Greek Business File, June-July-August 2020, No 126
INTERVIEW OF MASTER OF WINE, KONSTANTINOS LAZARAKIS BY GEORGE VAILAKIS
The potential out there is huge
Wine has been the brain engager for Konstantinos Lazarakis, a graduate in mechanical engineering and jazz music. Awarded the title of Master of Wine, K. Lazarakis in this interview reveals that for almost 20 years, not a single day goes by without discovering something new about the world of wine. He is certain that Greek wine is fascinating and worthy of attention. Vision and dedication will unlock the magic.
Having been awarded the title of Master of Wine, would you tell us how did you get interested in wine, enough to devote your life to it?
One could say that wine just happened in my life. As a graduate in mechanical engineering and jazz music, I could surely appreciate a brain engager. And wine is exactly that: a fascinating sequence of conditions and elements embraced and challenged at the same time by the human factor. The moment I realized this, I was both mesmerized and intrigued. Almost 20 years since I obtained my Master of Wine (MW) title, not a single day goes by without discovering something new about the world of wine. And I find utterly refreshing that I get to share this journey in knowledge and skills as a chairman and educator at W.S.P.C. wine school in Greece in courses aimed at both professionals and enthusiasts.
The wine game does not get boring
Would you initiate us to some of the secrets of wine?
We should try to decipher the wine we are drinking. Consider it as a riddle that we have to crack. The first hints are on the label like the region it comes from, the grape variety or even the vintage. All these pieces of information create a promise. Will a wine live up to the expectations? Tasting, comparing, pairing it with flavors hitting our table on the occasion will give us not just the answer to that question but most importantly food for thought and discussion with the friends we are sharing this bottle with. And believe me when I say that this game does not get boring. The savvier one becomes, a new level starts.
Balance needed from the vine to the glass
What are the most important values of winemaking and wine drinking?
Balance. From vine to glass, from producer to drinker, it is all about mastering the art of balance between enthusiasm and sustainability. Yes, a producer can be a trailblazer but always in harmony with the natural environment it hosts his or her vision. Yes, a wine lover can enjoy a pour but always in moderation.
Would you consider yourself Greece’s wine ambassador abroad? What are the advantages and disadvantages of Greek wine?
Well, such titles are better to be given to you by others. All I can say is that I am a Greek wine believer, an active supporter of offi cial initiatives for increasing awareness all over the world. It is my duty to use any renown I may have as a MW to shine attention on the Greek vineyard. After all, that was the idea that had sprang my book “Wines of Greece”. Written in English and revised in 2017, this endeavour off ers an up-todate reference handbook to all those seeking to learn more about Greek winemaking. There is no question that Greek wine is –or can be even more– fascinating and worthy of attention. Advantages and disadvantages are mainly shaped by human choices and works. It is in our hands to enhance the strengths and tame the weaknesses.
Retsina, the black sheep turned to a unique wine
Many tourists consider low-cost Retsina to be representative of Greek wine and they ignore Greek wine altogether. How can Greek wineries face the problem and promote Greek wine efficiently?
Retsina has been for too long a “parents sin, children suffer” story for Greek wine. Luckily this perception keeps fading year after year thanks to the remarkable job done by Greek producers, especially over the past decade. Greek wine has started making headlines among the international trade and gaining higly regarded voices in favor. What makes it even more exciting is that even Retsina itself is revived. In the caring hands of restless producers, the black sheep has turned into the purely unique wine that could and should have been. I am not implying we are at the top of the wine world, but Greek wine is back on the right track making a name for itself as fascinating and authentic.
Vision and dedication
Which are the Greek varieties and regions that have the most potential for growth?
The Greek vineyard may be small in terms of size and volume, but it showcases an exceptional wealth and diversity as far as morphology, climate and biodiversity are concerned. How many local grapes are there? We cannot really say... 200 and counting every day. Is it just vines with vicinity to sea? Well, in Epirus we can fi nd some of the higher altitude vineyards in Europe... Indeed, amazing differentiation, an asset that wine world simply adores.
So, I find your question quite difficult to answer. I can only be certain of this: the new era of Greek wine we are witnessing lately has barely scratched the surface. The potential out there is huge. Vision and dedication will unlock the magic.
What are the challenges of Greek wine in the global market?
I believe that most producers have come to realize more than ever before both the reality and the potential of Greek wine. Our vineyard is small, so handling it as a niche seems to be a one-way street. Still, we are not alone out there. Greek winemakers have to be strategic and wise enough to deliver the sense of place through competitive products of added value. This is certainly not the time for arrogant overestimations of Greek wine and hopefully we are also done with its servile underestimation .
What is the direction Greek wine makers should take now?
Make wines that is the voice of the special cosmos of their origin. Build on wines that are neither look-alikes of others nor easily replicable by others. Embrace the strong points, take advantage of the opportunities, stay visionary, be realistic and vigilant.
In these crucial and stressful moments we all share, can wine be a stylish answer?
I am not sure we should treat wine as an answer in stressful situations. Wine shines when enveloped in a culture, when engaging both our senses and brain. As it has been said, we can pick a wine to solve the riddle or choose one we really love so that its fl avors will trigger distracting happy memories of a time or place. Yes, we are only humans, but responsible consumption is key.