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25 August 2019

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.

About Gregory

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.

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Submitted on 08/31/2019 - 01:35 by Rikos
I will reverse the question and will ask if the wine is a bu***t and the winemaker best guy in world or maybe someone you admire would you skip the wine?
Submitted on 08/27/2019 - 23:34 by Gregory Michailos
Thanks for the comment Moshe. I love eccentricity but this is quite different from people lacking ethos... I have met eccentric winemakers and they were great and their wines so...
Submitted on 08/27/2019 - 23:44 by Gregory Michailos
Maria I get you but definitely such guys are not under my radar. I prefer to seek for the other ones and try to bring them in light. However I believe that at the end of the day everyone gets what he deserves.
Submitted on 08/27/2019 - 23:46 by Gregory Michailos
Anna you are so damn right...
Submitted on 08/27/2019 - 19:32 by Moshe Cohen
Like you Gregory, I try to connect with winemakers for many years now. Sometime, just as an artist can be a bit eccentric, or down right misanthrop, you can still admire the art. In the case of wine, I completely understand. There are plenty of others.
Submitted on 08/27/2019 - 10:38 by Maria
The bottles do not state on their labels the character of the wine maker as the state let's say the alcohol. It's only the wine critics and wine journalists that can do that. Who will be the bold one to call them out?
Submitted on 08/26/2019 - 22:43 by Anna
Yes, I am actively practising this approach-deleting so many high-end wines. Otherwise this case reminds me of huge clothing brands exploiting children-labour and advertising themselves as sustainable and go -green brands, just disgusting.
Submitted on 08/26/2019 - 15:48 by Johnnie Barou
Absolutely agree and i have made the same point in forum posts in Simos Georgopoulos' blog. Wine is about the place, person and story.
Submitted on 08/26/2019 - 14:30 by Ze'ev Dunie
Great writing!!! Bon Courage - they say in French... I hope we'll meet one day, and drink an "honest" bottle of wine... Ze'ev Dunie Seahorse winery Israel
Submitted on 08/26/2019 - 14:15 by Miguel Major
I absolutely agree with your point of view. And as I notice, more and more people start to ask questions about the way the wine was made and the maker. Labels like "Integrity and Sustainabilty" in South Africa are an important step.
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