This Saturday writers in the Wine Pairing Weekend group will share their favorite foods to complement Greek wines. Although the country has made wine for thousands of years, only recently have they surfed a wave of global popularity. Another “undiscovered” wine region with long-established viticultural traditions.
The recent buzz does serve a purpose though: with increased interest shown by sommeliers and wine journalists comes increased availability of these wines in the market. Local restaurants and wine shops can procure them more easily, meaning that interested consumers can find them, taste them, and talk about them. So let’s raise a glass to the “new” wines from Greece!
Curious about Greek wine? Got a favorite Mediterranean recipe that needs the perfect wine accompaniment? Join us Saturday, September 8th at 11 am ET for a twitter chat on the subject. We’ll discuss the country’s wine producing regions, native grape varieties, and how to pair the wines with food. All you have to do is follow the hashtag #WinePW and make sure to attach it to your tweets. We look forward to “seeing” you there!
Here’s a preview of our topics for the chat:
- Lori of Dracaena Wines writes about The Case of the Confused Country.
- David from Cooking Chat suggests Grilled Tilapia with Tomatoes, Olives and Greek Wine Pairing.
- Sarah of Curious Cuisiniere serves Moussaka and a Greek Wine Pairing.
- Jill of L’Occasion writes about the 5 Surprises of Greek Wine
- Wendy of A Day in the Life on the Farm discovers that Lahano me Kreas Does Double Duty.
- Jane of Always Ravenous serves Souvlaki Paired with Assyrtiko.
- Gwendolyn of Wine Predator says Go Greek with Marathon Wines and Grilled Eggplant with Spiced Yogurt for #WinePW
- Camilla of Culinary Adventures with Camilla pairs Garides Saganaki + A Traditional Semi-Sparkling Orange Wine
- Jade of Tasting Pour pairs Lamb Kebabs and Agiorgitiko
- Cindy of Grape Experiences takes on Dinner Tonight: Wine from Crete with Shrimp, Feta, and Tomatoes
- Nicole Ruiz Hudson of Sommstable is Cooking to the Wine: Domaine Sigalas Assyrtiko-Athiri with Scallops, Roasted Veggies, and Preserved Lemon Cauliflower Cream
- And here at The Swirling Dervish we feature A Taste of the Peloponnese: Fresh Swordfish and Mercouri Foloi.
Discovering Greek Wine at a New Local Restaurant
A couple of years ago, my husband and I ventured out for dinner, to a new Greek restaurant that had just opened. Table 2201 Greek Taverna looked inviting from the outside, and one glimpse at the menu convinced us to give it a try. We were greeted by Billy, the owner, who grew up in Queens, NY, and he made us feel right at home.
On his recommendation we ordered an appetizer platter of three dips: Tzatziki (Greek yogurt spread with garlic, cucumbers and olive oil); Tyrokafteri (Feta cheese spread with red mild hot peppers and olive oil); and Skordalia (Mashed potato spread with garlic and olive oil). Everything was fresh and flavorful because it’s all made in-house.
For the main course, I chose grilled branzino served with vegetables, rice pilaf and fresh lemon olive oil sauce; my husband opted for the grilled lamb chops seasoned with Mediterranean herbs and spices. Both dishes were exceptional: impeccable ingredients prepared simply, allowing the natural flavors to shine.
Billy has quite a few Greek wines on his list and one, in particular, caught my eye: a white wine made from a blend of Roditis (native to Greece) and Viognier (native to France.) I’m partial to Viognier and, if I’m honest, this wine sounded strange to me; more of a curiosity than a drink to contemplate and linger over. That didn’t stop me from ordering it, though!
2014 Mercouri Estate Foloi (PGI Peloponnese; 13% abv; $29 at the restaurant)
This wine is 90% Roditis, a pink-skinned grape that is known for retaining its acidity even in hot climates, an asset in warmer regions. Viognier contributes 10% of the blend, adding peachy-apricot notes to the aroma. The blend works because you get the roundness of texture from the Viognier, along with its heavenly aromas, balanced by the tart, citrus qualities of the Roditis. It’s just the kind of refreshing treat we Floridians appreciate on a hot, humid day.
FYI, Table 2201 stocks some other, very intriguing Greek wines, including a Refosco/Mavrodaphne blend and one made with Roditis and Robola. Wanna see the list?
That Was Then; This Is Now
When I saw this month’s topic was Greek Wine, I went out to purchase another bottle of the Foloi, the 2016 vintage. Like the 2014, it is 90% Roditis and 10% Viognier and weighs in at 12.5% abv. The retail price was $12.95.
My pairing includes one of my favorite local ingredients: fresh swordfish. I seasoned it with olive oil, salt, and pepper, and grilled it. As an accompaniment I prepared a mild salsa of fresh pineapple, mango, bell and jalapeño pepper, and red onion dressed in lemon oil and citrus vinegar.
The tropical fruit salsa found common ground with the wine, bringing out the sweeter notes of the Viognier. As a whole, the tart acidity and freshness of the wine allowed the simply grilled fish to take center stage. It was a delicious pairing; one that I will put into regular rotation in the kitchen, probably experimenting with other fruit, seasonings, and spices. This wine can go the distance – it has range!
Located on the Ichthis Peninsula on the western coast of Peloponnese, the Mercouri Estate has been around since 1864 when Theodoris Mercouri, a businessman from Alexandria, Egypt, brought a few Refosco vines from Friuli and planted a vineyard. In the 1930s, his heirs built the first modern winery in the region. Now, with the fourth generation at the helm, the Mercouri Estate sustainably farms 40 acres featuring 15 varieties (many, native Italian grapes). In addition to wine, the estate produces olive oil, and operates an oenotourism business.
You can read more about their history, wines, and plans for the future here.
And if you’d like to see what the vineyards look like, here’s a short video of the property:
Thanks for traveling along with us on our exploration of Greek wines and the foods that go with them. In October we will participate in #MerlotMe, a celebration of the wines made from one of the world’s best-known and most-loved grapes. Our host will be Jeff from Food Wine Click! Hope to see you there.