The quality transformation experienced by Greek wines in the last decades have firmly placed the country and its myriad regions and indigenous grape varieties as leading references in wine lists the world over. The ubiquity of Greek wines in menus and pairing flights is as much about their uniqueness and quality as their intrinsic food pairing appeal. The country’s 33 PDOs (Protected Designations of Origin), 114 PGIs (Protected Geographical Indications), and multiple Varietal Wines offer sommeliers an incredible palette of options, all with a character very much of their own and which stands out among the world’s best wines while offering a point of difference.
Parents of one of the western world’s foundational gastronomic traditions, Greek food and wine cannot be understood separately. The country’s wines evolved as an essential part of the pleasures of the table. Indeed, think of a Greek meal and you will immediately picture a glass of wine alongside a spread of mezze. Ultimately, however, the same table could be covered with Spanish ‘tapas’, Italian street food or Portuguese ‘petiscos’.
A glass of Greek wine – perhaps a distinctively aromatic PGI Retsina of Attiki (ΠΓΕ Ρετσίνα Αττικής) or a PDO Robola of Kefalonia (ΠΟΠ Ρομπόλα Κεφαλληνίας) – could not be better companions to salty boquerones, Sicilian arancini or a salt-cod salad. At the epicentre of the Mediterranean, Greek wines embrace all these traditions which somehow owe them their own birth and evolution.
Ask any sommelier and he will tell you that one the most interesting and toughest pairing challenges is finding the perfect match for Asian dishes. Again, Greek wines have become the go-to option for many professionals.
The distinct aromatic profile of Malagousia – best showcased in PDO Rhodes (ΠΟΠ Ρόδος) wines – is a perfect companion to the delicate textures and refined flavours of sushi and sashimi. The savouriness and poised tannic structure of Xinomavro, which shines in the wines of PDOs Naoussa (ΠΟΠ Νάουσα) and Amyndeon (ΠΟΠ Αμύνταιο), will pair well with robata (Japanese grilled skewers) as well as with miso-based dishes such as miso cod or aubergine.
Spicier Asian cuisines such as Thai, Chinese or Indonesian, on the other hand, will require more intense nectars to match. The herbal lining of Retsinas will show well alongside Pad Thai, Dim-Sum or Sweet & Sour Pork. Limniona, a rising-star grape producing characterful yet very refreshing Varietal wines across Greece, would be a perfect red companion to dumplings or roasted Peking duck.
The fine tannins and refreshing acidity of Limniona also call, quite simply, for grilled tiger prawns. And indeed, it is alongside the purest, best-quality ingredients that Greek wines truly shine, showcasing their purity and unique capacity to express terroir identity. The classical poise of the Assyrtikos of PDO Santorini (ΠΟΠ Σαντορίνη) has pride of place next to a plate of fresh oysters or a platter of soft cheeses. A wild-caught grilled sea bass or a seared tuna steak calls for a richer style, a PDO Santorini Nychteri perhaps or a Roditis from PDO Patra (ΠΟΠ Πάτρα).
If you have some juicy red meat or a selection of vegetables sizzling in the barbecue, open a bottle of a PDO Nemea (ΠΟΠ Νεμέα) Agiorgitiko, whose robust structure and layered palate will provide an ideal framework to the smokey flavours and fleshy textures. A comforting herb-roasted chicken will call for Liatiko-based Varietal wine or PDO Dafnes (ΠΟΠ Δαφνές) blends.
Yet, no pairing could be more classical and sublime than a glass of a lucious and complex PDO Samos (ΠΟΠ Σάμος) served with crème brûlée, chocolate truffles or a platter of cured cheeses.
Born as part of the essence of Greek culture, the country’s wines are a perfect expression of its very soul: one that has always had a global vocation and permeates the world as we know it today. Greek wines are, by definition, wines to be shared and enjoyed with food.
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