NEW YORK – Greek red wines were featured in the New York Times on February 26 in an article titled, “So Ancient, Yet So New: Gorgeous Red Wines From Greece” by the Times’ wine critic Eric Asimov who noted that “while the country is better known for its white wines, it also produces distinctive, superb reds from a number of little-known grapes.”
Asimov writes, “It may seem paradoxical to think of Greece as an emerging wine producer, considering the ancient lineage of its grape vines and wine production. But in the global marketplace of fine wines, that’s exactly how Greece should be seen.”
While winemaking goes back to remote antiquity in Greece, it is only recently that bottles of Greek wine “have begun to appear in far-flung parts of the planet,” the Times reported, adding that “by that standard, it’s only in the last 20 years or so that the rest of the world has gotten an opportunity to learn firsthand about the beauty of wines from Greece, or, for that matter, about other ancient winemaking cultures, like in the Caucasus and, indeed, lesser-known parts of France, Italy, Spain and Portugal.”
Asimov writes, “With Greece, and especially in the case of its red wines, 20 years may be an exaggeration,” noting that “finding Greek reds in New York even 15 years ago would have required a trip to Astoria, Queens, a Greek enclave where wine shops would cater as best they could to the tastes of their local clientele and recent immigrants.”
He pointed out that the red wines often available then were “the sort of simple taverna wines that had long dominated wine production in Greece” and “these wines had only fairly recently found their way into individual bottles, rather than the traditional demijohns in which they had long been sold locally,” the Times reported. The quality was often not the best, either.
Now, shopping online from a few Manhattan wine shops, Asimov “was able to find 12 gorgeous Greek reds without leaving my desk (though believe me, I’d give anything these days for an in-person shopping experience),” the Times reported.
For the cause of the change, Asimov cited Konstantinos Lazarakis and his authoritative book, The Wines of Greece (Infinite Ideas, 2018), “The quest for quality rarely goes hand in hand with the quest for survival,” the Times reported.
“In other words, over the last third of the 20th century, Greece had to develop a prosperous enough economy to support both a wine industry focused on quality and consumers willing to pay for those wines,” the Times reported, adding that “this was accomplished and continues, despite the financial crisis of the last decade that so desperately afflicted Greece.”
“If anything, Mr. Lazarakis asserted, the financial crisis helped propel Greek wine producers to try to sell their wines internationally, as the financial meltdown shrank what had been a thriving domestic market,” the Times reported, noting that “in a sense, Greece finds itself in a similar situation with what occurred in Italy and Spain, though trailing by a number of years. In those countries, lesser-known regions had to develop confidence in their indigenous grapes and traditions, as well as an infrastructure that would permit them to send the best examples of these bottles to faraway places.”
Just as Italy and Spain “gained confidence in their own traditional varieties, so has Greece,” the Times reported.
Assimov writes, “Each of the 12 wines I’ve selected is made from Greek grapes like xinomavro and agiorgitiko, which the rest of the world has gotten to know, and a few like mavrodaphne, mandilaria, limniona and vlahiko, which global consumers may get to know in the coming years.”
Greece “even has a nascent natural wine culture, motivated as much by resurrecting traditional practices as by working with fewer chemicals in the vineyard and less intervention in the cellar,” the Times reported, noting that “those bottles, identified by questing importers like Eklektikon and DNS Wines, among others, are some of the most interesting. But like most natural wines, they are made in small quantities and so many be difficult to find.”
Asimov’s 12 selections “are far from the only Greek reds worth seeking out,” he writes, noting that “different regions of the United States and other parts of the world will have other bottles available.”
For those who prefer whites, Asimov writes, “the selection from Greece is excellent and more widely distributed,” the Times reported, adding that “If you can’t find any bottles, remember that this is the early stages for Greek reds. I’m certain the selection of good, distinctive Greek wines will only grow.”
Asimov’s selections as reported in the Times, in order of price, low to high, are as follows:
Gaia Peloponnese Monograph Agiorgitiko 2019 $14
Stilianou Crete Great Mother Red Mandilaria 2018 $20
Domaine Glinavos Ioannina Vlahiko 2018 $22
Diamantis Siatista Moschomavro 2018 $22
Sant’Or Patra Krasis 2018 $24
Domaine Zafeirakis Tyrnavos Limniona 2017 $25
Kontozisis Vineyards Karditsa Sun Red 2015 $25
Kir-Yianni Naoussa Ramnista Xinomavro 2016 $27
Sclavos Slopes of Aenos Orgion 2017 $29
Domaine Sigalas Cyclades Mandilaria/Mavrotragano 2018 $30
Vaimaki Family Mater Natura 4 Xinomavro 2009 $40
Domaine Tatsis Macedonia Xinomavro Old Roots 2016 $40.