Jancis Robinson on Greek wine
19 December 2015

A wine communicator with an international reputation and Master of Wine since 1984, Jancis Robinson writes daily for www.jancisrobinson.com, (on which about a third of articles are free) and weekly for The Financial Times. She is also editor of The Oxford Companion to Wine and co-author, with Hugh Johnson, of The World Atlas of Wine, each of these books recognized as a standard reference worldwide. Recently she launched the fourth edition of her definitive tome, Oxford Companion to Wine with 300 new entries on topics.  

Some fun new entries include ingredient labelling, ladybug taint, microbial terroir, minerality, Mtsvane, natural wine, optical sorting, orange wine, social media and tasting notes language. There of course some Greek new entries and I remember for sure from a presentation by Julia Harding MW in Romania, Thrapsathiri but there should be more. 

Recently she returned from a tasting of red wines in Athens and she was kind enough to give me a concise interview on Greek wine.

1. In 2004 you wrote an article on ''Where is Greek wine today'' commenting a. On the potential of Assyrtiko b. On Greece making rather more exciting whites than reds. So after 11 years ''Where is Greek wine today'' ?

JR: I was delighted to taste so many excellent mature Greek reds at the Fine Red Wines event in Athens on 13 December – from vintages of the last decade.  A high proportion of them were very accomplished and confident rather than tasting experimental or unbalanced.  So I feel much more sure of Greek red wines today.

2. Which are the main positive points about Greek wine?

JR: For non Greeks it is the distinctive range of indigenous grape varieties (although I am aware that Greeks themselves may be more thrilled by Greek versions of international grape varieties).

3. Which is the main negative point  for Greek wine? Quality, prices or insufficient marketing?

JR: For non Greeks, the Greek alphabet on labels can be a real hurdle. I come across a wide range of very good wines, some of them – but by no means all – a little overpriced.

4. Do you see a real problem for pronouncing Greek varieties? I mean a lot of people do not even get right Sauvignon Blan(c) and maybe Malagousia is easier to pronounce compared to Gruner Veltliner

JR: I’m quite confident about the names of Greek varieties. They are generally distinctive and not too difficult to pronounce. They also have very distinct personalities.

5. People in Santorini are discussing the premiumisation of Assyrtiko raising prices even 20% for current vintage and talking about retail price in local market of 20 euros for the entry level wines. What are your thoughts on that?

JR: I can  understand that there are very special pressures on Santorini grape prices with the demands of tourism and development.  I’d say price rise may be justified but it would be wiser to impose it more gradually!

6. Do you see another Greek variety emerging after Assyrtiko?

JR: Malagousia, Agiorgitiko and Xinomavro all have obvious potential – and I was rather impressed by what Kolindrino seemed to add to Naked King 2012. Though it is almost certainly better as a blending ingredient than a varietal wine.

7. Does it make sense for Greek producers trying to produce an icon wine from international varieties?

JR: This looks like a loaded question! There may be a market for such wines in Greece but they would have more trouble making an impact outside Greece.

8. Is there a future for Retsina?

JR: I don’t spend enough time in Greece to know the answer to this but I do see a niche export market for artisanal retsina.

9. As far as you can remember which styles of Greek wines have you enjoyed the most?

JR: I’m still a huge Santorini Assyrtiko fan!

10. Which is your favourite food and Greek wine match?

JR: Dolmadakia and Malagousia​

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