Greek wine: rising and falling trends for 2018
The beginning of each year is the time when predictions are a common thing among wine professionals. I generally avoid making prognoses, but occasionally I enjoy projecting to the future, albeit with calculated risk. If one doesn't risk, at least a little, nothing can be accomplished; and since Greek wine is an adventure, it involves a certain degree of uncertainty.
At least, this is how I see things. Whether I am right or not does not change the fact that some questions need to be posed. For example, does Santorini stand alone, and what could be the next big thing (if there is one to be expected)? Are the wine styles changing, and which are the varieties one should be looking out for? I suspect that you see my point, so here we go for rising and falling trends for 2018 cornering styles and varieties.
On the Rise
More refined and ‘’Burgundian’’ red wines
Look out for Limniona, Limnio, Vlahiko and any other varietal wines that place emphasis on refinement, depth of fruit and terroir expression. The old guard of ‘’noble varieties’’ Xinomavro and Agiorgitiko are also following this lead. About time, I would say!
Skin Contact wines and Pet Nat
Both are very hot and I expect them to shoot even higher this year. Skin Contact wines can be found everywhere from Assyrtiko, to Vidiano, Moschofilero, Roditis and even Savatiano. Most wines are delicious. The Pet Nat revolution is following closely behind.
Amphoras, old oak and concrete
This is linked to the shift towards more elegance in the character of the wines. I expect that in 2018 many more producers will adopt big barrels or old oak and will use a percentage of amphora or concrete in their blends, as they understand that export markets appreciate wines with more terroir character and less vanilla or chocolate.
Single Vineyard wines & Premium examples
A category that is growing fast, and is testimony to the evolution of Greek wine and to the fact that complexity and quality have improved greatly. Some wineries are leading the way, others will try to follow, but not all will be successful.
Since Santorini is unique, with its unprecedented level of individuality, I guess that what is coming next is not another island… but the Islands. Consumers associate the Greek Islands only with positive images and not unduly so. What needs to be highlighted is that Cephalonia, Crete, Tinos, Paros, Samos, even Milos and Syros not only have much excitement to offer, but also make some of the best wines in Greece. Look out then for The Islands as a new category.
Late releases for Santorini Assyrtiko
Look out also for late releases of Santorini as more producers understand that Santorini needs a couple of years in the bottle to reveal its magical character and secondary complexity.
Robola and Mavrodaphne
Τhe Cephalonian stars are candidates for great performances; Robola is following suit to the success of Assyrtiko. It seems to be a variety of strong quality that can be impressive, if certain conditions are complied with. Yes, it is prone to oxidation but it is also capable of producing exquisite terroir - driven wines. More textural than aromatic, with a strong core of stone fruit aromas. Dry Mavrodaphne from Cephalonia and the Peloponnese will continue to grow as a category, and is a strong candidate for the position of the next distinctive Greek red variety to follow in the footsteps of Agiorgitiko and Xinomavro. Put it down to its - hard to beat - combination of aromatic and savoury characteristics.
Malagousia, which is very strong in the domestic market, will continue to grow and I expect it will also find its way into the international markets. More premium examples will be produced.
Assyrtiko (and beyond Santorini)
As Santorini has become replete and with the 30% drop in last year's production (check out my article Harvest in Santorini 2017: A song of lava and Assyrtiko), due to the challenging vintage, Assyrtiko, from other islands and other interesting terroirs in mainland Greece, will be in demand (i.e Crete, Tinos, Kavala, Evia, Amyndeon).
Alcoholic and oaky wines
As the level of sophistication in the taste of the consumer evolves and progresses especially in mature markets there will be more focus on balance and terroir expression and less on chocolate and blackberry jam. 2018 will see fewer wines of over 14.5% abv and alcohol is bound to stabilize below 14%, even for reds.
As premium Retsinas are establishing a new category, one can expect that interest in the cheap, low quality retsinas, that have affected the reputation of Greece in a negative way, will plunge. However, stronger marketing will be needed for this to succeed, and even maybe a new term, that will set the premium wines apart from the bad examples. Check out my article The controversial case of Retsina.
This is a category of wine in Santorini, that was traditionally considered as the crème de la crème of the production. The style? Overripe grapes and prolonged maturation in oak under oxidative conditions. Now, that could be anything above 13.5% abv with three months minimum maturation in oak - not necessarily being oxidative. This causes some confusion and overlap with the oaked versions of Assyrtiko. Moreover, no one really cares if it is a Nykteri or not, and very few people are familiar with this style. The question should rather be, does the wine age in oak or not.
Don’t get me wrong, I love Moschofilero. I consider it a wonderful variety, with delightful primary aromas and a refreshing crispiness. The problem is that producers around Greece don't seem to value the variety, apart from those in the Peloponnese and the Mantinia plateau, and I can see less interest in the grape. It is also likely that the variety was abused, and wines were produced from extremely high yields, which led to a devaluation of the variety. I hope I am wrong but three or four top quality producers are not enough.
Οh Yes! The market of rosé wines has skyrocketed, with most examples exhibiting however neutrality along some strawberry and cherry aromas; the wines compete with each other more with their packaging than their content. I expect that in 2018 more premium rosés will start gaining a share of the market and lookalike rosés will take a nosedive.
I could easily go on, but I think these are the most important turns that I predict for the coming year. Let me know what you think.
Photo Credit: http://www.climatechangesask.ca