A Connoisseur’s Guide to the Finest Greek Wines

We chat with Greece’s first Master Sommelier Eleftherios Hanialidis for the inside scoop on his curated guide to the must-try Greek wine regions, perfect pairings, and some of his favourite spots to savour fine wines around Greece.

Interview by Gina Lionatos 

First up, congratulations on your recently appointed Master Sommelier status! The Master Sommelier’s Diploma exam is the world’s most challenging wine examination, and there are just 300 of you around the globe (and now, 1 in Greece). What does it take to become a Master Sommelier? 

It was a long process that took me years of studying and training. My average day started at 5:30 am with studying and tasting wines from around the world. After a full day’s work, I would often spend the late afternoons in blind tasting sessions. As you can imagine I had to prioritize, so there was not so much free time for a social life and to be honest, I don’t regret it. I feel blessed to have achieved my dream and I really hope I can help and motivate others who have an interest in wine to follow theirs.

It’s rare to be in the company of such a wine expert, so, let’s talk about wine! Which are some of the Greek wine regions (and producers) that you’re most excited about at the moment? 

Mantinia is making some great aromatic wines from the Moschofilero grape. Producers like Troupis and Tselepos are exploring the potential of this grape variety, by creating innovative expressions that are really impressive. 

Kefalonia is another region that makes a difference, in my opinion, with the Robola grape. Producers like Sclavos, Panos Sarris and Gentilini, each create their own interpretation of this amazing grape variety and their farming approaches range from low-intervention and biodynamic to single-vineyard bottlings.

Naousa in Northern Greece has always been one step ahead, and it continues to raise the bar higher and higher as time goes by. In this region, the Xinomavro grape makes breathtaking and age-worthy red wines that have nothing to envy from other “high-end” wines from legendary regions of the world. We come across some great classic examples from producers like Foundis and Karydas, but also more “polished” and modern approaches from Apostolos Thymiopoulos and Kostis Dalamaras. 

Last but not least, Santorini has been in the spotlight for quite some time with the Assyrtiko grape, responsible for very characteristic, mineral-driven, age-worthy white wines.

Even for the Oenophiles among us, perusing wine menus in Greece can sometimes be daunting for those who want to try the local offering. What are some Greek wine varieties that everyone should try when in Greece, and what might we pair them with?

Let’s start with white…

An exceptional wine, that is also extremely well-priced, is Roditis 2021 from Tetramythos Winery, which shows the great potential of this grape with its refreshing and complex character. It can be paired with a wide variety of dishes but I think fried small fish, like Atherina would be great. 

Another wonderful white wine is Robola of Kefalonia Panochori 2022 from Panos Sarris, sourced from high-altitude old vines giving a superb mineral-driven wine that would be ideal to be paired with deep-fried cod or a grilled lemon chicken. 

As for red…

I have to mention Xinomavro Reserve “Barba Yannis” Old Vines 2019 from Alpha Estate of the Amyndeon region, an excellent example of this grape variety showcasing its depth, complexity and elegance. A great classic pairing would be roasted lamb or beef stew.

Limniona 2021 from Oenops Winery, perfectly displays the elegance and fruit purity of the Limniona grape. A great pairing suggestion would be Greek baked meatballs in red sauce. 

Pet Nat, Orange and Retsina reimagined!

As for new-trend wines, Mylonas Pet Nat from Savatiano Grape is impressive, as is Kidonitsa Orange 2022 from Gofas Winery

Last but not least, it is worth tracking down some quality Retsina wines, like Tear of the Pine from Kechris and Pine Forest from Gikas Winery! 

I have to agree with you, sampling Tear of the Pine changed my perception of Retsina for the better! So now that we’ve explored the wines of Greece, what are some of your favourite spots to stop in for a glass of wine in Athens and also around Greece? 

Oinoscent and Materia Prima stand out for me in Athens. They are both great wine bars with great wine selections and friendly staff. Chef John Tsikoudakis at Oinoscent makes some of the best dishes I have ever come across in any wine bar in Greece. 

I should also mention Paleo in Piraeus and Warehouse in Exarcheia (Athens) which both have great wine selections and should not be missed by any wine-lover visiting Athens. 

For those visiting Northern Greece, I highly recommend Classico Bistro Moderne wine restaurant in Thessaloniki, Terroir Wine Restaurant in Kozani and Dionisos Restaurant in Pella.

Best Greek Wines to Pair With Chocolate

Every year on July 7th World Chocolate Day allows chocolate lovers around the world to indulge in their favourite treat without any guilt. And to celebrate we’ve rounded up the best Greek wines to pair with the chocolate of your choice.

Over the years, Valentine’s Day has become synonymous with chocolate, in the consciousness of the world. But each year, on July 7, we commemorate chocolate’s introduction to Europe in 1550.

Chocolate offers a broad range of flavors and flavor complexity, just like wine. When wine and chocolate are paired successfully, the result raises both elements to a higher level and creates a perfect duo for the tongue and mouth. 

Insights Greece - Best Greek Wines to Pair With Chocolate
Chocolate and wine

As with any pairing of food and wine, there are no set rules. Palates are subjective and experimentation is the key to discovering new loves. However, there are some tips and established norms for those who prefer shortcuts over trial and error. Let’s see some pairing suggestions below. 

Dark Chocolate 

Dark chocolates with 70% to 100% cacao are the most intense. By definition, dark chocolate contains a minimum of 35% cocoa solids. They have a rich flavor and they call for a wine that offers full-body, robust aromas and intense flavor sketches with bold fruit. A Zinfandel wine would do the job in this case, but The Zinfandel variety is not vinified in Greece so dark chocolate lovers won’t be able to combine their favorite chocolate with an appropriate wine. Ok, I’m joking. Cabernet Sauvignon and dark chocolate usually work well together, because Cabernet Sauvignon is generally full-bodied and it needs to be matched with intense flavors, so raising the cocoa content in the chocolate is key.

As the cocoa content decreases (50% and below) we may consider a wine from Syrah or Merlot grapes. 

If I had to opt for some Greek labels, those would be the Avlotopi of Tselepos Estate, an 100% Cabernet Sauvignon and the Les Rois Des Montagnes of Papargyriou Winery, an intense and concentrated 100% Syrah wine.

White Chocolate

Even though it is referred to as white chocolate, this dessert isn’t technically true chocolate as it doesn’t include cocoa, but cocoa butter, sugar and milk solids. Its sweet flavors of cream, milk, honey, vanilla, caramel, or fruit make it quite a versatile pair with wine. Italy’s Moscato d’Asti with its subtle bubbles would make an ideal candidate. Another route, for pairing wine with white chocolate, based on Greek vinifications is Muscat, which tends to be lightly aromatic and fruity, i.e. characteristics that lift and refresh the palate. Gewürztraminer with its slight sweetness plus typical lychee fruit tends to also hold up quite well to the buttery mouthfeel and intense profile of white chocolate.

Recommended labels: Lenga, a semi sweet Gewürztraminer from Avantis Estate and Lagopati, a Muscat of Alexandria, Limnos from Chatzigeorgiou Winery. 

Milk Chocolate 

Milk chocolate has a smaller percentage of cocoa and a higher percentage of sugar, compared with dark chocolate. This factor, plus the milk content means it’s milder, and sweeter transmitting flavors of brown sugar, cocoa, vanilla, honey, caramel, milk, cream and nuts. The ripe, red fruit and often lighter body and silky tannins of a Pinot Noir or a medium-bodied Merlot will match well with the smooth character and cocoa butter components of milk chocolate. From Greek varieties, an Agiorgitiko could also hold up quite well to the mild mouthfeel and integrated profile of milk chocolate. Also, a sparkling wine could pair well. The bright acidity and fusion of bubbles bring out the intense fruit flavors and chocolate accents particularly well. 

Suggested labels: Aurelia Sparkling from Zoinos Winery and Nemea from Gofas Estate i.e. a 100% Agiorgitiko. 

If you are being skeptical about the above combinations and have doubts, you should go with a classic. The rich textures, ripe fruit factors, hints of chocolate and sweet profile of sweet Mavrodaphne makes it a no-brainer for pairing with many kinds of milk and dark chocolate choices.

Summers in Greece are very hot and chocolate consumption decreases during the summer months. The 7th of July is in the heart of the Greek summer and if a chocolate bar seems an unlikely option, then… how about celebrating the day with a refreshing chocolate ice cream … 

So, if you want to enjoy a scoop of your favorite ice cream alongside your glass of wine, look for a sweet, ruby-hued, semi-sparkling dessert wine with floral notes and hints of red berries.

Insights Greece - Best Greek Wines to Pair With Chocolate

Akakies Sparkling from Kir Yianni Estate is an easy-to-find and budget-friendly option. Add fresh raspberries or strawberries to this already delicious combination. Perfection!

So, whether you enjoy a simple chocolate bar or something more elaborate, remember that with a bit of flexibility and delicious experimentation, you are sure to find remarkable wine and chocolate pairings that achieve the balance and seamless synergy of a well-paired union.

Happy “World Chocolate Day!”

For more wonderful wine explorations, follow George on Instagram @george.winestories


Best Greek Wines to Pair with Lent-Friendly Food  

As Great Lent is in full swing in Greece, discover which Greek wines pair well with lent-friendly food and dishes! 

The fast of the Great Lent, along with the weekly fast of Wednesday and Friday, is the oldest and only fast in the Greek Orthodox church, which have an Ecumenical dimension, that is, they were ratified by the Rules of the Ecumenical Council.

The fast of Great Lent in Greece begins on Shrove Monday and ends on Holy Saturday. It lasts 48 days! Traditional fasting is observed as follows:

Generally, foods allowed are vegetables, legumes, potatoes, pasta, nuts, olives, fruits, honey and in general foods that do not contain animal or fish products with the exception of mollusks and shellfish due to the fact that they do not contain any blood.

Insights Greece - Best Greek Wines to Pair with Lent-Friendly Food  
Lent-friendly food includes vegetables, legumes & shellfish

Prohibited foods: meat, fish, dairy products, oil, alcohol. Exceptionally, oil and wine are allowed on Saturdays and Sundays, except for Holy Saturday, which is the only Saturday of the year in which oil and wine are prohibited.

Although the allowed food categories seem limited, in reality, they include a vast number of ingredients that are either cultivated or gathered from the Greek countryside offering an abundance of choices to prepare a fasting dish.

My general philosophy on fasting is not one of strict abidance to its rules so, some rule-bending will most certainly be tolerated if not encouraged throughout my propositions. Therefore, I will assume that oil is fully allowed during Lent, which is actually true in part and we will see which varieties of wine match the above categories of food. 

Vegetables simmered in tomato

Greek specialties can be found in several internationally known dishes such as Mousaka and Souvlaki, but also in some suitable for fasting, like the Briam (Greek version of ratatouille). Red wine provides those dishes with the perfect complement to their stewed, cooked character which offers more complexity than when paired with the average green vegetable; and sometimes, with the addition of cheese (fasting rule breaker!), it’s possible to consider fairly powerful wines with low acidity (the tomatoes providing plenty of overall acidity) and a slightly stewed aroma, which complements the essential character of the dish itself. Here, the wines of the Peloponnese region are in their element and specifically Agiorgitiko either in its light red version or in the rosé vinification. 

Cooking legumes and matching them with wine

Legumes are a food rich in proteins and carbohydrates, with pretty low-fat content. Beans, lentils and chickpeas certainly are the most common legumes used in Greek recipes. Beans are usually intended for the cold evenings of Lent. If we choose to cook them in tomato sauce then a Xinomavro rosé will fit it great. Otherwise, if we opt to cook them in lemon broth, the soft and discreet character of Muscat of Alexandria promises us balance with our plate. 

Do you eat lentils? Many of us do not anymore. I love lentils, particularly if they are well cooked with plenty of herbs, with their mellow flavors and gentle spicing. In that case, we would opt for a wine to match the aromatic character with that of our plate. A Retsina (Assyrtiko) pairs well in this case, with its crisp acidity, rich mouth, fine resinous cues and a sense of herbs. 

Finally, the underrated chickpeas, cooked with onion and lemon, offer a rich flavor, which combines the brilliance of onion with the acidity of lemon. An aromatic Messlagousia or a blend of Malagousia and Assyrtiko would maximize enjoyment.

French Fries and Bubbly…

Insights Greece - Best Greek Wines to Pair with Lent-Friendly Food  
French fries and bubbly go hand in hand

Suppose we all liked French fries, despite the fact that it is increasingly considered junk food. Fresh potatoes don’t stand out for their flavor or taste! But when fried, their crispy sensation paired with the flavor of cooking oil and the taste of fried starch transform this otherwise uninteresting tuber into, probably, the most popular side dish in the Western World. What’s more, some if not all children believe they could live by eating only fries and ice cream or chocolate. So, which wines could best accompany that “unhealthy” temptation?

Surprisingly, the answer to this would be sparkling wine. A dry (Brut), lightly sparkling wine with citrus, mineral, and bread notes is the perfect complement to fries. The acidity and bubbles are the perfect balance to their saltiness and crunchiness. The acidity of the wine balances the oil’s fatty texture and the bubbles wash away its greasy sensation. The simplicity of sparkling wine and the saltiness of the French fries balance perfectly without one overpowering the other. My recommendation, in this case, would be a sparkling wine from Moschofilero or Assyrtiko. 

Eating spinach? Spanakorizo and wine 

A classic Greek food that is always present on the Lenten table is spinach cooked with rice. It is cooked either with lemon (white) or with tomato sauce (red). I personally consider spinach rice, apart from being a super healthy and nutritious food, to be extremely tasty and interesting, as long as the right balance among its ingredients is kept during its cooking. In the case of the lemon-white version, I would choose a wine of a white variety with generous aromatic richness to match the greenery of the food and the acidity of the lemon. A Malagousia or a Vidiano from Crete would be ideal matches for our fragrant spinach-rice plate. If we choose to cook it in tomato sauce, a rose wine from Limniona could be our match. 

Fava … a classic dish during Lent 

Fava is one of the most popular appetizers of Mediterranean cuisine and it usually accompanies seafood dishes or fish. Santorini claims the tastiest, most aromatic as well as the most expensive fava variety in Greece. Fava is usually served with finely chopped dry onion, parsley and plenty of oil. Alternatively, you can add sun-dried tomato or capers. For Fava Santorini, we would choose an Assyrtiko, from guess where? But from its birthplace of Santorini, of course. This way we would match the special taste of fava beans and the oiliness of olive oil with the intense acidity and mild aromatic character of the wine. Alternatively, a less expensive Savatiano from an attic vineyard would fit nicely with our dish. 

Food and wine pairing with squid and octopus.

Insights Greece - Best Greek Wines to Pair with Lent-Friendly Food  
Octopus pairs well with a glass of wine

The lengthy period of Lent (48 days) makes it almost impossible to confine our food consumption, to legumes and vegetables solely. For a change and for the opportunity to consume some much-needed animal protein, we can turn to seafood recipes with mollusks namely squid or octopus. Apart from the classic fried squid, we can cook them stuffed with finely chopped onion rice, tomato and herbs offering us a perfect opportunity for a glass or more of rosé from Agiorgitiko grapes. 

Octopus enables a wider range of recipes. Grilled, boiled in vinegar sauce, with rice, with short pasta and even stew.

So, which wines would best pair with the delicate taste of octopus? A wine with depth, strong flavor and plenty of acidity that “would cut through” the overwhelming taste of the octopus would be the option. If you prefer whites, then a Savvatiano from Attica or a Moschofilero from Peloponnese would be two remarkable choices because they are strong in flavor while retaining a long finish on the palette. Should you opt for the stew, then a red Limniona from Thessaly or even a dry Mavrodaphne from the Peloponnese or Kefalonia will give you a unique combination.

Sweets and Desserts 

During Lent or other fasting periods, we can still enjoy some excellent Greek desserts and sweets such as Halvas, Melomakarona (mostly during the Christmas period), Loukoumades, Pasteli (sesame and honey candy) and a range of cakes or biscuits that do not contain eggs or dairy in their recipes. From all the above we will dwell on Loukoumades. 

Insights Greece - Best Greek Wines to Pair with Lent-Friendly Food  
Loukoumades for something sweet during Lent

Loukoumades are goldish puffs of fried dough that are bathed in sweet honey syrup and sprinkled with cinnamon and grated walnuts. They are a simple treat but pack much flavor (and calories) which is enhanced by the spice and nuts. If you have chosen to completely give up meat during the Lenten season, walnuts would be a good supplement of protein for you.

So, we have a few simple ingredients for a little tricky to prepare dessert, but it will reward us both in taste and energy. We would match Loukoumades with a sweet wine. A sweet Moschato (Muscat of Lemnos, Muscat of Rio Patras, Muscat of Samos) would accompany our dessert wonderfully.

Fasting during Lent is for many of us an opportunity for spiritual catharsis and for others an occasion to eliminate animal protein from their diet for detoxification.

For modern Greeks, Lenten fast has been part of our popular tradition since our childhood and it has been engraved in us.

Fasting for almost 50 days requires substantial discipline, patience and determination to complete. It puts to the test one’s body but above all their mind and for the more religious of us, the strength of our soul.

Considering food recipes for fasting during Lent, let alone matching them properly with a bottle of wine, seems like a waste of time and energy to many contemporary people. I was once told by someone, not long ago, that scrutinizing my options for my meals while fasting was as meaningless as contemplating how many herbs and spices one should add to boiling water to make it tasty. Luckily for me or rather as an Epiphany, I had come across some old famous Italian proverbs the previous night. One of them cited: “Hunger is the best sauce for any dish”. Although my friend didn’t agree with that quote, he didn’t have much to say to respond to it.

To conclude, Lent and it’s fast could be seen not just as a relic from a religious tradition but as a testament to one’s ability to bring out creativity and ingenuity in order to make the best out of limited resources to satisfy not just the need to eat but also to enjoy his food. And no gastronomic pleasure is ever complete without a glass of the appropriate wine!

Καλή Σαρακοστή – Have a Holy and Blessed Lent!

For more wonderful wine explorations, follow George on Instagram @george.winestories

Celebrating International Syrah Day with Greek Labels

All wines get a holiday and February 16th is International Syrah Day, when wine enthusiasts worldwide celebrate Syrah, a red wine also named Shiraz- as it’s more commonly known in Australia.

The grapes are known for their deep red colour and small size. They can be round but have also been referred to as egg-shaped. Syrah has a short ripening period. When grown in the Old World it tends to be spicier, less fruit-forward, earthier, and more tannic. In New World, where it is also known as Shiraz, it tends to be “larger”, “bolder” and “jammier”, with less spice.

Syrah managed to spread to the Greek vineyard, in a relatively short time, producing wines of very high quality. This is no coincidence for producers, as Syrah is considered to thrive in the warm climatic conditions of Greece.

Greek Syrah is very close to the style of its New World counterpart, displaying a high alcoholic degree, prolonged extraction, dense structure, strong tannins, moderate acidity and sweets, and ripe aromas of black fruits and spices. It has the potential to age for many years and is often mixed with other international and local varieties; and gives very qualitative wines.

Below we will review five Greek labels that represent a range of styles and prices to suit every taste and budget.

Insights Greece - Celebrating International Syrah Day with Greek Labels
Collection by Avantis Estate

Courtesy of Avantis Estate
Mytikas Evia

A scarce Syrah, as the production does not exceed 1,000 bottles per year. The yield per hectare ranges from 300 -350 kilos. It’s a soft, graceful wine that offers a bouquet and palate marked by dark cherry, plum, dark chocolate, and a smidge of espresso. The acidity is balanced with the delicious fruit and the tannins are intact, leaving ample room for each to develop and flourish in an elegant finish. If there was a pedestal, surely one place would belong to the Collection. It is certainly up for the challenge of grilled roasted meat, hunt stewed red and hard yellow aged cheese.

Insights Greece - Celebrating International Syrah Day with Greek Labels
Oenotria by Domaine Costa Lazaridi

Oenotria Land
Courtesy of Domaine Costa Lazaridi
Kapandriti – Athens

This wine is dominated by Syrah (90%) with Agiorgitiko adding background notes.
The small area yield (approximately 250kg per acre) gives enormous condensation to all levels of the wine.
Intense and complex aromas of cherry, plum, vanilla, fig and chocolate.
It has a rich flavor with balanced acidity and silky tannins while its finish is a very long intersession with notes of vanilla.
It’s sure to add charm to a dinner, especially when paired with a beef fillet as well as with red-grilled meats. 

Insights Greece - Celebrating International Syrah Day with Greek Labels
The Naked King by Pieria Winery

The Naked King
Courtesy of Pieria Eratini Winery
Kolindros – Pieria

Looking for a rich Syrah wine but you can’t afford to wait for it to evolve over the years? Then check out this classic, well-made wine from Pieria in Northern Greece. A blend of 85% Syrah and 15% of the rare local variety Kolindrino. The name Naked King may be very original, but the wine is not characterized by nakedness as it wears armor of condensation and exuberance. The Naked King brings to our glass intense aromas of dried fruits, fresh framboise, cassis and cranberry while sweet spices and notes of the barrel complete its complex and charming palette. Mouth saturating, very well structured and balanced. Made for rich dishes of red meat. It’s also sure to impress with foie gras.

Insights Greece - Celebrating International Syrah Day with Greek Labels
Emphasis by Pavlidis Estate

Courtesy of Pavlidis Estate
Kokinogeia – Drama

If you are looking for a solid, typical expression of Syrah variety, Emphasis is a perfect pick. It offers a bouquet and a palate of black fruits leather, thyme, black pepper, chocolate, and vanilla. High acidity, velvety tannins, long, spicy aftertaste. You’ll also appreciate that it’s easy to find and a sure shot with red fatty meats with spicy sauces or roasted lamb. So … Emphasis on Syrah!

Manousakis Winery
Vatolakkos – Chania

Insights Greece - Celebrating International Syrah Day with Greek Labels
Nostos by Manousakis Winery

Nostos is a theme used in Ancient Greek literature that refers to an epic hero returning home by the sea. The return isn’t just about returning home physically but also about retaining the very virtues and qualities that characterized him before he went away.
In this particular case, we have a strong and robust Syrah from the beautiful island of Crete. Its bold tannins are a good asset for long-term aging. It has an oriented personality of red and black fruits with black pepper notes. A rich must try Greek Syrah. Give it a go with grilled meats or meats with tomato-based sauces and a variety of sausages.

I hope you enjoyed reading this article as much as I enjoyed writing it. By the way, what’s your favourite Greek Syrah wine?

Feel free to share some of your own great wine picks … 

For more wonderful wine explorations, follow George on Instagram @george.winestories

Pairing Greek Wine With Warming Winter Soups

The Christmas season is over, and January brings us to the heart of winter. What’s the antidote to a cold winter’s night? A warm bowl of soup suitably paired with a glass of Greek wine, of course!

When considering accompanying soups with wine, we often end up rejecting the idea, mainly due to the watery texture of a soup. The answer is to stop treating the issue with such skepticism and realise that a glass of wine along with our soup course will help us maximize enjoyment during our winter dinners.

So, when opting for a wine to serve with our soup, we should consider the consistency and main flavours we are putting before our mouth cavity. The density of the soup is often more important than the type of protein in it when picking the right wine.

Therefore, let’s serve wine with our most popular soups and keep in mind a few simple rules of combination.

Meat Soup

Insights Greece - Pairing Greek Wine With Warming Winter Soups
Xilia Xronia

The main ingredient of meat soup is usually beef. In this case, the greasy texture of the meat dominates the aromas of fresh tomatoes and the rest of the included vegetables. Here a red wine with soft tannins should qualify as a choice. A fresh Agiorgitiko or a Merlot would ideally accompany our soup. Personally, I would go for a blend of 60% Agiorgitiko and 40% Cabernet Sauvignon from the “Barafakas” Estate in Nemea. The name of the label is “Xilia Xronia” which means “A Thousand Years.” It is a wine with an emphasis on red fresh fruits and sweet spices such as cinnamon. A really tasty wine. It will match wonderfully with a meat soup.


Fish Soup

Insights Greece - Pairing Greek Wine With Warming Winter Soups
Techni Aplipias

Fish soups, where seafood aromas emerge above those of vegetables, need medium-bodied, crisp white wines with good acidities, such as Assyrtiko, Sauvignon Blanc, or Moschofilero, to match the flavours of the soup. My recommendation, in this case, would be “Techni Alipias” from “Wine Art” Estate in Drama. A blend of Sauvignon Blanc and Assyrtiko. Sauvignon Blanc adds fruity aromas and acidity while the less aromatic Assyrtiko adds body, structure, complexity and ageing potential to the blend. In terms of taste (and sales) this is the most successful blend of white varieties in Greece. Excellent wine for this kind of soup.

Chicken Soup

Insights Greece - Pairing Greek Wine With Warming Winter Soups

The soup to fix all winter ailments, while delicious and comforting to the stomach at the same time, chicken soup or chicken noodle soup, calls for aromatic, textured whites with delicious natural acidity like Grüner Veltliner or Verdelho. From the domestic varieties, we would choose a Moschofilero.  One of the top and most timeless expressions of the variety is the “Mantineia” of Tselepos Estate. A Moschofilero of high aromatic intensity where aromas of citrus fruits, as well as flowers, predominate. Its intense acidity “fuels” it with freshness and “nerve”. An ideal choice to accompany chicken soup.

Vegetable Soup

Insights Greece - Pairing Greek Wine With Warming Winter Soups
Lexis Gris Sur Lie Rose

As hearty fall and winter vegetables come into season, this is a classic winter soup, and my go-to pairing here is rosé wines. I love the “Lexis Gris Sur Lie Rose” from Zacharias Winery for its tart fruit, earthy tones and bright acidity. It’s refreshing and plays off the earthy tones in the soup.

 Mushroom Soup

Mushroom soup is the very definition of comfort food and comes in a couple of different versions. If we decide to get closer to the tinned classic ‘cream of mushroom’ soup, it’s better to stick to the creamy character of the dish and go for an oaked Chardonnay. “Roes Chardonnay” from Oinotropai Winery is quite rich on the palate, with medium to full body, crisp acidity, buttery sense, and impressive fruit aromas.

Insights Greece - Pairing Greek Wine With Warming Winter Soups
Roes Chardonnay

It will fit perfectly with our creamy soup. Darker soups that put woody, earthy forest mushrooms at the forefront of our tongue, are best complemented by Pinot Noirs and other dark red wines that are oak-aged and have subtle, earthy tones. Pinot Noir of Dio Filoi (Two Friends) Estate fills our glasses with bright red colour. It has aromas of nuts, dried fruits with spice notes and a velvet full mouth with a long, intense aftertaste. A complete expression of the Pinot Noir variety that will ideally match the aromas of our soup.


Pumpkin Soup

Insights Greece - Pairing Greek Wine With Warming Winter Soups

Winter is the peak season for pumpkin soup. The combination of its earthy and often sweet flavors makes this soup unique and tricky to pair with a glass of wine. Depending on the flavour profile (sweet, spicy, or both, paired or not with dense cream, garnish, etc.) some wines will do better than others. In general terms, the trick is to try to either compliment or contrast the flavours of that dish. So, think “dry” or “creamy” on the palate when it comes to wine. Here’s the place and time for an oaked chardonnay, a dry riesling, or a full-bodied Viognier. And Viognier by Domaine Gerovassiliou is perhaps the best expression of the French variety in Greece. Elegant and at the same time exuberant, it enchants anyone who tastes it! This wine features a deep lemon colour and complex aromas of apricot, butter, peach, chamomile, vanilla, brioche, bergamot, hazelnut, oak, tobacco, and white flowers. Rich mouth with full-body, discreet acidity, and intense oily sensation. Ideal wine for our dish.

Beef or Rabbit Stew

Insights Greece - Pairing Greek Wine With Warming Winter Soups
Black Daphne

Finally, an iconic Greek winter dish. There are few meals more warming and savory than a hot bowl of beef stew. We could combine it with a bottle of Merlot or Cabernet Sauvignon, which would wonderfully pair with it. Because stew is one of my favourite dishes, I would bypass the ground rules and recommend the “Black Daphne”, a dry Mavrodaphne of Papargyriou Estate. It has a complex bouquet of sour cherry, blackberry, and plum, accompanied by cinnamon, vanilla, nutmeg, and pepper. Afterward, it carries on the palate, with unimpaired intensity and complexity. Rich body, well-rounded, moderate tannins, and balanced acidity.

The deep, mellow flavours of the stew will meld with the soft richness of the wine, and both will improve the meal’s overall taste. Their combination reminds me of a reunion with old friends.

So, there you have it – everything you need to know about pairing wine with soups. While I’ve done my best to be as comprehensive as possible, I know that you all have your own preferences and ideas when it comes to such matches. As such, I’d love to hear all about your ideas in the comments below!

For more wonderful wine explorations, follow George on Instagram @george.winestories

Celebrating International Cabernet Franc Day With Greek Labels

Cabernet Franc Day, celebrated on December 4th each year, is an international wine day dedicated to this particular variety. Cabernet Franc is one of the major black grape varieties grown worldwide and finds itself within the top three (black) grape varieties used in wine production. 

Cabernet Franc grapes are mainly grown to be blended with the Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot in a Bordeaux style and can also be vinified alone. 

It’s usually in the shadow of the iconic Cabernet Sauvignon, while many tend to liken it to Sauvignon’s feminine side. It makes a bright pale red wine that contributes finesse and lends a spicy aroma that blends with more robust grapes.

Cabernet Franc is believed to have been cultivated originally in the Libournais region of southwest France sometime during the 17th Century, although recent research shows Spain as the country of origin; and in particular the Pais Vasco region near the border of France.

Cabernet Franc is cultivated in Greece too and is found in single varietal vinifications and blends. Below we check out four prime Greek labels. Two single variety and two blends.

Opus IB | Domaine Hatzimichalis

Insights Greece - Celebrating International Cabernet Franc Day With Greek Labels
Opus IB

The ethereal character of Cabernet Franc is clearly reflected in this rare bottling by Hatzimichalis Estate winery in the Valley of Atalanti in central Greece. Many consider the 2004 vintage as the top Greek red label ever released.

Whoever is lucky enough to get his lips on a glass containing this label should make sure to accompany it with a prominent recipe of red meat in order to enjoy a unique gastronomic experience.

Cava Amethystos | Domaine Costa Lazaridi

Insights Greece - Celebrating International Cabernet Franc Day With Greek Labels

A robust wine, dense and hedonic that can be enjoyed fresh at the current vintage of release but will reward those who decide to age it, with very special moments of pleasure. An authentic, high-level expression of Cabernet Franc.

A special wine for special moments. It would pair well with a plate of slow-cooked game accompanied with a wine sauce.

Synoro | Domaine Skouras

Insights Greece - Celebrating International Cabernet Franc Day With Greek Labels

Synoro means Border and its name comes from the bordering estates that are also depicted on the label. A blend of 40% Cabernet Franc, 40% Merlot, 20% Agiorgitiko.

A rich and at the same time elegant wine whose complex character seeks the complexity of slow cooking. Try it with wild boar cooked along with hot spices in the pot.

Magic Mountain | Nico Lazaridi Winery

Insights Greece - Celebrating International Cabernet Franc Day With Greek Labels
Magico Vouno

An emblematic label of this Greek vineyard. It was one of the first if not the first premium label to be released in Greece in the late 1980s. A blend of 50% Cabernet Sauvignon and 50% Cabernet Franc.

The Magic Mountain from Nico Lazaridi is proof of the fact that classics are forever and favourites are for sometimes. 

Pairs very well with slow-braised veal or a porterhouse steak. 

Happy International Cabernet Franc Day to all you wine lovers out there!

Introducing Greek Wines to the World

Athens local George Kormaniotis was introduced to wines in 2007 while working for a company that traded alcohol. At the time, George came across a wide variety of good Greek wines that made him curious to learn more.  

Insights Greece - Introducing Greek Wines to the World
Greek wine enthusiast George Kormaniotis

Since then he has spent time market researching, blind tasting, trying new labels, and exchanging ideas and opinions with other fellow wine enthusiasts. 

Although George currently works in the pharmaceutical industry, in his spare time he’s made it his mission to change people’s perceptions of Greek wines- both locally and overseas.

It may come as a surprise to some, but Greek wine has made a name for itself on a global scale over the past few decades. As the country has embraced its rich, seasonal varieties that are available internationally.  

Let’s not forget, Greece is one of the world’s most ancient viticultural locations, with references to drinking and cultivation appearing in literature and historical texts as early as the 17th Century B.C.

Here, George tells us about a few of his favourite Greek wineries and blends. And in a new monthly column, George will be sharing a range of distinguished, as well as up-and-coming Greek varieties, regions, wineries and wine bars he believes are leading the way. 

Can you tell us a few of the stand out wineries you have visited in Greece? 

To start off with, I would recommend the Argyros, Gavalas and Vassaltis wineries in Santorini. Also Kir Yianni, Diamantakos, and Dalamaras in Naoussa, Macedonia. Finally, Oinotria Gi by Costas Lazarides, Pappagianakos and Gikas wineries stand out in the outskirts of Athens, Attica.

Insights Greece - Introducing Greek Wines to the World
Argyros Winery in Santorini

Do you prefer red or white wine?

I mostly enjoy red wine. That’s because the taste and flavours better accompany Greek cuisine.

What is your wine collection like at home?

I keep a collection of 200 to 250 labels with a ratio of 75/25 per cent between Greek and foreign labels respectively.

What do you think people would find most surprising about Greek wine?

Insights Greece - Introducing Greek Wines to the World
Cava Amethystos

Assyrtiko variety of white wines from Santorini features one of the rarest flavours one can ever taste. The volcanic land of Santorini gives its wines a rare aftertaste of sea saltiness and earthly “minerality”. 

Moreover, Xinomavro variety from Western Macedonia competes with the famous Italian “Barolo” wines in terms of ageing potential, which can go up to 20 years of age.

Do you have a few current favourites? 

First, the “Santorini Argyros” label from Santorini is a typical representative of the island’s famous “Assyrtiko” variety. 

Second, “Cava Amethystos” by Domaine Costa Lazaridi is a 100% cabernet franc from the Drama territory in eastern Macedonia- whose production I have followed for several years now and it soars at considerably high standards.

Kir Yianni “Diaporos” label, a blend of 85% xinomavro and 15% syrah varieties is a wine that is ranked among the best premium Greek labels from its first year of sales.

Finally, “Vinsanto Argyros” aged 12 years from Santorini, is a sweet wine that distinguishes itself each year in every international competition it participates in always gaining recognition as one of the top three.

Insights Greece - Introducing Greek Wines to the World
Oinoscent Wine Bar

Can you recommend some good wine bars in Athens? 

I enjoy hanging out at the following wine bars in the Greek capital-

1. Oinoscent, located five minutes from Syntagma Square.  

2. Materia Prima, in Pagrati. 

3. Wine Point, near the Acropolis Museum. 

You can follow George on his Instagram account @george.winestories and stay tuned, as George will be sharing his passion, knowledge and exploration of Greek wines with IN+SIGHTS GREECE readers right here, in a new monthly column dedicated to all things wine! 

Main image courtesy of Oinoscent 

Corfu Revisited: Rediscovering the Roots of My Family and Wine

The alluring attraction and wanderlust for discovering the world prompted me in 1971 to leave my native Corfu behind. Fourty nine years later, with a life’s journey across four countries outside Greece in two different continents, I have returned to my island of birth.

It was for a very special kind of research – and impressive discoveries – that involved both my work in wine and my hundreds of years’ old family history.

Insights Greece - Corfu Revisited: Rediscovering the Roots of My Family and Wine

Wine was part of my upbringing as early as from the age of nine, when my mother handed me a tumbler with a small amount of wine and topped up with water as I was the eldest. Little did I know then that wine would become a major part of my adult life. When I set off on my travels as a young man, exploring and recording the fragmented Greek vineyard in the 1990’s, I knew nothing of Corfu’s wine. Of the 60 wineries featured in my Greek Wine Books I had included only one Corfu winery, that of Livadiotis from Halikouna. Over 25 years and 730,000 km later I became increasingly curious to discover what the status of wine on my island really was, as there is a wide difference in public perception and reality regarding this matter.

Meanwhile, Corfu magnetised me later in life for a different reason as well. What I was stunned to learn only a decade ago, after deciding to deep dive into my ancestral roots, was that my paternal family history connected to Corfu dates back to 1503. This was a time when Venice gave my stradioto ancestors passage and privileges from Nafplio to Corfu. Fascinatingly, the Archives on Corfu are incredibly well organised, something that is unique to the modern Greek state. A long-standing research had taken me to a point where a documentary was now within reach. The digitalised archives of my Notaro Publico ancestors 1686 -1830 make for riveting reading of the island’s social history. The documentary is not about my family per se but about the merchant classes and their often-scandalous lives. Their dealings, affairs and more.

Insights Greece - Corfu Revisited: Rediscovering the Roots of My Family and Wine

This research simultaneously brought me to finally see first-hand what changes, if any, had occurred over time in the local wine scene. Timing could not have been better as there have been completely unknown developments. Two of my contacts on the island introduced me to exciting new ventures. Nikos Kotinas in Lefkimi led me to the most recent of vineyards and winery of Borovino; and chef Aristoteles Megoulas, to the local produce he has been supporting, Pontiglio in Lefkimi and Nicolouzo in Ano Korakiana. These three vineyards and the second generation of Livadiotis of Halikouna to be reviewed on my website Greek Wine World.

As I write these lines Gerald Durrell’s tongue in cheek comment on Lawrence runs through my head: ‘My brother is conducting an exhaustive study of the islands wine’. I have been doing the same but probably in a different way. This visit was my great chance to get fully up to speed with the impossibly verdant island’s wine bounty. For example, I discovered that new, 15-year-old vineyards are heralding a revival. Another great revelation regarded the true face of Cacotrigis, Corfu’s signature grape. Forget the farmer-produced, orange-coloured stinky brews; the new generation is semi-aromatic and textured. And yet Insights Greece - Corfu Revisited: Rediscovering the Roots of My Family and Wineanother revelation: the new-to-me mysterious red grape called Skopelitis. It doesn’t, as you may presume, hails from the eponymous Sporades island, its vinous tasting profile bears no resemblance to anything else anywhere in Greece nor nearby Sicily or Southern Italy.

Perhaps the best part is yet to come. As I discuss my findings with my academic and technician friends new task lists are being created. There is so much more to come from custodians holding completely unknown to any of us grapes. That is another story to be told when DNA results have been completed. As for my ancestral DNA and all the stories to go with that, the roots run so deep and the fruits are so rich that all I can say is watch this space for a fascinating documentary.