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When pairing a wine with a meal, it is often sufficient that the wine and meal simply complement one another, or that their qualities ‘meld.’ However, for truly special occasions or big events, one probably would be best advised to take the aforementioned assumption a few steps further, and look for the wine and meal to accentuate each other’s finer qualities. The wine ought to bring out the best flavors of the food, while the best qualities of the wine ought to be heightened by the meal with which it is being served.
Thanksgiving, for example, is one such occasion where you’re probably looking to create the perfect evening, and to impress one’s guests as much as possible. In this instance, every detail, no matter how minor or major, accumulates into a large, grander picture. As a result, if the effort has been made to pay attention to every detail of the meal, why stop at the wine?
It was with this in mind that I contacted a few friends of mine who represent an impressive repertoire of Greek wineries to see what they had on offer for this particular time of year. In response, I received a 2015 Assyrtiko from the Ktima Biblia Chora winery in Paggeo, a 2015 Agiorgitiko Rosé from Tselepos winery in Nemea, and a 2012 Agiorgitiko Nemea Reserve from A.S. Parparoussis winery.
Before we begin, let’s start with some background on the varietals themselves. Assyrtiko is Greece’s signature white grape varietal. On its own, Assyrtiko typically produces a very dry white wine, though ‘overripe’ Assyrtiko grapes also serve alongside similarly overripe Aidani grapes in the production of Vinsanto – a deliciously sweet dessert wine. Though produced throughout Greece, Assyrtiko is indigenous to Santorini, which now produces exceptional AOC vintages.
Native to the Peloponnese, Agiorgitiko, which translates as “St. George’s Grape,” is the only red grape varietal permitted to be planted in the Nemea appellation, and is the most widely planted red grape in Greece. Though Agiorgitiko tends to produce a highly aromatic wine, the grape is intensely versatile, with wines ranging from light Rosé to full-bodied, dark red wines. Tannins are typically quite abundant, and run alongside dark fruit tasting notes.
Now, first things being first, the opening of the evening, which, as a general rule, tends to pair best with a light white wine, a bubbly, or a good Rosé. In this case, with my tradition of preparing a lush antipasto for any big gathering, this means a wine that prepares the palate for cured meats, several varieties of cheese, and either a big loaf of crusty bread with infused olive oil or homemade crostini. As a result, the Agiorgitiko Rosé is the perfect opening.
The wine itself features a crisp pomegranate-red or light garnet hue, and catches the light with a definitive crystalline hue on pouring, making it intensely pleasing to the eye – a quality not to be underestimated in a Rosé. Off the top of the glass, the wine features characteristic aromas of red fruits, chiefly ripe berries. Into the middle and bottom of the glass these features intensify, accentuated by a slight acidity. On sampling, the wine is instantly crisp and refreshing, with notes of cherry and ripe red fruit, with plentiful tannins throughout.
To pair with the aforementioned antipasto, I would of course roll out the Assyrtiko. On pouring, the wine features a muted straw gold coloring, characteristic of the varietal. Off the top of the glass, the wine greets with distinct citrus aromas, with the varietals characteristic acidic qualities predominating through the middle and into bottom of the glass. On sampling, the aromatic qualities largely carry over. The wine greets the palate with decidedly mineral qualities, which is accentuated by the grape’s characteristic acidity and dryness. The finish, however, is quite citrusy, lasting, and very pleasant.
Finally, with the main course, the 2012 Agiorgitiko Nemea Reserve would pair perfectly with my turkey rubbed with herbed butter, served with Italian sausage stuffing, and potatoes. On pouring, the wine greets with spicy aromatics off the top of the glass, and distinct earthy qualities, with vague hints of dark chocolate and just a tinge of acidity, which intensifies towards the bottom of the glass. On sampling, the wine features dark fruit flavors, and notes of overripe cherry set against a backdrop of herbal spices, creating for a very pleasant experience, especially when paired with the heavier, more robust meals for which this wine is intended.
Overall, I was very pleased with these wines, which would make an excellent addition to those looking for the perfect pairings for the holiday meals.