Kamal Kouiri of NYC’s Molyvos on an all-Greek wine list

What area of Greece has the most name recognition?
Santorini, without a doubt. It has the geographical advantage of being a tourist hub, but the wines are phenomenal, too.

Still, Gaia’s Wild Ferment is both a more expensive version and an unusual one, and it’s your top-selling wine.
Part of that is probably me; I really believe in that wine. But it also helps capture people who are more used to California wines, or who are looking for a Burgundy; it has a little oak, some richness. I’ll tell them I have a wine that has nothing to do with Burgundy, but it has similar nuances, and boom! They love it.

Also, it’s nice to be able to offer the regulars an expression of assyrtiko they haven’t tried before.

Moschofilero did well this year, too.
After assyrtiko, it’s the next most popular. The Spiropoulous Mantinia does particularly well because, again, it offers a different dimension of the grape. It’s great for people who are looking for a sauvignon blanc.

Alpha Estate’s Hedgehog Xinomavro from Amyndeon is your top-selling red. Do people have any clue where Amyndeon is?
Honestly, Alpha sells by itself. It’s our most successful brand overall for red wines. The price is good on the Hedgehog, and it’s well rounded, with good fruit to it. And the staff loves it.

When it comes to Naoussa, Boutari is the only entry that makes your top ten.
Naoussa is Boutari. Even though there are many other wineries making fantastic wine there, Boutari has come to equal Naoussa in many people’s minds. And we really like the 2007.

Wine sales are up, yet prices are down: How did you manage that?
We wanted to lower prices in the hopes that people might get two bottles of wine rather than one. We did the same with the food, and it’s worked. The economy might be a little bit better, but people are still really shopping around. You need to give them not just great food, but great wine at a really good price, and great service, or they simply won’t come back.

Do people ask for Retsina anymore?
Yes, but it’s a generational thing: people who were there in the 70s, 80s, spending drachmas and having a great time, they ask for it—it’s a reminder of great times. The newer generation, we don’t see them even asking about it. Even though the quality of Retsina is better than ever. If people do ask about it but don’t know it, we introduce them to the Gaia Ritinitis [a modern, restrained style]. From there, we can move to more pungent, pinier versions. But we don’t want to scare them away.

What’s the reaction to your all-Greek wine list in general?
It’s very rare now that someone walks in and is disappointed to find that there are no wines from outside of Greece.

Tags  2012 Restaurant Poll