Greek cuisine is known for its bold flavors, fresh ingredients, and diverse dishes. Whether you’re indulging in a plate of moussaka, enjoying a grilled souvlaki, or savoring a piece of spanakopita, pairing your meal with the right wine can enhance the flavors and elevate your dining experience. In this beginner’s guide, we’ll explore some of the best wines to pair with Greek cuisine, helping you make the most of your culinary adventures.
Greek Wine Varieties
Greece has a long history of winemaking, with vineyards dating back thousands of years. The country boasts a wide variety of indigenous grape varieties, each lending its unique characteristics to the wines produced. Some of the most popular Greek wine varieties include:
One of the most widely planted red grape varieties in Greece, Agiorgitiko produces medium-bodied wines with flavors of red fruit, spices, and a hint of sweetness. This versatile grape pairs well with a range of Greek dishes, including grilled meats and tomato-based dishes.
Assyrtiko is a white grape variety primarily grown in the volcanic soils of Santorini. Known for its high acidity and mineral notes, Assyrtiko wines offer crispness and citrus flavors. They are an excellent choice to accompany seafood dishes, grilled vegetables, and creamy dips such as tzatziki.
Xinomavro is often referred to as Greece’s answer to Nebbiolo. This red grape variety produces bold, tannic wines with flavors of dark fruits, spices, and earthy undertones. Xinomavro pairs wonderfully with roasted lamb, stews, and aged cheeses.
Moschofilero is an aromatic white grape variety that thrives in the mountainous regions of Greece. It offers floral and citrus aromas, crisp acidity, and a refreshing palate. Moschofilero wines are a great match for lighter Greek dishes, such as salads, seafood, and grilled chicken.
Pairing Greek Wines with Greek Cuisine
Now that we’ve covered some of the key Greek wine varieties, let’s explore how to pair them with specific dishes:
1. Moussaka: This classic Greek dish made with layers of eggplant, minced meat, and béchamel sauce benefits from a medium-bodied red wine like Agiorgitiko or Xinomavro. The wine’s acidity and fruity flavors complement the richness of the dish.
2. Grilled Souvlaki: The smoky flavors of grilled meats call for a red wine with good acidity and mild tannins. Agiorgitiko or Xinomavro are great choices to balance the flavors of the succulent meat skewers.
3. Spanakopita: This spinach and feta-filled pastry pairs well with white wines like Assyrtiko or Moschofilero. The wines’ acidity cuts through the richness of the cheese and provides a refreshing contrast.
4. Greek Salad: The vibrant flavors of tomatoes, cucumbers, olives, and feta in a Greek salad harmonize beautifully with a crisp and refreshing white wine like Assyrtiko. Its citrus notes and high acidity elevate the freshness of the dish.
Exploring Greek Wine Regions
Greece’s diverse landscape and climate contribute to the wide range of styles and flavors found in its wines. Some of the notable wine regions in Greece include:
Santorini is famous for its unique viticultural practices, including the cultivation of Assyrtiko grapes in basket-shaped vines. The volcanic soil and dry climate result in wines with high acidity and mineral character.
Nemea, located in the Peloponnese region, is known for producing some of Greece’s finest red wines, primarily from the Agiorgitiko grape variety. The region’s clay and limestone soils contribute to the wines’ structure and complexity.
The Athens wine region is home to several wineries producing a variety of styles, from crisp whites made from Savatiano grapes to blended reds using Agiorgitiko and other indigenous varieties.
As you explore Greek cuisine and wines, don’t be afraid to try different combinations to find your personal favorites. Remember, the joy of food and wine pairing lies in discovering new flavors and experimenting with different combinations.