Giving Greek wine to Australia
Melbourne restaurant Philhellene are ensuring their diners get the whole Greek experience by serving Cretan wines
As a restaurateur, John Rerakis was always looking for a way to complete the Greek experience in his well-known establishment Philhellene Provincial Greek Cuisine. Now with the inclusion of Cretan based wines from Lyrarakis winery - he can offer his customers the whole package.
The winery - situated in Monofatsi sub-prefecture, in the prefecture of Heraklion - focuses its attention on rare Cretan grape varieties giving wine lovers a sample of wine from Ancient Greece.
Rerakis was first introduced to winemaker George Lyrarakis through mutual friend and musician George Xylouris who told him about a Cretan winery recreating and reviving wines in the region. On his last trip to Crete, Rerakis made sure he visited the winery and told Neos Kosmos he was "blown away" with what he saw.
"What I was blown away with was his passion for reviving and utilising Greek grapes, more specific Cretan varietal grapes and not pursuing the easy alternatives of the well-known varieties," explains Rerakis.
He said that the winery is undoubtedly reviving these varieties from extinction and giving wine connoisseurs a chance to pursue and drink and see "what the Minoans' were drinking 3,500 years ago".
The Cretan soil is bountiful in the production of wine, and the family have taken on this future of wine making with a passion and urge that is evident in every bottle.
Today, the company is managed by the second generation. The family vineyard comprises of 14 hectares of gravel soil on limestone and is situated on an average altitude of 550 metres. The company was founded by planting some of the best local wine varieties, namely the white Vilana, and the reds Kotsifali and Mandilaria.
"Everyone's loved it," says Rerakis on the feedback he's received from his customers since serving Lyrarakis wines to his establishment.
"As you know [Philhellene] are traditionalists - from the photos to the food to the music and the one thing we lacked was the beverage list. For a long time it was retsina or some other Greek wines, but now there are some great things coming out of Greece and we are just wrapped and honoured to be able to get our hands on it and pursue it and sell it with a passion."
Last Thursday night, Philhellene hosted a 'meet the winemaker' night offering their diners a chance to sample the Lyrarakis range and talk to winemaker George Lyrarakis. The night was a huge success with people wanting more. Their aim is to help the winemaker ensure that his wine is on as many wine lists in Australia, and not just in Greek restaurants. Showing Australians that Greece is up there with some of the more well-known European wine making regions such as Tuscany and Bordeaux; to show that Greek wine can stand on it's own two feet against some of these European regions.
As a restaurateur, Rerakis prides himself - as does the whole team at Philhellene - on offering every single customer the best Greek experience from the time they walk to the time they leave. From the glass of raki you receive when you get in the door, to the ambience, to the traditional Cretan music being played and the food made in the kitchen by the mothers of both owners using traditional techniques and fresh produce, he can finally add an all Greek beverage list to the menu.
"We can finally compliment our food with the beverage and now it's the whole package; it's the ambience, the food, and the drink as well and we think we are almost complete - we are just about there with everything."
For more information about Lyrarakis wine visit www.lyrarakis.gr/ and for more information on Philhellene Provincial Greek Cuisine and for bookings, visit www.philhellene.com.au
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