understand the wine they drank, drink and will drink in the future. Wine is tied very closely to human history and this is one of the many things that add romance and mystery to the good juice.

So for the next couple posts I would like to invite you to the world of Greek wine.

I will talk about the history of the wine industry and how it got to the point where it will soon blow up on our market (at least that is what I feel). I have been getting into some seriously deep research and will talk about the history, geography, climate, grapes, styles, and anything else important to understanding this amazing wine region.

I look forward to learning with you guys. OPA!


One response to this post.

  1. Posted by imbibenewyork on October 29, 2008 at 11:03 am

    We sampled some Greek whites at one of our wine clubs, and definitely found that each one came full circle when paired with grape leaves, tzsiki, Manouri, Kefalograviera, hummus, and olives!


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