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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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Discovering Crete

Crete is the largest island in Greece and is also the second largest wine producing region in the country. There are over 60 wineries and the majority of them are practicing organic farming and biodynamic production. In the last twenty years, there has been an abundance of discovering thought to be extinct grape varieties that farmers and viti-culturists are bringing back to life. The revitalization of Crete’s wine industry is thriving and progressing immensely.

Crete lies in the heart of the Eastern Mediterranean. Its climate is typically Mediterranean, though not everywhere. Large altitude differences, the steep gradients of the Cretan mountains and the fragmented relief create a mosaic of local microclimates. The island’s orientation, its oblong shape, its high mountains and the fact that it is surrounded by the sea, exposed to strong winds, blowing all year round from every direction, all have a decisive impact on local microclimates. These various microclimates allow the indigenous grape varieties to perform well in those specific areas. And because of these microclimates most wineries are practicing dry farming and the remaining require very little irrigation.

Crete is like a wine ark carrying marvelous indigenous varieties as well as foreign ones which have adapted very well to the local terrain with very positive results. Local white varieties include Vilana, one of the island’s top white wine grapes, Vidiano, Dafni, Thrapsathiri, Malvazia di Candia (Malvazia of Chandakas), Muscat of Spina, and Plyto. Red varieties include Kotsifali, Mantilari, Liatiko, Tsardana and legendary Romeiko. Cretan varietals and blends made of local and foreign varieties (mostly French) are PGI Crete labels.

Cretan vineyards cover 12.8% of Greece’s wine regions and hold the 3rd place among the 9 viticultural areas in the country. The Geographical Indications for Cretan wines are as follows:

PDO Sitia, PDO Malvasia Sitia – Lasithi
PDO Peza – Heraklion
PDO Archanes – Heraklion
PDO Dafnes – Heraklion
PDO Handakas-Candia & Malvasia Handakas-Candia – Heraklion

Here are some selections of wines from Crete that you can explore and have them delivered right to your door.

MRS. Red Blend by Manousakis Winery

Douloufakis Liatiko

Douloufakis Vidiano Dafnios

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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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Dodecanese Islands: Food & Wine Treasures

Twelve Islands, a cluster of sizable islands located in the southeastern corner of the Aegean sea. Each of these islands-jewels feature its own gastronomic heritage, shaped by economic constraints and limited resources. These islands remain isolated and self-sufficient for most part of the year. The majority of visitors arrive in the summer months. So, they rely on themselves to produce sustainable food.

On islands like Kalymnos, where most food comes from the sea, recipes feature seafood – fresh or preserved. Kalymnos is world renowned for its sea sponge fishing, having a tradition in training the best divers. When they would dive for sponges, often times they would bring up to the boat fish, sea urchins, various crustaceans and let them dry in the sun -with a bit of salt. “Bonito” is such a meze from Kalymnos.

In other islands -Rhodes, Karpathos, Kasos, Patmos, that are more mountainous, there are more farmers and shepherds than fishermen. Between the 12th and 16th century, inhabitants had to move inland and live on the mountains to protect their families and belongings from pirates that were roaming the Aegean Sea. In these islands, we have dishes that feature beans and pulses, cheese, traditional pasta made from wheat flour -“Makarounes” from Karpathos, “Pitaroudia” from Rhodes.

Each island has an array of indigenous flora and edible greens. In the island of Astypalea, they cultivate Krocus flowers and make aromatic saffron and sweet potatoes. Capers grow wild in all the islands and are featured in many dishes. Wines are made in Rhodes, Kos and Lipsi. Rhodes holds the largest production of sparkling wines in Greece. In recent years, on the island of Lipsi, they revived an old vine variety, the Fokiano grape. It produces a sweet wine that used to be sent exclusively to the Vatican.

Each of these islands, Nisyros, Patmos, Astypalea, Karpathos, Kos, Kassos, Leros, Lipsi, Symi, Rhodes, Halki, Kalymnos have their own history, people, traditions, waiting to be discovered.

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Off to a Clean Start

As we bid farewell to 2021, we welcome 2022 with as much optimism as possible. And as we continue to navigate our lives with all the challenges we are facing today, we at Greekazon & Greek Wine Club have decided to change directions in featuring and advocating for wines made from cleaner practices. After endless days of extensive research on the subject of wine production on a global scale, we have been astonished at some of the practices that are allowed today. We have made a promise to ourselves and to you that we will continue to make efforts to bring you wines from Greece that are made in the most natural way and with very minimal intervention. Our initiatives will include interviews from winemakers in Greece that are practicing organic and biodynamic farming along with sustainable practices. We will also feature monthly articles and social media posts on the education and awareness of better practices for wine production in Greece.

As we continue to make efforts to eat clean and make better choices for our meals, we should also take the same approach when it comes to wine. Greece is becoming a leading force in Europe’s wine industry by making huge efforts to produce cleaner wine. Now, just to clarify the term, clean wine, in simple terms it means wines that are produced with the least amount of chemicals and synthetics from farming to production.

We look forward to a better 2022 with all of you. Let’s raise our glasses and toast to #drinkingclean and #drinkinggreek!

Drink clean with us with the following wines!

Koukos Winery Electra Orange Wine

Mylonas “Naked Truth” Savatiano

Skouras Salto Moschofilero

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Winter in the Greek vineyards

Photo credit: Lyrarakis vineyards in Crete

Does it snow in Greece?” That was one of the most common questions I would get when I was a student at BU in Boston. The answer is “Yes, it does snow in Greece, as it is a mountainous country, covered by almost 2/3 of its area in hills, mountains, and large mountain summits.” Greece is known as a summer holiday destination. True, our islands and coastline welcome more than 30 million travelers each summer. Some winter travelers, mainly from continental Europe, have discovered the joy of winter in Greece – low temperatures, snowcapped mountains, ski resorts, beautiful traditional mountain villages and charming hotels with open fireplaces.

Many vineyards are located in slopes of hills and mountains, throughout the country. Some of these vineyards are located 2,200 to 2,500 feet above sea level! To name a few: Mantineia and Nemea in the Peloponnese penninsula. There, in slopes reaching well over 2,500 feet, the Moscofilero grape produces aromatic, crisp white wines. Further north from Mantineia, in the famous region of Nemea, home to the Agiorgitiko grape. On the western side of Nemea, in Asprokampos and Koutsi, the Agiorgitiko grape produces some of the finest red wines with ageing potential and the fragrant aromatic rose wines of the same grape.

Further north, on our Way to Thessaloniki, we find beautiful vineyards in the slopes of mount Olympus -Rapsani is a well known region producing the Rapsani blended red wine and a few more notable wineries in the area. In Northern Greece, Florina and Amyntaio are the northern most vineyards in Greece. There, altitute reaches 2,000 feet above sea level. The local star grape variety of Xinomavro produces red and rose wines with high acidity, healthy tannins and ageing prospects. Amyntaio is also the area where most of the sparlkling wine is being made.

Many islands that are the perfect summer destination, have mountainous vineyards that set their wine production apart: Samos island with its floral dessert Muscat wines, Crete (as shown in above picture), Kefalonia, Robola white wines.

The highest vineyard in Greece is found in Metsovo at the Katogi Averoff estate. There, at an altitude of almost 4,000 feet, the Averof family have been cultivating vines since 1959, mostly the white Traminer and the red Cabernet Sauvignon. In fact, the grandfather Averoff brought the first Cabernet Sauvignon vines from France in the 50’s and they produce award winning wines to this day.

A few years back, I participated in a tasting of the Katogi Averoff wines with Alexandros, the grandson of Evangelo Averoff and the current CEO of the estate. When he was asked what is the greatest challenge growing and tending vines in such high altitude, he answered: “The brown bears. They come down from the forest and munch on the sweet Traminer grapes! It is impossible to keep them away!”

This picture has stayed with me and every time I recall it, it puts a smile on my face.

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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.