Can I skip a wine if the winemaker is an ass***?
By Gregory Michailos
Seven years ago, Yiannis Karakasis, Stefanos Georgas, former export manager of Argyros Estate in Santorini, and I were sitting at a table in Paradiso - the restaurant that belonged to my parents - having dinner and discussing Greek wine. Much has changed since then; the restaurant has gone out of business, Yiannis received his Master of Wine title in 2015 and, quite recently, Stefanos broke his love-affair with the island of Santorini and relocated to Athens and the Papagiannakos winery.
Back then, both Yiannis and I were newbies in the wine industry. We had recently launched our 'brainchild' winecommanders.com, (which is not active anymore, but still holds a warm place in our hearts), we were dreaming of the future and were exploring the Greek vineyards writing stories in a frenzy - this, I believe, Yiannis still does to this day.
I hadn't thought about that conversation in a long time, until a Facebook post popped up in my timeline, quite recently. Back then, Stefanos impressed me with his insistence on the fact that the wine world is not all bright - particularly not the Greek wine industry. Georgas challenged our open approach to places and people since, from his point of view, he knew some of the realities that occurred behind-the-scenes. He reminded us that it is not all glitter and shine out there.
He dug into the safe space that wine occupied in our wine-loving hearts, and revealed darkness, cunning politics and lack of ethos, a totally different world to what we had imagined at that point. I think we were both too young and restless to understand any of his words. I still remember the immediate answer we gave him: 'We are not detectives or investigators; we simply do what we love, in the best way we can'.
I have to admit I am a bit of a romantic soul, I have always been the 'good' guy and I rather enjoy this, because this is truly who I think I am. But lately, I feel that a part of me is urging me to wake up a little and to start crushing the idealised, romantic and, perhaps, monolithic views I have embraced for years. It is not a perfect world, and even if I know that I will spoil things, the human aspect of wine seems more important to me lately, more so than any evaluation on the 100 point scale.
I do understand that I'm probably crossing the line here. Probably, people expect expert blogs like karakasis.mw to just guide them through the complicated and mysterious world of wine, offer suggestions and make their lives easier; to help find a bottle of wine one can enjoy with dinner. The rest just complicates matters and that is definitely not my ultimate goal.
However, as I see it, wine is above all a taste of culture and an act of nobleness. And, in order to approach these two (culture and nobleness) you need to be humble and mind your own business. You need to focus on your plans and projects. This may prove to be far more demanding than any deep knowledge and understanding of any wine, or winemaking talent. It is much easier for us to discuss endless details pertaining to varieties, places, vintages, scores, rather than the kindness and ethos of a winemaker.
Of course, we know that the world is not all about shiny, happy people, but what happens if someone – let's say a winemaker - is constantly insulting people and blemishing reputations? Would it be reasonable to speak about a wine made by a guy like this, one who acts as an asshole?
Honestly, I will skip it. I can't be bothered any more with things made by people like that, even if they happen to be the best things in the world, i.e. the best watch, the best handmade pasta, which I adore, the best clothes, the best wine. I just want to drink good wines made by talented, real and kind people that have a story to tell. It took me 7 years, or so, to realize what Stephanos was trying to say back then. It is never too late, as they say.
Gregory is a wine consultant and educator based in Athens. He will be contributing to this site on a regular base and he will be reviewing Greece together with Yiannis.