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Wines for Thanksgiving Part 1

With Thanksgiving just around the corner, it’s not too early to start thinking about what dishes you’re going to prepare and which wines you’re going to share with friends and family. I’m personally guilty every year of eating too much before the turkey comes out, so please remember to pace yourself! Whether or not I’m as stuffed on stuffing, theres always room for delicious wines.

When picking wines for Thanksgiving, it’s good to keep in mind that there is usually a medley of food, so pick wines that go with a lot of options. I like to keep my whites somewhat round, and choose reds that aren’t too bold to overpower the white meat of the turkey. This Thanksgiving, I’d recommend some wines from Alpha Estate.

Usually I’d want to suggest Greek varietals for the newsletter, but it’s always exciting to see classic producers from Greece working with popular international varieties. Alpha Estate’s Chardonnay has everything you’d expect from this variety with an old-world accent. Seven months in the oak give it a delicious roundness and body that you typically hope to find in high end chardonnay. The colder, high elevation terroir of northern Greece where the grapes are grown help create a balanced and nuanced wine.

For a red wine, I’d definitely recommend opening the Old Vines Xinomavro from Alpha Estate. Voted best wine of the year in 2020 by Vinepair, this is one of the most unique xinomavro you can find. Grapes are grown on 100+ year old vines, leading to tremendous nuance and flavor in the wine. 24 months in the barrel leaves this bottle smooth, round, and just the right amount of body you’d crave with all your thanksgiving dishes. Pop this bottle a few hours before you want to drink and watch it open up beautifully.

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Wines for Thanksgiving Part 2

For those of us that are hosting this Thanksgiving, the challenges begin as to what to prepare and how many offerings are considered enough.  I feel for the most part we constantly over think and over deliver for the feast.  As we explore ideas and recipes for the big day, we are introduced to wonderful dishes beyond, stuffing, turkey, cranberry sauce, and classics.  Same goes for our wine selections for the big feast as well,  Chardonnays have dominated the table over the years as the proper pairing on Thanksgiving, but the field has opened up to a variety of wonderfully structured wines that will enhance turkey day.  On that note, I’d like to introduce three exquisite Greek wines that will really drive the balance of pairing.  

Our first offering will actually be a sparkling rosè from the region of Naoussa.  We don’t often think of bubbles when it comes to Thanksgiving, but it’s actually a great way to begin any experience or feast.  Sparkling wines wake up the taste buds, cleanse the palate, and stimulate flavors.  My recommendation would be Kir Yianni Estates ‘Akakies’ Sparkling Rosè. Ideal with salty appetizers, sharp cheeses, tiropitakia, and spanakopitakia.

Our next selection will be a dry rosè that is eloquently balanced to work with our appetizers and multiple dishes that will accompany the big bird.  Dry rosès are eventually becoming a preferred option rather than a trend.  Their structure, which consists of great fruit qualities along with adequate acidity and crispness, makes it ideal to pair with foods that are well seasoned and have good amounts of oils and fats.  My recommendation is Mylonas Winery Rosè, which is produced from Mandilaria & Malagousia, two indigenious Greek grapes that create wonders.

Lastly, I will be choosing a red wine over a white wine for our turkey.  This might be an unorthodox approach, but I’m all about the chemistry of how we are preparing our dishes.  A light bodied red wine with slightly sharp tannis can really drive home the pairing.  Poultry that is well seasoned and buttered sitting in a bed of root vegetables and fruits will pair wonderfully with a light bodied red wine.  My recommendation is Vaeni Winery Xinomavro. 

Enjoy these pairings and your feast.  Always keep exploring with wine, you never know what you might fall in love with.  Stin Ygeia Sas!

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The Wine Bar Culture in Greece

Along with the Greek wine renaissance, we witnessed the arrival of the modern meeting place, a new ‘steki’, namely the wine bar.

Even from the early 2010’s we welcomed the first wine bars in the capital and in Thessaloniki. At about the same time, Greece went into a serious economic recession. Monthly salaries and pensions were severely cut, making Greeks more cautious on how and where they were spending their money. Wine, fitted nicely in the new budget as it was half the price of their usual hard liquor or cocktail consumption.

Wine bars fast became the new meeting point -after work with colleagues, meeting up with friends, romantic dates -wine is a good ice-breaker! Women felt more comfortable and safe in the wine bar environment to have a drink, midweek with their friends. In most central wine bars, visitors from other countries would seize the opportunity to taste Greek wines by the glass. Often they would do a tasting of 3-4 different wines and choose, delightfully, their favourite Greek wine! They new wine discovery would become their ‘go-to’ wine for all their social meetings in Greece!

Soon as, locals and visitors alike, discovered the new and improved wines of Greece, drinkers became wine lovers: they started attending special tastings, winery presentations, “meet the winemaker” events and gradually they were training their tasting palate. The more they learned about wine, the more they enjoyed this divine drink! Soon, the wine bars started extending their ‘by the glass’ wine list, offering wines from single varieties and exclusive labels from boutique wineries. Most wine bars now offer a good selection of wines, both Greek and International labels. The ‘meze’, the food offerings have been upgraded, pairing nicely the wines on the lists.

In all large cities across the country, Athens, Thessaloniki, Heraklion, Patras, Volos, and the Greek islands, one can find a number of wine bars of excellent ambience aesthetics, good vibes, warming atmosphere. Most are in central locations, near hotels and on squares. All offer both inside and outside seating, accessible with public transportation. The crowds tend to be a mix of professionals, students, travelers, foreigners, all ages and the stay open well pass midnight. Next time you visit Greece, make certain you visit a wine bar and experience this special wine drinking culture.

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Assyrtiko Beyond Santorini

Thanks to the popularity and familiarity of Santorini, Assyrtiko has become the most requested white wine coming from Greece. Lately, the demand has been constantly on the rise for Assyrtiko from Santorini that the pricing has been comparable to white Burgundy. The vibrant aromas and refreshing citrus flavors make Assyrtiko easy to fall in love with. As it makes its way onto many prestigious wine lists across the globe, it’s availability is becoming more and more limited. But thanks to a handful of progressive and forward thinking winemakers, such as the Mylonas family in Attiki and the Alexakis family in Crete, they have been planting and cultivating Assyrtiko to bring us an exceptional alternative to this wonderful grape from Santorini.

You can still experience vibrant aromas, citrus flavors, precise structure, and a clean finish in both of these selections. The only difference I find in Assyrtikos from outside of Santorini, is that they are not as ‘minerally’, which in my opinion is still just as good. And what makes these Assyrtikos even better, is that they are usually half the price of the selections from Santorini.

Test these wines for yourself and see how amazing they truly are.

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Greek Rosè Wine

It’s October and harvest across Greece is at its full swing. Most small to medium size wineries harvest by hand and many folks work or volunteer at friends’ vineyards.

Summer is slowly fading. Now, during the night, we cover ourselves with a light weight blanket. When day time comes, the sun is shinning and people still enjoy a swim at the sea. Autumn is the best time to drink rosè wine. In the last few years, Greece has seen a rise in rosè wine production and sales, shaking away the taboo that rosè is a girly wine choice! Greek rosè showcases a broad selection of wonderful wines that vary in style and character, from all corners for the country. So, for example, we have the light, crisp refreshing roses made from Xinomavro variety from the northern vineyards of Naoussa and Amyntaio. We have excellent rose wines from Thessaly and Central Greece -more aromatic, floral notes, medium bodied made from Limniona and Muscat grapes. Further south, the colour becomes deeper and more pronounced red fruits character: Agiorgitiko from Nemea makes sensational rosè wines: good body, balanced acidity and gorgeous colours depending on the vineyard location and altitude. Aegean islands vinify their rosè wines from Mantilaria and Mavrotragano varieties found on the islands.

Rosè wines match beautifully an array of Greek summer dishes: vegetarian ladera -green beans, gemista, okra, tomato salad, Greek cheese boards, fried kalamari, and chicken. They are enjoyed lightly chilled, outdoors and with good company. Wine is meant to be shared. So remember: if you want to feel a little bit more summer, have a glass of a Greek rosè wine.

I am Ourania Margomenou, aka Margo. I was born in Athens, Greece. My family and I have lived in many countries around the globe. I completed my BSc in Hospitality Administration at Boston University.

There, in this wonderful city, I fulfilled my practical requirement for my degree at the two most prestigious hotels of the city: namely The Ritz-Carlton and The Four Seasons Hotel. READ FULL BIO >

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Greek Wines for the Fall

As we are approaching some cooler weather ahead, it’s not just all about Pumkin Spice Lattes and flannels. One of my favorite things is moving away from the summertime wines and bringing in the perfect autumn wines from Greece. We are talking about wines with a touch more body, wines that have a touch of spice notes, and wines that pair with the delicious seasonal dishes I’m sure you’re all dying to cook in the kitchen.

Mylonas “Naked Truth” Savatiano
Just because summer is over means you need to stop drinking white wine. In fact, there are so many textured and nuanced whites that are perfect for the season.

I love the Naked Truth Savatiano from Mylonas winery as it packs so much flavor into one bottle. They leave the wine on the skins for 20 days, which adds a bit of tannins and depth to the wine. The ancient Savatiano variety has been planted in Greece for over 3000 years and is versatile enough to go with everything.

Try drinking this with butternut squash soup, or roasted chicken!

Sigalas MM
While I’ll say this is a wine to have all year long, I think right now may be the perfect time. One of the few rare reds to be made on Santorini, the Sigalas Mm is a blend of two grapes: Mavrotragano and Mandilaria. Once nearly extinct, the Mavrotragano variety is now famous for producing reds with acidity, complexity, and depth of flavor. Try this with braised meats, roasted artichokes, or duck breast.

Johnny Livanos, Sales Manager for Diamond Wine Importers, is a 3rd Generation Greek American and expert on all things Greek. Coming from a multi-generational New York restaurant family, Johnny joined the Diamond Wine Importer team after having years in the restaurant business selling Greek wine. Running Greek restaurants, such as Molyvos and Ousia in NYC, as well as Zaytinya in Washington, DC, Johnny gained a tremendous knowledge and passion for sharing the joys of Greek wine with the world. This led Johnny to also launch his own gin brand, called Stray Dog Wild Gin, which is distilled in Northern Greece with a medley of wild Greek botanicals.