London Greek Wine Festival puts obscure grapes on the map

London Greek Wine Festival puts obscure grapes on the map

The pleasures of Greek wines have passed most of us by in the UK, where sales are dominated by Australia, France and Italy.

Greece doesn’t even come near the top 10, which also features the US, Spain, South Africa, Chile, New Zealand, Germany and Argentina, according to the Wine and Spirit Trade Association.

The first London Greek Wine Festival, running October 2-4, offers a chance to get to know grape varieties such as Assyrtiko and Malagousia, which are slowly gaining attention in London.

Greece is gaining from a tiny base. Wine exports to the UK in the first seven months of this year surged 64 percent from a year earlier to 1.94 million pounds ($2.95 million). Sales in 2014 were up 24 percent from a year earlier at 2.18 million pounds. That’s barely a drop in the 15-billion-pound British wine market that year, according to Euromonitor. 

Nonetheless, some varieties now make it onto London wine lists, including that of the Ivy, where 2014 Hatzidakis Assyrtiko Santorini costs 41 pounds.

“Greek wine is really, really interesting and distinctive,” Master of Wine Jancis Robinson says. “There are fantastically varied regions and natural terroirs: All those great islands with their own character.”

The festival is taking place near King’s Cross, centered on King’s Place and the Greek Larder. That’s the establishment of festival founder Theodore Kyriakou, best known as creator of the the Real Greek restaurant, which has grown into a chain since he sold it.

The festival includes talks and tastings, plus matchings of food and wine and a pop-up wine bar.

“I love Assyrtiko,” says Robinson, who is an ambassador for the festival. “It’s indigenous to the island of Santorini, which itself is a lovely place. It’s amazing that it can produce such a refreshing wine so far south.

“Greek wine has got better and better,” she says. “And the wine that people bother to import is of a very high standard. You don’t find Greek plonk here. It’s got to be good.”


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