Preparing (to drink wine) in Greece
I read a little bit about the most widely planted white grape of Santorini, Assyrtiko, and considering it is most often described as dry, citrusy, and mineral laden I can only assume I will be drinking plenty of it when I am there in June.
But what about the red wines? It certainly seems like I will run across plenty of Agiorgitiko (Ah yor yee’ ti ko) as it is one of the most extensively grown grapes in Greece overall. The grape is at its best in Nemea, in Southern Greece, where it is warm – even hot – but comprises some high altitude vineyards up to 2,600 feet above sea level. As with the Assyrtiko grape, Agiorgitiko appears to come in a wide range of styles, from rich and concentrated to light and easygoing. Deep color, red fruits, and powerful aromatics are hallmarks of the grape.
At times Agiorgitiko is blended with other grapes, such as Syrah and Cabernet Sauvignon, but is also vinified on its own. The grape it’s most often likened to is Merlot due to its medium body, fleshy fruits, and low acidity. In general, the higher the altitude, the more distinct the tannins and the better the quality of the wines. I’m assuming the grapes retain more acidity at the higher altitude levels as well.
Given I am a big fan of acidity in my wines and the fact that it is more difficult to pair food with wines lacking acidity, I searched the interwebs to see what some common food pairing advice for Agiorgitiko might be. The best advice I found was to pair the wine with milder foods with a dash of added acidity, such as a squeeze of lime or lemon. That sounds very doable given the cuisine of the Greek Islands! I also saw a suggestion to serve it slightly chilled, which sounds delightful, especially if I am sitting at a café in Thira.
Now the only thing left to do is learn to pronounce all these Greek grapes. For this I turn to some Greek wisdom:
Learn to be silent
Let your quiet mind
Listen and absorb.
(I know we don't have any Greek wines in the shop but maybe we will spotlight some when I get back from my trip. You never know!...)