MARCH - A Busy Month for us Greeks!
Whether you’re observing Great Lent or just looking for delicious wines with vegetarian and healthy dishes, there is a Greek wine for you. Lent always fall during the month of March. March is a special month for Greeks, especially this year. Greeks declared independence on March 25, 1821 after 400 years of slavery and occupation. Twenty-twenty one marks the bicentennial of the uprising against the Ottoman Empire. March is also the start of Great Lent when the faithful Greek Orthodox abstain from meat and fish, dairy, and olive oil. Here are a few Lenten foods with their food pairings to get in the spirit of March 25th.
There is one exception during lent to break the rules of the strict fast. On March 25th you’ll see Greeks pile into local tavernas to eat bakaliaros skordalia, fried cod in a garlicky dipping sauce. March 25th is also the Annunciation of the Virgin Mary, when she was informed that she would birth the son of God. No one knows why this is the traditional dish of the day. Garlic is particularly difficult to pair with wine but not for the Greeks. Retsina, or wine flavored with pine resin, pairs very well with this traditional dish. Try Markou Vineyards Retsina made from the Savvatiano grape.
Taramosalata, or fish roe spread, is a staple of any Lenten fast. It is often served with lagana, unleavened bread, but pita bread is used too. Seafood like scallops, shrimp, and lobster are allowed during the 40 day fasting period. As you can imagine, taramosalata has a strong flavor that needs an equally matched wine. Try Kallisto by Mercouri Estate. A delicious blend of Assyrtiko and Robola.
Stuffed grape leaves and stuffed vegetables are very filling dishes to have during lent. They are vegan with only rice, herbs, and vegetables used to make them. These are made at least once a week in most Greek homes. Vidiano wine from the island of Crete pairs particularly well with dolmades and gemista. Try a bottle of Domaine Paterianakis Vidiano from the capital of the island.
When we imagine Greece, visions of eating grilled octopus by the seaside come easily to our minds. Grilled octopus is often served with fava and capers, two traditional Greek products grown on the island of Santorini. Assyrtiko is the perfect match with its high acidity and saline quality. Try Karamalegos Winery Feredini Assyrtiko from the Cyclades.
Is there anything more delicious than fried food and sparkling wine? The acidity cuts through the oil and the bubbles cleanse the palate. Fried calamari with Karananika Sparkling Rose of Xinomavro is a match made in heaven, or at least in Greece!
Bamies and briam are tomato based dishes served year-round in Greece. Bamies are okra which are often made in a tomato stew. Briam is roasted vegetables with a tomato sauce. Greece has the ultimate wine to pair with tomato-based dishes; Xinomavro. Xinomavro tastes and smells like sweet tomato leaf and matches the acidity of the tomatoes perfectly. Try bamies and briam with Aidarini Estate Goumenissa, a blend of Xinomavro and Negoska.
Spanakorizo is simply rice and spinach. It makes for a great side dish as well as a main course. But a simple dish does not require a simple wine. Zafeirakis winery Limniona rose is exceptional with this dish. The earthy savory flavors of the Limniona pair very well with the spinach.
Beans are an essential part of maintaining one’s energy during a fasting period. Fasolada is a bean stew loaded with vegetables and gigantes are giant beans baked in the oven. Dishes like this pair well with a red wine. Try them with a young Agiorgitiko from Semeli Winery in Nemea.
Greek wine pairing extends well beyond traditional Greek foods and the lenten season. Greece makes a wide variety of wines from sparkling wine, dry whites, full-bodied reds, orange wines, and the famous sweet wines as well. There is a Greek wine for any occasion!