5 Greek Wine Selections And How To Pair Each With Food
When it comes to wine, the sentiment “it’s all Greek to me” is a good thing, especially when experts like Evan Turner of Helen Greek Food & Wine are available for guidance. Though varietals from California, Italy and France get the lion’s share of attention from American wine aficionados, bottles from the land of antiquity have much to offer, often for a fraction of the price. They also complement a broad range of cuisines and cooking styles, so there’s no excuse to pass up the Greek shelf on your next wine run. (By the way, Helen also sells retail bottles.)
“Drink what you want with what you want,” says Turner. “Whatever you find enjoyable is what’s enjoyable. Find your own road, but drink more Greek wine because they are delightful.” That said, thanks to unfamiliar grapes and names that don’t exactly roll off the native English tongue, having a guide like Turner is extremely helpful.
A recent wine dinner at Helen featured selections from Domaine Katsaros, so we asked Turner to pick five for offer general pairing recommendations ideal for Houston’s sweltering summer days. The three whites, one rose and one red are available for purchase at Helen. (Some retailers have a small selection of Greek wines and may or may not carry these particular ones.)
Antonopoulos Vineyards, Adoli Ghis, 2015
The name of this white wine translates to “pure land” and the resulting beverage is purity in a glass. A blend of 65-percent Lagorthi and 35-percent Asproudes grapes, this vintage is very crisp and clean with great minerality. Fans of Sauvignon Blanc will love this vintage that works as an aperitif or accompaniment to salads, grilled seafood and roasted fish—even a crawfish boil if the spice level is toned down. Turner says it is also one of the best wines to drink with oysters.
Union of Santorini Cooperatives, SantoWines, Santorini Assyrtiko, 2015
The name of this white wine is slightly redundant, since Santorini has a Protected Designation of Origin (PDO). While Assyrtiko is not exclusive to the island, the PDO means the bottle contains only 100-percent Assyrtiko grapes, whereas mainland producers may make blends. Volcanic soil allows for an exceptionally dry wine with very little fruit. (Turner compares it to West Texas and British humor.) This one is light to medium bodied with “linear laser-like minerality” and texture. It pairs particularly well with seafood and grilled vegetables.
Parparoussis, Les Dons de Dionysos (The Gift of Dionysos), Barrel Fermented, 2010
Comparable to fine white Burgundy, this elegant white blend of 75-percent Assyrtiko and 25-percent Arithi is full bodied and rich thanks in part to fermentation in French oak barrels and the “fatter, juicier” quality of Assrytiko grown on the mainland. Pairing options run the gamut: poultry, seafood with rich cream and butter sauces, fatty fish, veal medallions and cheese. Or, take after Turner and enjoy on its own “when you want a nice glass of something decadent.”
Wine Art Estate, Pink Bang Rosé, 2015
One of the rarest vintages sold at Helen, Turner says this rosé is a great example of modern Greek wine since it uses primarily the Touriga Nacional grape indigenous to Portugal in lieu of those grown locally. (It is also the same grape used to make Port.) Produced in the northeastern part of the country, this picnic-perfect rose is dry yet funky, and fruity with bracing acidity. Its characteristics make it affable to a wide range of foods like fruit, fish, cold roast chicken and salami. It’s also great at cookouts. Turner says, “You haven’t really lived until you’ve had good Greek dry rose with a hot dog or a hamburger.”
Domain Katsaros, Valos, 2013
Discover your inner god or goddess with this red wine grown and produced on the slopes of Mt. Olympus. Found in northwestern Greece, it is ideal for fans of Nebbiolo, Pinot Noir and Grenache varietals who are ready to branch out. The composition of 100-percent Xinomavro (which means “acid black”) makes it particularly high acid with a strong tannin structure. These traits make it a good fit for aging and decanting before pairing with grilled and smoked dishes like salmon, barbecue or herb and citrus-marinated lamb chops. It is also budget-friendly, coming in at up to four times less than comparable offerings from other countries. Helen is the only location in Texas—and one of few in the United States—where this wine is available retail.