Glorious Greek Wines Rediscovered

BoutariNaoussa

Wine connoisseurs and aficionados rejoice! The Oceania Cruise “Islands & Icons” voyage is delving into the glorious world of Greek wines which has over the last two decades, experienced an impassioned revival. No longer content to be thought of as that country that makes retsina, Greek wines are getting the kind of international recognition they deserve for beautifully crafted bottles of tremendous quality wines. And wine lovers around the world are increasingly discovering that these wines are indeed special.

The voyage, led in part by Christine Cushing, will stop on the Greek island of Santorini where the group will head to a Boutari winery; one of six throughout the country. “This vineyard is a little further down the southern end of the Island and it’s here where we’ll taste and learn about the magic of the Assyirtiko grape and how the Greek winemakers have learned to train this grape variety from the Bronze Age,” says Cushing adding,  “It’s a completely unique growing style on the windswept, arid soil where the vines are laid in baskets and grow in circles instead of straight up to prevent the wind from damaging them.  The outcome is a wine that wine experts and enthusiasts are talking about worldwide.”

In Santorini, the island’s volcanic soil gives wine grown there what Cushing calls “an intense minerality and crispness.” Steve Kriaris of the Kolonaki Group that represents Greek wines in Canada, including Boutari, says “Because the soil Santorini did not get infected from “phylloxera” (a bacteria which infected the most of the vineyards in Europe back in 1960s), the vines there are healthy, very strong, and tolerant and they give us phenomenal wines.” He adds, “The vines are located from 346ft to 462ft above sea level. The winds are strong but our ancestors found a way of protecting the vines from the wind by tying the branches together and creating a circular motion which the technique is now referred to by Greek people as the “kouloura”. It does not rain often, but at night the fog is intense with a lot of humidity which gives the vines the exact amount of water they need.”

Cushing says Boutari is largely credited with the modern Greek wine revival over the last twenty years. It’s interesting to note, says Cushing, that it was the Ancient Greeks who introduced wine-making to Italy and France (specifically Bordeaux and Tuscany). Greece was conquered many times, with the Ottomans ripping out most ancient vines. History credits the monks throughout the country’s monasteries for saving many indigenous Greek grape varieties from extinction, so you could say that this Greek wine revival is fitting in more ways than one.

When in Greece, Kriaris suggests you definitely sip and savour the following if you can: Boutari Grand Reserve, Boutari VinSanto, Boutari Santorini. Boutari Moschiofilero, Boutari Naoussa, Boutari Agiorgitiko and the Boutari Malagouzia. Each tells a different story, from its terroir and windswept soils to the people who have literally bottled magic in indigenous varietals the world is just starting to deliciously discover.

By: Mary Luz Mejia

Red Pepper & Feta Pseudokeftedes

Spices

The Pseusokeftedes or croquettes are one of the many appetizers diners can enjoy at Kourdisto Gourouni Restaurant in Thessaloniki. Our blogger Peter Minaki of Kalofagas.com shares his recipe and culinary adventures in his spotlight article 36 hours in Thessaloniki.

The Pseusokeftedes (Makes 8 patties)

Recipe provided by: Peter Minaki www.Kalofagas.com


Ingredients

  • 4 roasted, peeled, seeded and chopped red peppers
  • ½ cup fresh chives
  • ½ tsp dried oregano
  • 1 tbsp fresh chopped basil
  • ½ tsp chilli peppers
  • 6 – 8 tbsp all purpose flour
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1 cup crumpled Feta cheese
  • Sunflower or Vegetable Oil for frying
  • 1 cup strained Greek Yogurt

Directions

  1. Place chopped peppers, oregano, basil, chives and baking powder in a large bowl.
  2. Mix and add flour and Feta Cheese, and Mix well.
  3. Form 8 small round patties or croquettes and refrigerate for one hour.
  4. Place oil in large frying pan.
  5. Take croquettes out of refrigerator, cover each patty with flour on both sides then fry.
  6. Remove from heat transfer to paper lined plate to blot excess oil.
  7. Serve with a dollop of Greek yogurt.

Bon Appétit!

Top 5 Places to Eat in Thessaloniki

I’ve been traveling to Greece almost every year since 1974 and the city that’s near and dear to me is Thessaloniki, Greece’s second largest city. This gateway to the Balkans has had a history marked by Romans, Venetians, Jews, Slavs, Gypsies, Armenians, Turks and the ever-present Greek influence.

Nowhere is the multicultural tapestry more evident than in the cuisine of Thessaloniki. Although very Greek, once can taste and smell the these other cultures in the food of the city, from breakfast to night caps, meze to meat, seafood to syrupy desserts.

I have compiled a Top 5 of places to eat in Thessaloniki, perhaps Greece’s food city boasting of more eateries per square metre than anywhere else in Greece.

1. Begin your day with a Greek breakfast at Bantis Bougatsa near the church of Panagia Faneromeni. This family-run business makes all their phyllo by hand, throwing sheets of dough in the air until transparent and thin then folded to envelope fillings like custard, cheese, spinach and cheese and ground beef. No trip to Thessaloniki can be complete without trying some Bougatsa. 

2. Nea Folia taverna. Located in a small alley on the north side of Kassandrou just west of Agia Sophia Street is this little eatery that reminds me of the old days in Thessaloniki, complete with old juke box. The young, friendly cooking staff and servers serve up unique dishes using Greek products from around the country and present with a simple panache that marries tradition with modern twists.

3. Imbros Fish and Seafood. Thessaloniki boasts of having some of Greece’s best fish and seafood and Imbros in the suburb of Kalamaria delivers freshness and quality for reasonable prices. Fresh fish and seafood are brought in daily to the restaurant from their exclusive sources and you may head into the kitchen to inspect the catch of the day yourself!

4. Duo Xoirous or “Two Pigs” is a small shop located just west of the Arch of Galerius on Egnatia Road. These guys specialize in rotisseries meats like beef and pork kontosouvli but the star is their Ellasonitiko – pork belly on the spit.

5. Patisserie Hatzi. This family has been serving Thessaloniki (now locations in Athens as well) Constantinople style sweets and treats at their many locations throughout the city. I recommend traveling out to Nea Epivates and taking in the view of the city whilst sipping on a Greek coffee and nibbling on an array of some Greece’s best desserts.

By: Peter Minaki