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Greek Cuisine

Food, Spices & Wine

In ancient Greece, wine was considered the drink of the gods. Winemaking figured prominently in Greek history. As consumption increased and cultivation followed suit to satisfy demand, the noble grape spread on the heels of the empire.

greek-2Greeks have been making wine for thousands of years, using clay pots to store the wine while it fermented. When Greece fell under Ottoman rule, winemaking became more difficult and the whole industry suffered. The next few centuries were wrought with war, making it difficult for the native wine industry to regain its footing.

Parallel to Greece's struggles, countries like France and Italy were aggressively developing flourishing wine industries. It wasn't until the 1970s that the Greek wine industry took bold steps forward. Only recently have Greek wines gained the recognition they deserve, and a new generation of small vineyard winemakers (above) punctuate the Greek landscape.

greek-1More than Retsina.

Although over 300 grape varieties under cultivation, Greek wines have a distinct flavor family that pairs well with many dishes. Greek wines in fact, are extremely food-friendly. Aside from Retsina, a popular wine among Greeks (but less favored abroad), made with pine resin (left), Greek wine made from native grapes are quite excellent.

Native white grapes include, Moschofilero and Assyrtiko. Native reds include Agiorgitiko and Xynomavro. Although Greece is considered to be a relatively hot country, its unique geography produces wines that taste more like those produced in cooler countries. That is wines that are not too high in alcohol and have just the right amount of acidity. Greek vineyards, for the most part are planted at cooler, higher altitudes or are cooled by ocean breezes.

White with White, Red with Red

These low alcohol wines with slightly higher acid rates, go well with most Greek cuisine, especially heavier dishes. Assyrtiko grapes produce wines that pair well with calamari and classic Greek salad. Moschofilero wines have a touch of fruitiness and pair well with heavier seafood dishes.

greek-3Lamb is one of the more common meats used in Greek dishes like rack of lamb and souvlaki. Red Agiorghitiko wine pairs well with these and most other Greek-themed lamb dishes. Xynomavro, on the other hand pairs well with goat moussaka (right).

Greek cuisine can tend to be on the heavier side, so as a rule of thumb try to choose crisp wines that are light to medium bodied and somewhat refreshing.