Don’t Call It a Comeback. Greek Wine.
Don’t call it a comeback, I been here for years
I’m rockin’ my peers, puttin’ suckers in fear
-Mama Said Knock You Out, LL Cool J
In 1986, there were seventy wineries in Greece. Seventy. The nation that created much of what we take for granted regarding the culture of wine had a mere seventy wineries, mostly producing mostly pathetic wine for tourists gallivanting around the nation with visions of Odysseus in their heads. The wine was bad I tells ya, bad. The wine was so bad that it was better served as a cleaning product than an accompaniment to the Greek cuisine that has been epic for millennia. Greek food has always been on point, the wine? Not so much.
But all of that started to change in the late 80’s and into the 90’s. A boom of Greek winemaking occurred. Wineries started opening and were working with the countless old vineyards that dot the landscape of Greece. These were all organic, natural, and sustainable wineries producing wines of sublime quality. From zero to hero, Greek wineries started placing world renown wines on the stage. The wines of Santorini were garnering outstanding press and there were areas on the mainland that were starting a revolution that was going to change the world’s view on Greek wine forever.
Then the 2000’s arrived, and things started soaring. The number of wineries opening in Greece went up exponentially, it was a revival of mythic proportions. There were wineries springing up and producing fantastic wines at every turn. That modest number of seventy wineries rose to nearly 2000 in just over twenty-five years. Greek wine was back in every way, shape and form.
The land that had brought sophisticated winemaking to the globe thousands of years ago, that had fallen into a doldrum of wine lessness for centuries, was suddenly a world leader again. Greek wine was artisanal, made to exacting standards, and receiving accolades across the globe. No nation was having the revival Greece was having wine wise, it was evident in the glass and on the tables of Greek restaurants around the world. Greek wine was back.
So the question you must be asking is, how did this all happen? Well it comes down to a few simple factors.
One, Greece is ideally suited to grape production. The vine takes to the Greek countryside like a duck to water and those vines produce fruit of structure, nuance, flavor, and balance that turn into incredible wines. Two, Greece already had countless vineyards being used to make basic table wine or wines for family use that just needed to be converted to professional winemaking. Once this happened it was merely a matter of time that wines in Greece were going to be brilliant. Third, Greece had an eruption of home-grown winemaking talent. Greeks were attending oenology school, either in Greece or abroad, training at wineries across the globe, then in classic Greek fashion, returning to their homeland to make staggering wine. The Greeks knew the potential was there, it just took a new generation of winemakers to unlock it.
In thirty short years, like a Phoenix rising from the ashes, Greek wine rose to sit on the same shelves as the worlds finest. No comeback, it was a wine nation regaining its rightful place as a world leader. From the nation that first brought wine to all, that same nation was once again serving the world its grape-based elixirs. What a knock out.