Various wine personalities will often tell you that one region or another is “underrated” or that they don’t understand why people don’t like it more?

There’s a great deal of debate on this front, but for me, when it comes to underrated countries for wine, I think that Greece would have to be at the top of anyone’s list. The wines are tremendous and outstanding. The history is lengthy. The list of signature varieties and styles runs the proverbial country mile. And well, the preceding list probably goes to show the issue that when it comes to Greece, there’s simply so “much” along with a non-Latin alphabet, that too many people get overwhelmed when “Napa” and “Cabernet Sauvignon” is just right there, readily understood and known, as opposed to Ασύρτικο (Assyrtiko) that some wine person you once met said was amazing and yet you’re a touch intimidated by.

Thus we see a welcome and very necessary publication in the form of “Greek Wine Explained” by the exceedingly-knowledgeable Master of Wine, Yiannis Karakasis who is also the creator of the annual judging contest aptly named, “50 Great Greek Wines“. As a side note, he’s taking this show on the road and the winners will be showcased in London at the end of May–you lucky Londonians.

Published in January, 2024, “Green Wine Explained” picks up from Karakasis’s excellent website and gives a 118 page text that delves even further into all aspects of Greek wines. As Karakasis stated:

It aims to provide comprehensive information about the current position of Greek wine on the global stage, along with numerous wineries and wine recommendations.

It’s important to note that this is not one of these “Special Report” type publications which are more like 95% scores and 5% text and analysis despite claims of 100+ pages in length. Karakasis takes a serious look at trends and news in Greek wines, wineries to watch, and explaining (thus the title) various aspects of the Greek wine industry.

He opens talking about just how far the Greek wine industry has come while at the same time maintaining its traditions (see Retsina). He then gets into various news items such as how Greece (as of 2022) finally has an official registry of native varieties (210 and counting), changes to Santorini’s PDO, a new classification in Nemea, the work for a new PDO for Athens (which I can’t remember seeing news about anywhere despite it seeming to be big news to me), and then many other items. This is perhaps tilted more at wine trade folks, but it was all quite informative nonetheless.

The preservation of old vines, a vintage overview of 2023, and other items are followed by an interview with winemaker, Nikos Karatzas, and then what I think is the real meat for the general public: new wineries, emerging wineries, value for money (under 15€ is always a winner), and top wines to search out. Everything in here is worth reading and if you have a trip planned to Greece in the near future, need a bit of encouragement to make this your next destination, or just want to up your Greek wine drinking game, this is all great content along with some impressive photos.

Again, there aren’t 100-point scale scores splashed around here, but there are recommended wines, which is ultimately more useful given that vintages change and it’s just nice to have a reference point.

And then we get the “In Depth: Assyrtiko, Mavrodaphne & Aigialeia” section which for me is amazing as I love all these varieties. But, this is a great section for everyone no matter their wine background as it gives a all manner of detail on each of these varieties to hopefully get people understanding (and ultimately drinking) them more. One mention in here that was surprising and yet not surprising was that when it came to Assyrtiko, “the exact clone was approved in France in 2018”.

But, in addition to each of the grape profiles, there are again winery and wine recommendations within them to help people on the path to more discovery.

Lastly, the text closes with a smattering of facts and figures as well as a lengthy list of grape varieties and a short description. All of this is material I’m sure to be returning to in the future.

Overall, a fine project and one that I hope Karakasis will continue as it’s a much-needed reference in the wine world. Ah, one last point in that I’ve probably never said this about a purely-digital edition, but this is very, very attractive product with a design, color scheme, and layout that’s done very well to capture a Greek spirit.


Review copy provided by the author

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