‘An ideal subject for people with a passion’

World wine authority Jancis Robinson traveled to Athens recently to get a fresh taste of what Greece has to offer. Accompanied by her husband, prominent food writer Nick Lander, Robinson was the special guest at an avant-premiere gala dinner at «The Wind/Earth Food and Wine Festival: Tinos, Santorini, Nemea, Arcadia,» which took place at the Milos restaurant on June 29. (Subsequently, the festival officially opened its doors on Tuesday, earlier this week; it runs to July 22). The festival is jointly organized by Milos (Athens, Montreal and New York), Tiniaki Vineyards (Tinos), Domaine Sigala (Santorini), Domaine Dryopi (Nemea) and Domaine Tselepou (Arcadia). It is taking place at Costas Spiliadis’s Greek premises, where his culinary philosophy of simplicity, purity and top quality products prevails. «Wine is a popular interest, a respectable interest,» said Robinson during the gala dinner. «An ideal subject for people with a passion.» Passion is no doubt what drives British-born Robinson around the world tasting, scouting and experiencing. As The Financial Times’s wine columnist and the woman behind an increasingly popular website, Robinson is also a prolific author and the recipient of a plethora of awards and distinctions – in 2003, she became an Officer of the Order of the British Empire (OBE). Following her Athenian visit, Robinson shared a few thoughts with Kathimerini English Edition. What were your impressions on the new Greek wine crop? Better, more competitive wine, perhaps? Certainly quality continues to improve. White wines have long been pretty competent and a higher and higher proportion of reds are made with fruity mid-palates and they attractively supply tannins – though arguably that proportion is still too low. The problem for Greek wine in an international context is that every other wine producing country is improving every year too! What advice would you offer to Greek wine makers? Never be complacent. Make better wine every year. Travel and read – inform yourselves of what is going on in the rest of the world. Emphasize what is uniquely Greek in terms of terroir and grape varieties. Make a point of difference between your wines and those of the rest of the world. Perhaps pick red grapes slightly later for more flavor – though please don’t give us wine with an excess of alcohol. What does the world of wine look like today? There is a huge surplus of wine so except for the very top end, prices are softening and quality is rising – good news for consumers but not so good for producers. New countries are starting to make wine all the time – Thailand, India, Brazil. In your opinion, which are the countries to watch? Spain and southern Italy are only just starting to realize their potential to produce reds of the same style as Greece’s (ripe, interesting grape varieties) at relatively low prices. California and Australia have massive surpluses of cheap bulk wine. Argentina and Chile and South Africa are improving particularly steeply. Is wine fashionable these days? Does it have to be? Yes and no, respectively! But it is definitely a fashionable lifestyle interest all over the world, even throughout Asia, in Brazil, increasingly in Russia, and so forth. From amateurs to pros, what makes wine so special to us all? It tastes so good. It involves history, geography, psychology, science. It’s a product like a book that is «authored.» It’s one of the very few things we can pick off a shelf and know exactly where it was produced, by whom and when – and its delicious flavor is uniquely shaped by that place. For more information log on to ‘Wind/Earth Food and Wine Festival’ at Milos During the festival – but also afterward – Milos is offering a three-course set menu called «Athens 2004,» featuring flavors from Santorini, Tinos, Arcadia and Nemea. At a set price of 20.04 euros, this will be available for lunch and early dinner (from 12.30 p.m. to 4.30 p.m. and 7.30 p.m. to 9 p.m., respectively). Wine deals At the same time, visitors to Milos will have an opportunity to sample top-quality wines from Domaine Sigalas and the Domaine Tselepos at particularly competitive prices (At 3 euros per glass and 10.50 euros per bottle, the prices apply to all times for the duration of the festival). The festival also takes a look at the featured regions from an artistic perspective. In the restaurant’s atrium, an exhibition of large photographs by Giorgos Vdokakis feature bold landscape shots; while in the restaurant, Anne Baudhuin’s gouaches inspired by the Aegean coincide with a collection of sculptures by Praxitelis Tzanoulinos. The art displays were curated by Panayiotis Hadzistefanou. Special events Three particularly exciting events will take place during the festival (for these, visitors are strongly advised to make reservations in advance). On Thursday, July 15, Nico Manessis, author of the reputable «Illustrated Greek Wine Book» (Olive Press), will talk about developments in the Greek wine field, followed by a wine-tasting session and book signing. (Starts at 8 p.m. and admission is 8 euros). On Monday, July 19, popular chef/author and television presenter Ilias Mamalakis will offer his view on Greek cheese, followed by a cheese and wine tasting. (Starts at 8 p.m. 16 euros per person). The culinary curtain will come down at the Milos with the aid of Italian-born and long-time Athens-based Fabrizio Buliani. Starting at 8 p.m., the well-known chef will present his «Ode to Greek Cuisine» on the last day of the festival, Thursday, July 22. Milos, Athens Hilton, 46 Vassilissis Sofias. Open from 12.30 p.m. to 4.30 p.m. and from 7.30 p.m. to midnight; Sundays from noon to 5 p.m. For more information and reservations call 210.724.4400.