Athens is one of the liveliest and noisiest cities in Europe. Equally full of vitality is the Greek wine scene, which you can discover by visiting Oenorama, the largest event for Greek wine, held in March 12-14, 2022, after a two-year break due to the Covid pandemic. Simon Werner traveled to Athens to experience a wine country on the move.
Some 6,000 visitors and 242 exhibitors found their way to the historic venue. The Zappeion Megaron offers a setting whose atmosphere, in terms of charm, is second only to Vienna's Hofburg.
It is striking how young the exhibitors often are. Many well-educated young winemakers and cellar masters have studied abroad at the universities of Bordeaux, Dijon or Geisenheim and want to overcome the dusty image of Imiglykos and Retsina. Their expertise is reflected in the wines they produce, with the character of the grape varieties and terroir taking center stage.
Autochthonous grape varieties
While Assyrtiko and Xinomavro have become Greece's flagship wines, other grape varieties show a lot of potential. For instance, producers report that the aromatic, yet unobtrusive white Malagousia is making a veritable comeback. For the wine trade, this is admittedly a category that requires explanation, but one with plenty of room for profile building.
In addition, there are several grape varieties, both white and red, that are so uncommon that they are produced by only one winery. This is the case, for example, of the Gavalas winery from Santorini, which is the only producer to bottle Katsanó.
Producers are not only focusing on autochthonous grape varieties, but also on high-altitude wines. A mountainous country like Greece provides ideal conditions for these high-altitude varieties, both on the mainland and the islands.
Another big player, Tsantalis, showcased its new limited-edition wines such as "1/3000", whilst informing attendees about its brand-new cooperation with the Cretan winery Strataridakis. Another exciting discovery was "Off One", a series of collaborations by the winemaker Foivos Papastratis. He produces wines with colleagues on Santorini or Kefalonia - every year a different wine in a different cooperation, partly from very rare grape varieties. He himself comes from Euboea, Greece's second largest island, which is still unknown in terms of wine.