18 Charlotte Street, W1T 2LZ
WLC Rank : 75
Glass from : £ 5.50 (125 ml)
BEST FORAuthentic, authored, wholly Greek wine list including Macedonian Pet-Nat
Magnums such as Alpha Estate Rosé
At Ampéli, Master of Wine Yiannis Karakasis has prepared a compelling, accessible window into the wealth of Greece's indigenous vines
Expect exclusively Greek wines at Fitzrovia’s Ampéli, the first restaurant from Athens born, Jenny Pagoni, a cinematographer graduate who became a photojournalist. Brimming with personality, the list at the split-level site (previously Señor Ceviche) is devised by Master of Wine and fellow Athenian, Yiannis Karakasis who believes, even if guests are unsure how to pronounce them, they will find the nuances, crystal-clear flavours and diversity of Greece’s indigenous grape compelling – particularly when reaped from old vines.
Pagoni’s favourite pairing, incidentally, is a glass of cherry-scented Naousa Alta Xinomavro from Thymiopoulos with grilled lamb chops, Baharat and skordalia.
Prior to making wine his career in 2011, Karakasis spent 16 of 21 years in the Greek navy, flying helicopters. He became a Master of Wine just four years on, delivering a research paper on The Rise of Alcohol in Naoussa over a 20-year period. The 1.1% rise was largely attributed to winemaker-led choices including “the pursuit of riper grapes” rather than singularly on climatic factors – “it’s naive to blame everything on nature,” says Karakasis
Addressing what Karakasis calls, “a flame for Greek wine which burns in London,” the list champions “new age” retsinas which foreground “quality fruit” and “use resin to complement” rather than mask. It also makes comparisons to internationally renowned grape varieties, hence a wine like Akriotou, Orivatis Savatiano, pronounced “Sa-va-tya-nóh” might appeal to “lovers of mature Hunter Valley Sémillon” and “Xinomavro [Ksee-nóh-mah-vroh]” could sate habitual drinkers of “Pinot or Nebbiolo”.
Karakasis’ greatest wine passion is old vines, “the apotheosis being pre-phylloxera wines”, and the next chapter of the list at Ampéli will include an old vines section for “elegant” wines.
Laying claim to having visited 98% of Greece’s vineyards, Karakasis would prefer that the daily team at Ampéli makes an emotional connection with guests, talking about the people behind a wine rather than “total acidity or pH.”
Alongside snacks such as Briam ratatouille dip with crumbled feta, and large plate of marinated grilled poussin with labneh and pickled kumquats, Karakasis believes wines must be affordable. “I don’t want a bottle sitting in a EuroCave so I always advise people to sensibly price otherwise guests will drink beer or an orange juice. I want people to get to know Greek wine.”
To objectively elevate the reputation of Greek Wines, Karakasis runs the 50 Great Greek Wines (50GGW) competition, with Mark Andrew MW, Stefan Neumann MS, Lenka Sedlackova MW and Terry Kandylis being on the panel assessing the wares of some 150 leading Greek wineries.
By Douglas Blyde.