Welcome our new Wine Columnist, Nicole Andersen, a.k.a Greek Wine Girl. Each month, she’ll write about the world of Greek wine.
Challenges for Greek wine
While Greeks have been at wine making for thousands of years, you would think Greek wines would be at the level of those of Italy or France. Why? I think something may have been lacking, but I’m not 100% sure what that is. Perhaps it’s the poor reputation garnered decades ago by cheap wine. Or was it primitive wine making techniques? Possibly it was lack of the exposure in the market. You’d think it would be safe to assume that Greek restaurants have and serve only Greek wine, but that’s not always the case. For many years, Kourtaki, Boutari, and Tsantalis have been the staple of many of Chicago’s Greek restaurants. With all the new wines and cutting-edge winemaking happening, it’s a pity to not see it being accepted with open arms.
Since 2010, I’ve been involved in the hustle and bustle to get the word out there, to help these new wines penetrate the market. As many other importers will tell you, it’s not an easy task, but I’m steadfast in my efforts.My thirst (pun intended) to learn about new wines, and to spread the word, only grows. I’ve been so dedicated to Greek wines, that last week was the first time in six years that I drank a wine that wasn’t Greek. I’ve become so involved and dedicated to this cause, that I’m not interested in anything else. So like most Sommeliers who stay on top of everything, I sometimes feel I can’t continue to keep this title. Call me an expert on Greece and I’ll wear my pin all day!
Greek wine at International Wine and Spirits
In February, I traveled to Greece to be a judge in the International Wine and Spirits competition in Thessaloniki. It was a most amazing and humbling experience. Many of the judges were wonderful people and we shared a love and passion for Greek wines. Our judging panel had a winemaker from Spain who didn’t have much experience with Greek wines. I took the opportunity to discuss the wines with him. I was encouraged to hear him enthusiastically as questions, and share his opinion.
The wineries that I represent brought in a total of eleven awards. I was so proud!
Another highlight for me was having the opportunity to chat with Wine Author, Lecturer, and Tour Guide Nico Manessis, of Greek Wine World. His writings on Greek wines have been personal references for me as well as continued education. He’s written extensively about Greek wines — and has become an authority on the subject. He answered some questions that I’ve been dying to ask him, and honestly, I wish I had more time with him. However, I’m sure we will cross paths again someday.
Wines of Naoussa tour
I traveled to Boston right before Pascha to do a tour with the Wines of Naoussa, where we presented one region of Greece. We also attended Wine Riot Boston with Naoussa, and received most amazing feedback from the guests. I love these events, because I can move around freely, spreading the word about Greek wine — and most importantly, to educate. This is the best way we can promote them.
Greek wine reps in Chicago
Yannis Tselepos, of Tselepos Winery, one of Greece’s top 10 wineries arrived last weekend, for a series of wine events. On May 9, we participated in a sommelier and industry driven event at City Winery, with Chicago’s newly titled Advanced Sommelier Rachael Driver Speckan. What a great time! As we typically see, people haven’t had much exposure to Greek wine, but once they learn something about it and taste, the feedback is always very positive.
This Friday, May 20, we will team up with City Winery once again, to host a Greek wine tasting party. Reps from eight of the wineries I represent will be there to showcase their amazing wines. 8 of my wineries will be present and showcasing their amazing wines. We will also be joined by David Schneider of Taxim and Louie Alexakis of Avli, who will no doubt bring some incredible food creations for our guests to enjoy. It’s going to be an evening any wine lover won’t want to miss. It’s open to the public, so please join us!
Binny’s loves Greek wine
Binny’s Beverage Depot here in Chicago has truly embraced Greek wines. Currently, I have 18 wines in their stores. They truly have a great representation of Greek wines as a whole. It’s been so fun to see new wines pop up on the shelf and that interest for Greek wines is growing. Next time you go to Binny’s stop and have a look. You’ll be pleasantly surprised at home much Greek wine you will find, and you’ll likely discover something new among the selection.
Heading back to Greece
Greece is on the horizon for me once again, as I will return in June. While I never rest on these trips and I’m there regularly, it’s been 6 years since I’ve made it to the seaside, yet I daydream of being there, as I rack up miles on the highway in Greece. Though I spend a lot of time away from home, and I schlep wine around on a constant basis, I wouldn’t change anything — I truly love what I do. This is truly my calling. I reflect over these years from when I started this journey, and I’m so proud of the strides Greece has made.
Summer wine recommendations: Greek whites and rosés
With all this being said and summer is approaching though the weather here says otherwise the time for Greek whites is now! I truly believe that Greece has some of the best whites in the world, and let’s not forget our rosés –they, too, have been most impressive. With the growing popularity of rosés, you won’t want to miss Greece’s rosés.
Here are some recommendations for whites:
Assyrtiko from any House of Santorini are a wine you don’t want to miss they are growing in popularity. As you might know, mix of volcanic ash in the soil has yielded a rich and unique wine. Look for wines from Gavalas, Santo Winery, Hatzidakis Winery, and Domaine Sigalas, to name a few. For something a little different, try an assyrtiko from Wine Art Estate in Drama, which presents an entirely different expression. $13.99-35.99 and Binnys has a superb array of them.
Moschofilero is another varietal to not miss. In my opinion, Yannis Tselepos is a master. Sparkling version in Brut – traditional method, also providing three options: Arcadia, Mantina, to his high-end Blanc De Gris.
Now for rosé:
Let me start by saying not every rosé out of Greece is Roditis… With that being said, here are some rosés to try:
Nostos Pink from Manousakis Winery. This wine from Crete is outstanding.
I’m so excited to announce the arrival this week to Chicago of Pink Bang from Wine Art Estate, from the 100% Tourgia Nacional grape! It’s so good, well, Mykonos took almost every bottle made last summer. It’s a uniquely outstanding rose!
Sharing notes from the vine
I’m so excited to share all my wine experiences with you and spread the word from vine to wine. There will be so much to talk about! Feel free to email questions, wine critiques, or topic suggestions you’d like to share.
Cheers! Go enjoy some Greek wine.
Updated: The event has taken place.