De Griekse oenologe, wijnmaakster, culinair journaliste Nikoleta Makrionitou vroeg me om voor het Griekse wijnmagazine Oinohoos een artikel te schrijven. We hadden elkaar leren kennen bij Syros Winery, dat zij en haar man nieuw leven inblazen. En ze zag wel wat in mijn reisverhaal, mijn missie, terwijl ze zich vrolijk maakte om mijn belachelijke huurfiets.

Dit is mijn artikel.

First of
all, some figures: during harvest time between August and September 2014, some 32
wineries were visited (14 at the Kyklades, 18 in Central Greece). To all
requests for professional visits (through email and phone in English), 13 on
the Kyklades responded positively and timely, 1 didn’t. In Central Greece, 12
replied timely in English, 6 didn’t reply but did welcome us after a telephone
call in Greek, 1 wasn’t interested in our visit and didn’t reply properly.

As for the
grapes; on the Kyklades less than 20% of the wineries used “international
varieties” to support the indigenous grapes in blended wines. In Central
Greece, 10% used mainly or uniquely indigenous varieties.

From the
above, some personal conclusions: Kykladic wines display confidence about their
indigenous varieties: steadily, they have become well known in quality
restaurants worldwide and they are much sought after. Only a couple of the
smallest Kykladic wineries don’t export to Belgium, for example.

In Central
Greece, the search for “internationally excepted taste” is bigger. Also here,
wide export possibilities have been explored. It’s clear they want to open up
to the world but their communication skills stay somewhat behind. Maybe, looking for notoriety abroad, these
wineries want to please the customer, instead of going ahead and forcing the
“western spoiled wine amateur” to taste and like their wines because of terroir
and grape specificity. Do international varieties have an advantage in Central
Greece? Perhaps they do, in blends supporting traditional varietals.

I was most
impressed by the ladies playing a prominent role in the winery/winemaking
processes. The feminine approach nowadays equals finesse, originality, natural
proximity. Qualities the gastronomic world is looking for. Talking to Athina
Tsoli and understanding how she works, I was totally blown away. She’s not only
making breathtakingly pure wines without concession, she’s also managing the
whole process ànd the work force. Women sommeliers, wine makers, wine
consultants,… the challenges and opportunities lie everywhere.

Most of the
wineries I visited, have a strong family link; only few of them don’t use the
family name as a commercial brand. Syros Winery, Gaia, Thivaiki Gi, Vioma,
that’s about it. This, for me, reflects part of the Greek identity: strong
family ties are generational. How many winemakers did we meet, reviving
grandparents’ vineyards, even after studying anything but viticulture? Plenty!
We noticed as well, that nostalgia plays a particular role: most of the young
winemakers regret not to celebrate wine anymore, although this was tradition a
generation ago, but they’re not really taking efforts in reviving this.

Renaissance
of (great-) grandparents’ vineyards, but with modern standards. Frankly I never
heard of aquaflex barrels, but I saw them for the first time in Greece.
Technologically, Greece is totally geared up, however it should stay vigilant.
Don’t over-extract, don’t go to the extreme on the yeasts or cold maceration.
Please keep it nicely surprising, typical, a product with a story we can tell
to the customers on the Atlantic coast. And take revenge on history; you did
provide the world with grape juice when France ran out of it – claim your role.

But in the
meantime: do experiment. Do so with the ageing potential of your sweet wines,
and with retsina. Please don’t denounce your retsina. It’s as unique as the
Spanish sherry, it’s as refreshing before, during, after a good meal.

I came to
the point where I’m lecturing Greek winemakers how to proceed. Being just a
Belgian wine writer, I might as well be your most loyal defender. You made it
from housewine to urban wine. The world is ready for you.

En dit is het artikel zoals het in december 2014 in Oinohoos verscheen: