by Markus Stolz

On
the radar screen

byMarkus Stolz
November 12, 2009, 7 Comments

Wine Critics GermanyI feel strongly that Greek wines are ready to take the plunge. In order to put my money where my mouth is, I organised a tasting event of a large variety of Greek wines to be scrutinized by a number of well-known German wine personalities, on Monday, November 9th, in Hamburg.

My experiences to date have demonstrated that German wine critics are quite demanding in their expectations and their high standards are a test for every wine. The unfamiliarity with Greek grape varieties presented an additional challenge to this venture.

There was no handpicking of wines; I aimed at displaying a representative selection of the overall quality available in Greece. Therefore wine estates participating at this event were left on their own, to choose which wines to send in, for the tasting. Even I found out of their selections on the day of the tasting. It ended up being a large range of Greek wines, covering different wine estates from several regions, including Greek and international grape varieties.

The panel to taste and judge the wines was made up of well-known wine critic Mario Scheuermann, wine journalist Eckhard Supp, and wine consultant Michael Pleitgen. The event took place at Ina Finn’s Villa Verde, whom I would like to extend a very special “thank you” for her tremendous help to make this happen – she provided the logistics and positive spirit that allowed the event to be a success despite some hurdles.

Eckhard Supp and myself arrived early Monday morning and proceeded to sort all the wines by growing regions and growers. A total of 64 different wines from 14 estates were submitted, unfortunately 6 wineries had failed to send any samples, despite all of them having ensured me of their support. This was a disappointment, as these included some very exciting growers who could have easily contributed another 50 different wines.

The following wineries were presented:
Biblia Chora  (Kavala), Dalamara (Naoussa), Gentilini (Cephalonia), Gerovassiliou (Epanomi), Kir-Yianni (Naoussa), Manousakis (Crete), Mercouri (Pyrgos), Palivou (Nemea), Pavlidis (Drama), Sigalas (Santorini), Tselepos (Arcadia), Vatistas (Laconia), Wine Art (Drama), and Zafirakis (Crete).

As can be seen, many wine regions were represented, including important islands, the Peloponnese and the winegrowing regions in the north of the country. The tasting started at noon and lasted for about four hours. I made the following key observations:

There was a variation of quality levels, which was to be expected, as no cherry picking took place.

In general, the Greek grape varieties were favoured over their international counterparts, with the exception of Syrah.

Reds outdid the whites – this is the second time in 10 days that I received this feedback.

Assyrtiko wines from Santorini outclassed all other whites; Malagousia came second.

The surprise of the day was the very high and consistent quality of reds made from Syrah. Mario Scheuermann was quite intrigued by this finding, and sees a lot of potential for Greek winemakers who work with this variety. On the other hand, Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot wines were not able to leave such a marked impression.

With respect to cost, there was agreement that some of the more expensive wines were well worth their price tag and at the same time there were some bargains identified amongst wines in the lower price ranges.

It was interesting to me to obtain the views of experts on wines made of grape varieties that they were not familiar with. Overall, it was a great experience to dive into the ‘unknown’, both in terms of the supply and in terms of how it would be received. My experience though with Greek wines so far was overall confirmed: There is great potential out there, and there are some very fine producers indeed, that can stand to be measured with upmarket wines from other countries.

The following links have so far been posted in regards to the event, I will update this section as more content is expected:

http://elloinos.posterous.com/syrah-the-future-for-greek-wineries
http://www.weinakademie-berlin.de/griechenland-tasting-mit-positiven-ueberraschungen (German)
http://weinreporter.posterous.com/griechischer-wein (German)
http://weinreporter.posterous.com/viognier (German)
http://weinreporter.posterous.com/rote-favoriten (German)

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About Markus Stolz

Over the last years, I have come to really appreciate Greek wines. There are many grape varieties that exist only in Greece and I have the good fortune of being able to try them all. I wish to share my enthusiasm with wine lovers around the world, who often limit themselves to maybe four red and four white grape varieties for most of their life.

  1. Kostas KatsoulierisNovember 13, 2009, 1:27 pm

    Fantastic work Markus! A shame that some producers didn’t make it but the ones that did are some of my favourites. Another big surprise for me was that they preferred the reds to the whites as usually foreign wine critics / journalists prefer the whites over the reds. As for the Syrahs I would like to say it is a surprise but I too have become convinced of the strength of Syrah in Greece – partly because I have tasted (and fallen in love with) so many good ones but also because I believe that there are far too many Cabernets, Merlots and Bordeaux blends in Greece – most of which I find boring and perhaps a waste of talent/terroir. Indeed during my Summer holidays I came across small scale producers in both Syros and Cephalonia who planted Syrah and I await with bated breath the release of Kokkali’s Syrah as well as to see what Mercouri will do with their plantings.

    On another note I was again disappointed by the selection of wines at Athens airport yesterday – perhaps I am living in a dream world where they could sell some of the wines that earned top marks at recent wine competitions – most of which do not have outrageous price tags. Moreover perhaps they could sell better versions of varietals/wines than the ones presently on offer i.e. Sigalas & Argyrou for Assyrtiko, Kyr Yianni, Dalamaras and Alpha for the Xinomavros, Kontoyiannis & Kechris for retsina… Keep up the great work!

  2. elloinosNovember 13, 2009, 2:29 pm

    Thank you Kosta, I appreciate your interaction on my blog a lot! It is a bit disappointing that not every producer sent in their samples, on the other hand, it was a great success that so many did! Shipping costs are very high in Greece, and I applaud everyone who supported me.

    The reds were indeed preferred, although the whites were not simply brushed aside, I am looking forward to more in depth reporting from Mario Scheuermann and Eckhard Supp on this. I agree with you that there are too many Cabernet and Merlot wines around – in my general view, it is not easy for Greek wineries to compete here on an international level. There are exceptions, but not many. Many Syrah wines on the other hand start at a higher quality level, and the best are simply stunning.

    In regards to the wines offered at the airport, I am happy to take any pointers on whom to contact – I have to admit that I have not yet looked into the issue in depth. Thanks again for your insightful comment!

  3. Kostas KatsoulierisNovember 13, 2009, 6:46 pm

    Markus, it’s my pleasure as I enjoy your blog a lot both for introducing Greek wines I do not know (I admit I had never heard of Kydonitsa before your blog) but also because you present things in a way without the usual Greek hyperbole and emotion. I find a lot of Greek wine critics suffer from this and some of them moreover suffer from favouritism or prejudice towards certain producers – whereas you let the wines speak for themselves – which is exactly the way it should be. I would be interested to know which Greek Syrahs you presented…

    As for price this is something that Greeks should be keenly aware of – I am against paying €50 for Avantis Collection when for the same money you could get a far better Ozzie or Safrican Shiraz not to mention a Rhone Syrah. The normal Avantis is however good value. I also hope that Greek wines that win awards do not immediately raise their prices. It would be a shame if Ovilos White (the revelation of the year for me and a world class Greek – hence it’s performance at the Decanter World Wine Awards) went up for example. It also makes buying these in retsaurants exhorbitant – I already have issues with the mark ups at many restaurants in the Big Olive.

    Also great to see Malagouzia come second. I admit I have never tried this as a single varietal only in blends. Any good places to start?

  4. elloinosNovember 13, 2009, 7:17 pm

    Kosta, thank you so much for the compliment, it means a lot to me! We had pure Syrah from Manousakis, Gentilini, Palivou and Pavlidis plus a number of blends. I love single varietal Malagousia – Gerovassiliou and Vatistas are very good choices.

  5. Kostas KatsoulierisNovember 14, 2009, 9:26 am

    Markus, Guten Morgen. As for who to contact at the airport I think it would be Hellenic Duty Free or whoever runs the concession for the airport shops at El. Ven. I fear however that like in so much of Greece there will be a “cartel” or vested interests or a “special agreement” between the wine producers and the shop. A great shame since it does the consumer not to mention the Greek wine industry a disservice. I know we can’t have everything or a perfect selection (even Muenchen airport – my favourite EU airport – doesn’t have as good a selection of German wines as it could…). Thanks for the tips!

  6. elloinosNovember 15, 2009, 10:22 am

    Guten Morgen Kosta, thank you for the useful information in regards to wines sold at the Athens airport – you might well be correct with the assumption of vested interests or special agreements being in place. Again in regards to single varietal Malagousia, just had a Porto Carras one which I liked, and also Roxanne Matsa produces one that is well worth checking out.

  7. […] I wish to emphasise that nearly every single wine that I organised for the two tasting events received high scores. Most were in the 83 – 88 point range. This is a more than solid result. I spent a lot of time during my year meeting with growers and hunting for exciting quality wines.  I am glad this effort yields results. Reports on the two tasting events can be found here and here. […]

  1. […] I wish to emphasise that nearly every single wine that I organised for the two tasting events received high scores. Most were in the 83 – 88 point range. This is a more than solid result. I spent a lot of time during my year meeting with growers and hunting for exciting quality wines.  I am glad this effort yields results. Reports on the two tasting events can be found here and here. […]