Which Greek wine goes best with stuffed tomatoes?

While salivating over a recipe from renowned Greek chef, Diane Kochilas, we wondered what wine to pair it with.  If you were in Italy, you might think a Barolo but in Greece a similar but more versatile choice would be Xinomavro (pronounced ksee-NOH- mah-vroh). This spicy red wine would be perfect with Diane’s stuffed tomatoes, peppers and grape leaves. When pairing food and wine, always match flavor to flavor, so in this case, the acidic and spicy flavors of the tomatoes will be perfect with Xinomavro.

Another grape to consider is Agiorgitiko (pronounced Ah- yor-YEE-te-ko). to make life easier for you some winemakers prefer using the name of the appellation, Nemea,). Agiorgitiko is the most widely planted red grape in Greece and perhaps, its most versatile. The flavors will depend on both the soil it is grown in and style in which it is made but it can range from soft and fruity to rich and tannic. However it is made, it goes well with any meat, vegetable or poultry dish.  Because of Agioritiko’s ubiquity, you’ll find it in most good wine stores.

While the recipe is rich with lots of flavors, it is vegetarian so we should consider white wines as well, as there is white wine in the sauce. This means it calls out for a crisp Assyrtiko, either oaked or unoaked.  An aromatic Moschofilero will also work well to complement the raisins and nuts in the dish.

Clearly, there are a lot of options, which is one of the great things about Greek wines. There are many styles and versions and since the Greeks are the first culture ever to think about food and wine going together, you can’t go wrong.

You’ll have to check out Diane Kochilas’ amazing Greek-style recipe for stuffed and roasted tomatoes, peppers and grape leaves. Among some of the delicious (and healthy) ingredients: crisp onions, sauteéd until soft and sweet, Carolina rice grown authentically in the northern part of Greece and lightly browned, pine nuts toasted to perfection, fresh mint leaves, a delicious Greek white wine like an Assyrtiko or Moschofilero, and a whole host of vegetables to be roasted in the oven until they are warm and soft and sweet. This could be just the dish for Xinomavro, Agiorgitiko, Assyrtiko or Moschofilero.

Robert Parker raves about Greek whites from Santorini

Greek wine is all the buzz in a recent article in Robert Parker’s Wine Advocate.  On this best of 2017 overview, the Wine Advocate reviewer, Mark Squires, highlights old vine Assyrtiko.

A wine grape indigenous to the island of Santorini, Assyrtiko thrives in the island’s arid climate and rich volcanic soil. Assyrtiko grapes have been made into wine for centuries on Santorini, but if you’re used to seeing the usual rows of neat vines as in Napa, you’ll miss them in Santorini.  The vines have to be trained to grow in a circular basket to protect them from strong winds blowing off the Aegean Sea and the strong summer sun.  The baskets both protect the grapes and retain moisture.  Assyrtiko wines are known for their distinctive crisp flavor that is made for seafood with lots of lemon.  In fact, you’ll love Assyrtiko with any dish asking for lemon.

In his review, Squires comments on the deep layered, mineral flavors of this white wine and highlights the diversity of the grape in his selections. He starts with a pick from a Santorini benchmark wine producer. He then chooses a ripened bold version, and his last choice even includes an Assyrtiko that is oaked.  Most Assyrtiko wines are fermented in stainless steel tanks and then bottled.

The review finishes its Greek wine selections with three more whites, which include a 90-point blend of Monemvasia and Aidani, two other grapes native to Greece. Squires mentions a Moschofilero, a lighter styled, more aromatic wine than Assyrtiko.  The review includes a positive review of wine made from the Moschofilero grape, noting that the grape does well after spending time in oak.   Finally, a Malvasia from Crete is called “a perennial favorite – and overachiever.”

The specifics are found in the article and I would grab one for drinking fresh and one for decanting. Yes, Squires details an urge to decant these mineral-rich whites. A side-by-side tasking of bottle fresh and decanted would be a great weekend or afternoon project. Either way, it’s safe to say this and other Greek white wines are generating the most buzz from Robert Parker’s Wine Advocate.

Local producers reinvent Greek wines

The island of Crete is one of the world’s oldest wine cultures.  Yet, its new terroir driven wines are capturing the hearts and palates of sommeliers everywhere. In this rediscovery process, it has come to the attention of avid tasters that older style Greek wines are being quietly reinvented.

The new producers in the Greek region of Crete are combining old word methods with the newest winemaking techniques. Most of these highlighted local producers have a family history in the region. They are experimenting with blends of grapes grown in Crete for hundreds of years such as Vilana, Malvasia, Mandilari, Liatiko and Kostifali grapes to produce various levels of strong reds and fruity flavorful whites.

Small producers have emerged reinventing the traditional wines produced in this area for centuries. The region of Crete has a fresh feeling generation of terroir-driven, small production wine made with modern vinification techniques and newly planted vines.

If you plan to travel to this region soon or just want to see the pulse of the area, this article highlights producers worth visiting while the island gets it groove back. Discovering new and unique wines here will be easy. Take time to revisit the classics to truly make for a well-rounded tour.

This area of the world is now planting new varietals and producing wine for the new millennial wine drinker. They also hope to capture the existing lovers of Greek wine with blends of traditional indigenous grapes. The two approaches make for a rebirth and reinvention of Greek wine, and the wine community is taking notice.

A Greek Wine Lover’s Ideal Itinerary

When deciding on a travel vacation, the most interesting short trips are often a quick overview of everything iconic about a new place. In Greece, there are myriad things to appreciate.

It is commonly known that the Greek scenery is legendary, the people friendly and the food iconic. The opportunity to experience the beauty of this region while also sampling the wonderful local wines makes this a true oenophile’s trip.

Beyond looking at an expensive tour, planning a trip like this alone would usually be time-consuming. This article takes the worry and doubt out of the equation and makes it easy. It includes tips only locals know and manages to compile it all in a three-day trip. The piece even suggests places to stay to experience the local culture.

The trip as planned includes both big city stops and small mountain village vistas. The author gives sound advice on meal options, pairings and tour bookings for different types of travelers. From 4×4 Jeep tour folks to fine art lovers, this trip has something for everyone. The wine is the highlight and common thread throughout the journey. It’s all set against an unforgettable Greek backdrop of fun, food and celebration, which makes for an unforgettable adventure.

Depending on how much time your group has to explore the region, the trip can be a weekend getaway or planned as part of a larger European vacation. Either way, this visit to an emerging wine region will turn old world wine lovers into Greek wine aficionados.

The Real Scoop on Greek Wines

Take Snooth.com’s advice that wine cannot be separated from Greece. After all, Greece is home to the second-oldest grape wine remnants discovered, and boasts the world’s earliest evidence of crushed grapes. Its wine-making roots trace back over 6,500 years. In fact, Greece established part of Italy as a vineyard, naming one Italian peninsula “land of vines”; Greece may also have introduced viticulture to both Spain and Portugal.

While Greek wines can be hard to pronounce, the work is worth it. Since Greeks still believe that wine and food should go together, Greek wines are specifically made to pair magnificently with food. They are relatively low in alcohol with crisp acidity, which makes them a perfect pairing for a wide range of cuisines. Choose a Greek wine you like, and take a sip of history.

For Evan Turner, sommelier and self-proclaimed “Greek food and wine crusader,” Greek wine runs in his blood. Here are five Greek grape varietals he believes you will want to know about: The Real Scoop on Greek Wines.

The A-to-Zs of Greece and its Wine

Small motorboat at clear water bay of Loutro town on Crete island, Greece

As you can read in Wine Enthusiast magazine’s article about Greek wine, wine and Greek culture are as intertwined as the twin serpents found on the Greek god Hermes’ staff, the caduceus. From the Aegean Islands to Thessaly, Greeks have been enjoying the purple fruits of their labor for over 6 millennia.

It was so highly regarded that ancient Greeks worshiped Dionysus, the god of wine. In fact, Greek philosopher Plato once noted, “Nothing more excellent or valuable than wine was ever granted by the gods to man.” Of course, more than just a pairing for fish or lamb dishes or a way to complement tzatziki, wine was also considered a cure for one’s ills. This included helping balance humors, thought to be the cause of all ailments.

The diversity of Greece’s micro climates — from high altitude vineyards to remote volcanic islands and a diverse range of soils — helps support a number of different types of grapes for a variety of different styles of wine. Production in the Peloponnese region of southern Greece dates back to the time of the legendary poet, Homer. Of course, Ulysses, the main character of his epic, The Odyssey, used wine to make the one-eyed Cyclops drunk so that he could escape from him.

Some 3,000 years later, wine making traditions in Greece continue and appeal to people far beyond the country’s borders. Many of the more than 300 indigenous grape varieties, that were once only known domestically, now have wine fans everywhere acknowledging its “Greek wine to them”, as well.

Whether it is a dry white wine from Assyrtiko or the great god Zeus, Susan Kostrzewa reveals the rich and passionate relationship between Greece and its wines, food and culture in her piece: The A-to-Zs of Greece and its Wine.

A Wine Lover’s Guide to Peloponnese

Wine Enthusiast magazine says the Peloponnese region was once the land of gods; now, it is simply paradise. The Peloponnese, a small peninsula in southern Greece, is perhaps best known historically for Paris of Troy’s elopement with Helen, queen of Sparta, which triggered the Trojan War, for being the place from which the Argonauts sailed in search of the Golden Fleece, or for being conquered by the hero Pelops, from which the peninsula gets its name.

But the infamy of the Peloponnesian legends has long since given way to the fame of its food and drink. The olive tree, Greece’s most important tree, grows nearly everywhere. While its fruit defines the whole of Greek cuisine, another fruit – grapes – defines Greek drink. From crisp fruity whites, to elegant dry roses, to full body reds and delicious sweet wines, the Peloponnese has a wine to please your palate.

In the Peloponnese, you will find a range of many different styles of wine to satisfy everyone’s taste and filoxenia (hospitality), all in a place that is simply like nowhere else on earth.

Learn about a few off-the-beaten-path places in the Peloponnese that hold the best places to explore the unique produce and wine Greece has to offer: A Wine Lover’s Guide to Greece’s Peloponnese.

Pork Tenderloin with Honey and Ginger

The Wines of Greece website has some great recipes for pairing your next meal with Greek wine. Generally, red meat and red wine pair well together because the higher tannins in red wine contrast with the rich high fat content of the red meat. The higher acidity of white wine complements white meat in much the same way a splash of fresh citrus juice might. Flavorful white meats are to be matched with full-bodied white wines.

The flavor profile of a dish can often be much more complex than simply light or dark meat, and the wine pairing more so. How do you pair a dish with the sweetness of honey and the saltiness of soy sauce with dry, semi-dry and off-dry white wines? For a dish that is heavier on the savory/salty side, you could try a Greek Traminer or Gewurztraminer.

This recipe comes from Ettore Botrini who has mastered the art of creating unique food and wine pairings to help people enjoy one of the greatest pleasures in life: sharing food at a common table with those they love. His two-Michelin-star restaurant “Etrusco” is surrounded by a beautiful green garden, from which Ettore selects vegetables, flowers and fruits to create his menu. As a result, the food served is not unlike a fine wine: simple, subtle and bursting with natural Greek flavors, like this Pork Tenderloin with Honey and Ginger.

We love this spicy beef ravioli

How about a wine that’s perfect for a spicy beef ravioli?  Soon after Renato Mekolli emmigrated to Athens at the age of 10, he started working as a dishwasher to help his family. One day, he accidentally broke some of the dishes that he was cleaning. Assuming he was fired, Mekolli became upset and left the restaurant. However, the chef at the restaurant had recognized Mekolli’s natural culinary talents, sought him out and encouraged him to go to culinary school. Now, many years later, Mekolli is an award-winning chef at Vassilenas, an historic Greek restaurant in Athens.

One of Mekolli’s signature dishes is fresh homemade ravioli stuffed with beef and spicy red sauce. The recipe is as simple as it is delicious: shells made from flour, eggs, olive oil, salt and pepper, and an oxtail filling with carrots, onions, garlic, tomatoes, red wine and seasoning.

When pairing wine with beef ravioli and red sauce, Mekolli suggests a complex, acidic wine such as Xinomavro from Amyndeo, Naoussa, Goumenissa or Rapsani.

Homemade ravioli is always delicious, but when paired with Greek wine, it is divine. Be sure to check your local wine shop for Xinomavro to take your ravioli dinner to the next level.

Find the recipe here.

Discover Debina and Athiri Wine

While Debina and Athiri grapes are both Grecian varieties used to make white wine, they come from extremely different climates. Exploring these two varieties can give wine samplers an impression of the diversity of Greek white wine, and a taste of the difference between the continental and island flavors.

Debina grapes originate from Zitsa, one of the coldest wine regions in Greece. While summer in Zitsa is warm and breezy, winter often drops fluffy blankets of snow across the vineyards. These temperature variations particularly suit Debina grapes, allowing them to retain their acidity and create outstanding sparkling and dry white wine. The crisp, clear essence of Debina is akin to the flavors of a fresh orchard, leaving lingering fruity sensations across the palate.

Athiri is a white wine grape that is native to the Aegean Islands. For centuries, Athiri grapes have been cultivated on the rugged islands to produce dry white wine, much to the enjoyment of Greece and the rest of the world. Athiri’s bright, zesty character pairs well with Greek flavors such as olives, capers and tomatoes. Athiri’s modest, unobtrusive flavors make it an excellent choice to become acquainted with the dry white wine of the Aegean Islands.

Learn more about these and more up and coming grape varieties from Greece.