2017 is here and what better way to get the blog's year started than with a Case of Questions involving Greece's first Master of Wine? Konstantinos Lazarakis, who calls Piraeus home, studied Mechanical Engineering and Jazz before making the brave leap into the magnificent world of wine. In 2002, he became the first Greek Master of Wine and two years later founded the local branch of the Wine & Spirit Education Trust of London, one of the most influential educational organisations in wines and spirits in the world. Konstantinos recently signed a book deal with Infinite Ideas in Oxford to update and republish his landmark book Wines of Greece, which was first published in 2005. Here's to a fantastic 2017 full of great wine and a dearth of whine.
Konstantinos Lazarakis MW (KL): Because it is an amazing product. It encapsulates great living, great people, great complexity, tradition, sensations, history, culture, travelling and many more things in the most imaginative way. It is so difficult not to be absorbed by wine once you realise how amazing it is.
First wine that really captured your attention? How old were you?
KL: It was a Megas Oinos 1996 by Skouras at the window of a Piraeus (my home town) cava shop. It seemed to me so expensive that I went in to ask whether there was by mistake an extra zero on the price tag. The price was okay and the owner of that shop invited me to his opening party to which George Skouras was invited. I went there, had a chat about wine with him for 30 minutes and I went away totally captivated. That was the point of no return for me. I was 21 years old. This is why I felt the wine was so expensive (while it was actually a great value for money given its quality). At that age, even drinking cheap bottled wine was a luxury.
All-time favorite bottle of wine?
KL: Had too many great bottles to separate one. Possibly that very first bottle I saw on that cava window that got me into wine.
Favorite wine-producing region? Why?
KL: Every single wine region in Greece and Cyprus. Wine has to do with feelings. It has to do with what is close to your heart. And these two countries are where my heart beats.
Your favorite food-and-wine pairing?
KL: Actually, I pay no attention to food and wine pairing! I choose the food I feel like eating and then a wine I feel like having… I even had gorgeous dinners when, while having grilled fish, I was craving for a dense, big red. If you have an appetite for a wine, the food will never stop you from enjoying it.
What is Cyprus missing when it comes to wine?
KL: I think the lack of proper marketing is important, especially on a generic level. Also, there is a lack of international perspective – where its wine stands in general on a global level. Since the wine market is nowadays a worldwide battlefield, you have to compete with everyone even when you deal with your own national market. It is interesting also to see that the international perspective in Cyprus is growing mainly from the consumer side – from educated consumers who understand what wine is in a much broader context. On both matters things get better by the minute, however, and the important element is there – Cypriot is, in terms of quality, style and value, a world-class offering.
What do you foresee for Cyprus’s wine industry?
KL: I think that, in ten years time, Cyprus wine will be a lot more important and well known in the international wine scene than what it is at the moment.
What do you enjoy most about your work in the food & wine world?
KL: Meeting glorious people and visiting glorious places.
What is your “Five Year Plan” for your business?
KL: There is no business plan for me, other than “Do what you know well, get more knowledgeable on that, and focus more on and understand the market better.”
Who is your favorite wine personality? Why?
KL: Michael Broadbent MW. He's done everything, tasted everything, been everywhere (and keeps doing all these things at an old age) but continues to be one of the most accessible, humane and down-to-earth people in our business.
Any embarrassing episodes involving spilled wine, corkscrews, sommeliers or drunken behavior?
KL: Too many to say – and I am sure I do not remember the best of them!
Of course, your all-time favorite wine to sip on an island?
KL: To be honest, when I am on holidays I like to decompress from the world of wine. So you will often find me on a Greek island with a nice beer in hand!