As Uncorked Greeks, approaches its first year in operation, it was very fitting that the team packed up and took the ten hour journey to Athens, Greece to attend the country's premier wine event, Oenorama. Held at Zappeion Hall ( a neoclassical building fist utilized during the 1896 Athens Olympic Games) next to the National gardens and the Parliament building, this is where the pulse of Greece's wine country for three days during the first weekend in March. Some two hundred wine producers where present, owners and winemakers, showcasing their latest creations, as well as older, unique wines, some that are impossible to find outside the country.
This was a great opportunity to taste fine wines, under one roof because, frankly, it would take a months to visit all these producers at their wineries. It was an opportunity to taste main stream wines, as well as hidden gems, from unique, indigenous, and yes, ancient grape varietals.
Walking the halls of the exhibit, one could easily think that they where attending an international gathering. At times it felt like the halls of the United Nations, as a myriad of languages where spoken; Greek to be sure, but also English, French, German, Italian, Spanish, Russian, Chinese, Japanese, Korean and many others. This was a testament of the far reaching hands of the Greek vineyard; a global reach to be sure, but also a realization of a world interested and curious for the next best thing. Let's face it, we are a proud Greek bunch, but we also realize that the entire wine production of Greece is less than half of Bordeaux (that's just one region in France); simply put Greece may never produce a large volume of wine to rival the other famed wine countries but what they do produce is worth every cent. What became obvious during Oenorama, however, is the ability to compete head on with with the best wine regions of the world; and the world has taken notice as wine critics, reporters, bloggers, buyers, and wine lovers, from all corners of the globe gathered in Athens for three days.
How about those wine producers, the people behind the labels, eager to please a thirsty world? What became clear during this fair, is the evolution of a revolution that begun some 30-40 years ago. The Greek wine industry would not be where it is today, if it wasn't for some of the large wineries, that had the ability to pull along an entire wine movement. Those who dared to explore, invest, innovate (and risk everything), in the late 70's through the 90's opened the doors for the smaller producers, a restless bunch of winemakers determined to show the world what they could accomplish. Side by side, at Oenorama one could experience the wines of the Big boys (million plus bottles/year), as well as the artisanal producers (10-50 thousand bottles/year). You could easily feel the excitement, anticipation and eagerness of these winemakers; it was intoxicating, to say the least. The wines spoke to the heart, the senses, the love for a good life under the vine.
How about the grapes, and the wines themselves? Luckily Greece is blessed with not only great weather, but a topography full of mountains, valleys and a long shoreline. In other words, a perfect location for vines to flourish. So, along the numerous international varietals, native Greek grapes are ever present (over 300 by last count). We where privileged to taste the many expressions of Assyrtiko, Malagouzia, Moschofilero, Robola, Vidiano, as well as Xinomavro, Agiorghitiko, Limniona, Limnio, Mavrodaphne, Mouchtaro and many others. These names maybe a tongue twisting exercise, but the wines they produce are memorable with a sense of place.
The three days under the Athenian blue skies, in early Spring, was an experience of a lifetime, a privilege to mingle with extraordinary producers, and a certain commitment to be back next spring.
We came back with a renewed vision of why we want the American Consumer to visit Greece through their bottles. We will go in depth and personal with what we saw, tasted and who we met..Stay tuned.