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The ‘Perfect’ Pairing

It always seems that in our challenging lives, we are always trying to achieve perfection. We always strive for the ideal match for everything that involves our world. We want to make sure we pair the right shoes with the appropriate outfit, the top schools for our studious children, the best investment tools for our current financial status, or the most flavorful wine to pair with our savory dishes.

Throughout the years we tend to follow trends and fashions that assist us in making our ultimate decisions. As the wine industry continues to blossom, so does the interest and knowledge of today’s consumers. The constant exposure to today’s wines and cutting-edge cuisine continues to keep us on our toes with exciting approaches and ideas. We have come a long way from the standard white wine with fish and red wine
with meat rule.

It all starts in the kitchen with our culinary leaders of the world. Today top-rated chefs are experimenting and utilizing ingredients that most never knew existed ten years ago. The convenience and availability of acquiring exotic and unique ingredients has opened the doors to new and innovative cooking methods. The ultimate goal is to extract enjoyable and pleasant flavors as much as possible. Even though some of these ingredients such as saffron, truffles, ginger, and balsamic vinegar to name a few have been around for centuries, we are now beginning to see their popularity. Take these simple ingredients and apply creative cooking methods and you’ll be amazed of the resulting flavors.

At the same token, passionate and talented winemakers are producing wines with amazing characteristics and structure. Modern technology has produced phenomenal results for the wine industry in terms of quality and achievements. But many have begun turning to old world methods of producing ‘good’ wine, that is meant to be accompanied with food.

According to past time (gastronomy) etiquette, wine must be accompanied by every meal or course. The obvious approach of pairing our fish and poultry with white wine and our meats with red wine has been overlooked for the even more obvious reasons, flavor profiles. As winemakers spend endless hours in their vineyards and wineries trying to extract the ultimate flavors in their wine, chefs are formulating which ingredients to add to their next masterpiece. One of the most important elements here is to understand the nature of each entity’s achievements. Understanding the wine along with understanding the food is critical when it comes to pairing the two.

The formula can be broken down to a very simple method for pairing. Keep in mind that wine has a natural element of acidity that contributes to the structure of the wine. Wines that have a higher level of acidity, the lighter and sharper it’s going to be. The lower the acidity, then the wine becomes heavier and rounder. These basic acknowledgements of the wine, whether it is white or red, will assist us in deciding which dishes to pair or vice-versa. For example, if we decide to open a bottle of light bodied red such as Xinomavro or Agiorgitiko, or light bodied whites, such as Roditis or Moschofilero, we can pair it with hearty vegetable salads, rich savory soups, grilled fish with pronounced seasoning or fish stews, varieties of poultry, and practically any flavorful mezedakia. Both the light bodied whites and reds can pair very nicely with any of the above mentioned dishes cause of structure and acidity levels. The acidity of either can cut through oils, spices, and fat of the food to create a harmony of flavors. Another great example is pairing a fresh and crisp Assyrtiko wine from Santorini that pairs well with grilled lamb chops. The lemony and citrus flavors of the Assyrtiko tango eloquently with the sizzling and zesty flavors of the grilled chops. There is plenty of acidity to break through the chop and create that finger licking effect. A similar effect can be applied when pairing a light bodied red wine with ‘psari plaki’. The flavors of the fish prepared with braised tomatoes and onions pair very well with the berry flavors of the red wine. The tones of spice in the red wine play very well with the spices of the fish dish. Once again, we are pulling out similar flavor profiles from each component.

For white wines we are looking for characteristics of citrus, zest, creaminess, along with either flavors of apricot, pears, and apples to pair with dishes that have similar flavor qualities. When it comes to red wines we are looking for elements of spice, fruit berry flavors and tannins to also pair with dishes that tend to have similar profiles. Once we can identify the two we can begin pairing and you will be amazed at the outcome. One rule of thumb that I go by is never be afraid to try it even if you think it might not work. Some of the best pairings I have experienced is from taking chances.

So for this upcoming Thanksgiving feast, I would definitely consider richer and bolder whites such as Malagousia for your turkey. If you are considering offering a ham and possibly some lamb, then a crisp rosè would definitely pair well. Now, if you must have red during the feast, then I would consider any Xinomavro for the bird. Regardless, of what you mind, give it a shot and discover new flavors and results.

Happy Thanksgiving from all of us!

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The Fabulous Four: Greece’s Leading Wine Regions

As the French have enriched us with their outstanding wines based on the region they come from as opposed to the grape they are produced from, I also see this as a fit for wines produced in Greece. Most grape varieties grow and perform better in their ideal terroir or region. Characteristics and expressions of wines are primarily based on the grape varieties they are produced from. The flavor profiles and structures are also mainly due to the result of the grape variety amongst other elements. Obviously, a winemaker can alter and/or modify flavors and elements. But for a particular variety to express its identity, it has to hail from its origins or natural habitat. The elements of climate, soil composition, and elevation are the main factors in determining a grape’s quality and expressions. A grape variety can be grown in various different regions and will most likely different results in each. The amount of rainfall, sunlight, minerals and nutrients, have an impact on a grape’s cultivation. Each region has its own unique composition of the mentioned elements. I have examined and researched Greece’s four main winegrowing regions that produce their native grape varieties to levels of high quality due to their unique growing environments. Nemea: Agiorgitko, Mantina: Moschofilero, Santorini: Assyrtiko, and Naoussa: Xinomavro.

NEMEA
This AOC located in the northeast corner of Peloponnesos has a gentle beauty to which the abundance of vineyards only contributes, especially along the valley and slopes of Ancient Neméa. Considered to be one of the most important wine regions to Greece’s wine culture, Nemea could potentially be the gateway to the international market. Simply loaded with rich history, amazing archaeological sites, solid wine traditions, and a current haven for aspiring winemakers. The indigenous variety that grows here is Agiorgitiko or also known as St.George (named after a small village in Nemea). Agiorgitiko produces medium bodied wines of deep cherry color along with an aromatic fruity bouquet, and flavors of exotic berries and spices. For productions to acquire the appellation qualifications and status, the wine must be aged in oak barrels for a minimum of 12 months. There is tremendous agreement that no matter what its potential may be elsewhere, the Agiorgitiko is perfectly adapted to Nemea, especially to the middle of three zones of different elevations, the so-called ‘semi-mountainous’ zone, at elevations of between 450 and 650 meters, where the overlap of ideal conditions result in good fruit, acidity, body and color that meet the current high expectations for serious wine in world markets. The region of Nemea has a typical Mediterranean climate that consists of hot summers, mild winters, long autumns, which is pretty consistent from year to year allowing the Agiorgitiko grape to reach full maturity when harvested.

Featured Wineries: Palivou Estates, Domaine Tselepos, Gaia Estates, and Domaine Skouras.

MANTINIA
Just south of Nemea, is another note-worthy region that is best known for its white variety Moschofilero, known as Mantinia. Situated in higher elevations, Mantinia has longer growing seasons, which makes it very challenging for winemakers to balance sugar levels. The appellation Mantinia, calls for at least 85% Moschofilero, which can be blended with the local variety, Asproudes. More importantly, Moschofilero from the region of Mantinia, showcases the best expressions of citrus fruit, elegent acidity, and aromatic bouquets. The climate in this mountainous terrain is cool and fresh during the summers, with adequate rainfall during the growing season. Many negociants have flocked to Mantinia in search of its high quality Moschofilero that could also become the white variety to push Greece’s wine culture into mainstream acceptance. It has all the friendly characteristics that Westerners look for in a simple and pleasant wine.

Featured Wineries: Nasiakos Winery, Domaine Tselepos, Troupis Winery, Domaine Antonopoulos.

SANTORINI
Arguably the most unique wine region in the world. Situated on a volcanic island in the Cyclades, Santorini has been growing grapes from the same root stock for centuries. Santorini produces some of the finest and interesting wines in the world, thanks to its unique terroir that consists of a porous terrain that is rich in pumice and lava stone, plenty of sunshine, and barely any rainfall during the year. Vines on Santorini, which are shapes like wire baskets to protect themselves from strong winds, drink from moisture absorbed by the ground or from overnight mist or dew from temperature changes between dusk to dawn. The native grape variety of Santorini, Assyrtiko, is also considered Greece’s best white grape. Due to its high sugar and alcohol levels to compensate its spare fruit and minimal aromas, it is usually blended with aromatic varieties such as Aidani and Athiri. Santorini is also known for its award-winning sweet production called Vinsanto. A process that requires ripe Assyrtico grapes to lay out in the sun until dried like raisins and then undergoes a long and slow fermentation, and then barrel aged for a period of years. The results are an amazing rich and concentrated sweet wine with flavors of figs and honey.

Featured Wineries: Santo Winery, Domaine Sigalas, Hatzidakis Estates, Argyros Estates, Gaia Estates, and Koutsoyianopoulos Winery.

NAOUSSA
Considered to be the crown jewel of the Makedonian wine region, Naoussa received its appellation status in 1971. Home of the noble grape variety Xynomavro, which many speculate has strong roots and origins to Pinot Noir. Naoussa overlooks the central plains of Makedonia. The soil composition is mainly limestone, clay, sand, and loam. Naoussa tends to have a cooler climate with some tricky winds during the growing season that make it challenging for growers. The Boutari family has alot to do with Naoussa’s success and reputation. Unlike some of Greece’s other fast-growing regions, Naoussa’s development is slow and steady for the last 30 years. Naoussa is still dedicated solely to the variety Xynomavro that produces quite complex wines, but if made well can be compared to some great Burgundian reds and maybe even some reds from Barolo. Xynomavro, a very temperate variety, usually lacks color and consists of high tannins and acidity that typically need food to be enjoyed best.

Featured Wineries: Kir-Yianni Estates, Vaeni Winer, Karydas, and Thymiopoulos Winery

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Match Making at the Table

It always seems that in our challenging lives, we are always trying to achieve perfection. We always strive for the ideal match for everything that involves our world. We want to make sure we pair the right shoes with the appropriate outfit, the top schools for our studious children, the best investment tools for our current financial status, or the most flavorful wine to pair with our savory dishes.

Throughout the years we tend to follow trends and fashions that assist us in making our ultimate decisions. As the wine industry continues to blossom, so does the interest and knowledge of today’s consumers. The constant exposure to today’s wines and cutting edge cuisine continues to keep us on our toes with exciting approaches and ideas. We have come along way from the standard white wine with fish and red wine with meat rule.

It all starts in the kitchen with our culinary leaders of the world. Today top-rated chefs are experimenting and utilizing ingredients that most never knew existed years ago. The convenience and availability of acquiring exotic and unique ingredients has opened the doors to new and innovative cooking methods. The ultimate goal is to extract enjoyable and pleasant flavors as much as possible. Even though some of these ingredients such as saffron, truffles, ginger, and balsamic vinegar to name a few have been around for centuries, we are now beginning to see their popularity. Take these simple ingredients and apply creative cooking methods and you’ll be amazed by the resulting flavors.

At the same token, passionate and talented winemakers are producing wines with amazing characteristics and structure. Modern technology has produced phenomenal results for the wine industry in terms of quality and achievements. But many have begun turning to old world methods of producing ‘good’ wine that is meant to be enjoyed with food.

According to past time (gastronomy) etiquette, wine must be accompanied by every meal or course. The obvious approach of pairing our fish and poultry with white wine and our meats with red wine has been overlooked for the even more obvious reasons, flavor profiles. As winemakers spend endless hours in their vineyards and wineries trying to extract the ultimate flavors in their wine, chefs are formulating which ingredients to add to their next masterpiece. One of the most important elements here is to understand the nature of each entity’s achievements. Understanding the wine along with understanding the food is critical when it comes to pairing the two.

The formula can be broken down to a very simple method for pairing. Keep in mind that wine has a natural element of acidity that contributes to the structure of the wine. Wines that have a higher level of acidity, the lighter and sharper it’s going to be. The lower the acidity, then the wine becomes heavier and rounder. These basic acknowledgements of the wine, whether it is white or red, will assist us in deciding which dishes to pair or vice-versa. For example, if we decide to open a bottle of light bodied red such as Xinomavro or Agiorgitiko, or light bodied whites, such as Roditis or Moschofilero, we can pair it with hearty vegetable salads, rich savory soups, grilled fish with pronounced seasoning or fish stews, varieties of poultry, and practically any flavorful mezedakia. Both the light bodied whites and reds can pair very nicely with any of the above-mentioned dishes cause of structure and acidity levels. The acidity of either can cut through oils, spices, and fat of the food to create a harmony of flavors. Another great example is pairing a fresh and crisp Assyrtiko wine from Santorini that pairs well with grilled lamb chops. The lemony and citrus flavors of the Assyrtiko tango eloquently with the sizzling and zesty flavors of the grilled chops. There is plenty of acidity to break through the chop and create that finger licking effect. A similar effect can be applied when pairing a light bodied red wine with ‘psari plaki’. The flavors of the fish prepared with braised tomatoes and onions pair very well with the berry flavors of the red wine. The tones of spice in the red wine play very well with the spices of the fish dish. Once again, we are pulling out similar flavor profiles from each component.

For white wines we are looking for characteristics of citrus, zest, creaminess, along with either flavor of apricot, pears, and apples to pair with dishes that have similar flavor qualities. When it comes to red wines, we are looking for elements of spice, fruit berry flavors and tannins to also pair with dishes that tend to have similar profiles. Once we can identify the two, we can begin pairing and you will be amazed at the outcome. One rule of thumb that I go by is to never be afraid to try it even if you think it might not work. Some of the best pairings I have experienced is from taking chances.

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Retsina Rising

Retsina, (a white wine fermented with an inclusion of pine resin) has been part of Greek wine culture for centuries. It has also been a well traveled wine thanks to Greek merchants that sailed the world over the years. But because of its unique and obscure flavor profile it wasn’t as well liked in the modern world. To debunk all of the myths that have been floating around about retsina, I’ll give you the short version of its creation. As Greek merchants were setting off for their voyages around the world, they would load up their ships with all of their supplies and necessities, which included wine. The clay vessels that carried that wine would be stored down below in the ships. In order to seal the containers of wine air tight, they created an adhesive that consisted of pine resin and tar. But since the lower levels of the ship would be extremely hot during travels, the adhesive would melt and drip into the wine. Despite the wine being tainted by pine resin, they would drink it regardless since it was their only supply out at sea. Over the years, it became an acquired taste for Greeks and ended up becoming the national wine for decades during the 20th century.

Retsina’s production was mainly bulk wine making and was relatively low in quality. Most tourists visiting Greece during the 70s and 80s were introduced to retsina at the local tavernas around the country. That was their first impression of Greek wine. Not the best example but it was traditional at the time. At the same token, as the vast migration of Greeks to the U.S. during the 50s and 60s started to settle, importers began shipping in retsina to supply that demand. At one point during that time, retsina actually was one of the top wines being imported into the U.S. to supply all the Greeks throughout the U.S.

But as the development of Greece’s wine industry was ramping up during the 90s, we began to see a rapid decline in retsina production. As the generation of that era began to go away, the new generation had no interest in retsina and it became scarcely available in the U.S.

As the progression of Greek wine production has evolved into world class selections, we are starting to see a resurgence of innovative and pioneering practices of featuring local varieties that showcase their uniqueness. And now, a growing number of winemakers are experimenting with bringing back restina but at a high quality production. Retina was typically produced by Savatiano, the most planted grape variety in Greece. Savatiano was adaptable in any environment and could easily grow in most parts of Greece. This was ideal to produce bulk wine that could be sold cheaply.

Now wineries such as Mylonas in Attiki and Troupis in Mantinia are taking retsina to a higher level. Both wineries farm organically and produce clean wine without any synthetic sugars, additives or chemicals. Mylonas is using a high quality Savatiano and Troupis is using Assyrtiko that’s unfiltered for their restina. Both outstanding productions that will really change your perception of retsina. The flavor profile of both of these wines are refreshing and crisp, herbal notes, with a touch of pine, along with floral aromas and a clean finish.

Try this retsina from our platform and enjoy! https://www.greekazon.com/products/mylonas-savatiano

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The Show Must Go On!

Greece’s largest wine exhibition, Oenorama is finally BACK! After being suspended due to the pandemic, founder and organizer, Konstantinos Stergides anxiously waited to finally host this amazing expo that he started in 1994. The support and attendance levels to Oenorama continued to grow over the years and positioned it to become one of the most instrumental expos in Greece showcasing the development of wine productions from wineries around the country.

This year’s Oenorama will showcase over 250 wineries and over 2,000 wines to discover. There will also be several interesting speciality sections such as Wine Revelations: a hall dedicated to rare and obscure wines and Oenotechnica: a section where exhibitors will be presenting winemaking equipment, consumables, and a variety of other services.

Oenorama started as a small-scale trade show that has evolved into a multi-level communications platform that provides a diverse experience for consumers, wine producers, members of the trade, and the media.

Oenorama will once again be hosted at the conveniently located venue, Zappeion Megaron in Athens with access to public transportation, hotels, and restaurants. The expo will be held from March 12th to the 14th. For tickets and more information you can visit their site at

oenorama.com

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The Best Wines of 2021: Moschofilero

Skouras 2019 George Skouras Moschofilero (Arcadia)
#28 Enthusiast 100 2021

We are proud to share the news that the Skouras Moscofilero was selected as the top 100 wines of 2021! We love how fresh and exciting this wine can be, and glad to see it’s recognized again for its magnificence.

We love pairing moscofilero with light seafood, spicy foods, and salads. This is a bright and aromatic wine with a ton of character and liveliness. Hope it brings you some joy this holiday season!

“This Moschofilero starts with a rich, fragrant nose of jasmine and rose, but its flavors are poised and pert in style, with a spin of bone-dry acid framing its refined citrus and spice flavors. A beautiful example of the variety’s versatility and character.” – Susan Kostrzewa

See the article >

RATING: 93
DESIGNATION: George Skouras
VARIETY: Moschofilero, Greek White
APPELLATION: Arcadia, Greece
WINERY: Skouras
ALCOHOL: 12%
BOTTLE SIZE: 750 ml
CATEGORY: White
IMPORTER: Diamond Importers Inc

Buy a bottle of Skouras Moschofilero

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.
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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.