Weekly wine talk is published every Friday on this site – and the occasional Monday too.
Nik Mavromatis is a chef turned sales and marketing manager and lover of Barolo. A man who understands that tannic wines are best left alone for a while and that marketing is as important to the success of great wines as the process of winemaking. Not that he would ever say that, of his own role in the process. Mavromatis is part of the team at Greystone Wines in the Waipara Valley, North Canterbury.
He loves wine, he says, because, unlike beer or other alcoholic drinks, wine offers a singular snapshot each year, which cannot be altered.
“The best, most authentic outcome for wine is to see it as a snapshot of its place and time. If you’re trying to use too much oak or too much of anything, then you should probably make beer. You’d probably make more money,” says the man many refer to as Mav.
Meet Nik Mavromatis of Greystone Wines
This is the eleventh interview on this website based on the famous Proust questionnaire, which originated in 1886 – find out more here.
What do you consider your greatest achievement?
Raising our two children, Marco and Loukas because I think it changes your life and makes you realise you’re more human and less part of the machine.
What is your current state of mind?
Anxious. The state of the world and dealing with people internationally makes me think that we New Zealanders don’t realise how good we have it, compared to the UK, the US and other places.
The definition of the word anxiety in Greek actually means that your mind is being pulled in two directions and that’s a fairly good description of how I feel right now. I’m living with my wife and kids and the sun is shining but the constant negativity feed from around the world makes me wonder if I should be constantly in a state of worry or is that just a thing put on by the world media? Do we need to know how crazy things are in other places, especially when there are things we can’t change?
What is your favourite part of being involved in winemaking?
I’m more around the consumer front so it’s more around wine and food pairings. I think wine is a great representation of nature in a bottle. If we can make that work with food that is similarly reflective of the place and prepared with care, then that is how we can best show our place in the world.
Do you have a most treasured wine?
There are ones there is an emotional attachment. A bottle of Aldo Conterno Barbera that made my wife and I realise that we loved each other. Then there was a 1995 Roc de Cambes Cotes de Bourg and I was trying to impress a girl when I was a young chef, so went to buy a bottle and spent a lot more than I was intending to. We went out to dinner and thought it was amazing. If I tried it now I would probably think it was horribly over ripe but at the time it seemed amazing.
Where is your favourite wine region?
To visit would be the Southern Rhone. To drink would be Piemonte. The Piemonte food is amazing but I like the pretty relaxed attitude in the Southern Rhone. A late autumn day, eating figs and goat cheese, discovering things like red Beaumes de Venise. I remember going to a café in Tavel and rosé being served by the litre. I think it was 10 Euros for a three course lunch and a litre of rosé. The first course was sun ripened tomatoes with sardines on them with a little green salad and a crusty bread.
When and where are you at your happiest?
Throwing clay on my wheel. I’m quite process driven. I like making things and I like the process.
What do you most dislike in wine?
Oak. You might as well add strawberry flavouring as far as I’m concerned. I like barrels and the fermentation thing but that new oak flavour is something I don’t understand. I don’t understand how someone can bang on about terroir then throw lots of oak at a wine.
What is your greatest fear?
Lots of things. I don’t like holding poultry. Not a big fan of it. Public nudity is another fear.
What is your greatest extravagance?
Food. I think you have to love food to love wine. Food is both physical and cultural; it nourishes us, both body and soul.
What is your greatest regret?
Not believing in myself more when I was younger. I had more opportunities than I thought and often took the safer one. You don’t realise when you’re young and free that you should push things as far as you can. You’ve got pretty much nothing to lose when you’re 21.
What talent would you most like to have?
To be able to sing in tune.
What do you regard as the lowest depth of misery?
Corked wine. I brought back a bottle of my birth year 1978 Cesare Barolo from Italy and opened it on a special birthday for me and it was corked. That was pretty sad.
What is the trait that you most deplore in yourself?
My flat feet.
What do you most value in your friends?
Which words or phrases do you most overuse?
Um. I should learn to use it a lot less.
What is your favourite meal?
Avgolemono. Greek egg and lemon soup. It literally means egg and lemon and it’s got a little bit of rice with left over chicken and you just thicken it with lemon and egg yolks. It’s absolutely fantastic. An absolute chicken soup for the soul, which evokes childhood memories for me. I think that food tastes richer when it brings us memories of love than having a chef prepare something weird and wacky.
Food has a place in our soul that’s more important than something bright and shiny.
If you were to die and come back as a person or thing what do you think it would be?
A bottle of Barolo. Tannic and best left alone for a while.