Wine Regions of Greece: Naoussa

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Naoussa, in the hills of Macedonia, is another wine region. It’s most famous for producing Xinomavro… the King of Greek grapes. We asked sommelier and consultant Kavita Faiella to tell us what she knows about this lovely place.

1. The wine region of Naoussa is located in the north of Greece in the greater area known as Macedonia

Macedonia is both a region in northern Greece, a country in south-east Europe (Republic of Macedonia) and an ancient kingdom (Alexander the Great). 

2. Naoussa is also famous for its stone fruits.

In summer you will find orchards full of peaches, plums and the most delicious cherries! Hence the jam brand Naousa is also famous across Greece.

3. The weather of Naoussa is largely influenced by Mount Vermion (2000m)

The Vermio Mountains are the home of Greece’s ski resorts. That’s right – you can can ski in Greece!

4. Naoussa is the home of Xinomavro

Xinomavro, a tannic red varietal, is thought of as the King of Greek grapes, whose Queen is most certainly Assyrtiko. 

5. Wines of Naoussa are often referred to as ‘Greek Burgundy’.

The region produces some of the country’s most elegant and age-worthy wines made from Xinomavro, which are also lighter in colour.

6. Xinomavro literally translates to acid (xino) black (mavro) or black acid…

Sounds more like a heavy metal band, but also gives you an indication of the high acid levels of this wine. 

7. Just like oysters and Chablis or hot chips and Champagne…

The perfect pairing for Xinomavro is lamb. Bring on the souvlaki!

Wine Regions of Greece: Santorini

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One of the best-known wine producing regions in Greece (and one of the best-known regions in Greece in general) is Santorini. We asked Kavita Faiella, sommelier and consultant at Voyageur Selections, to tell us what she knows about this beautiful island.

1. Santorini is an island located in the Aegean Sea

Greece has 6000 islands scattered throughout the Aegean and Ionian Seas…of which only 227 are inhabited. 

2. The ancient name for Santorini is Thera.

There are indications that wine has been produced on the island for over 3500 years!

3. Santorini is a volcanic island that is still active…

In 1630 BC the volcano on the island erupted, revealing its core – the caldera. The whole island was covered ash and pumice 40 meters deep!

4. The soil of Santorini is made up of the same volcanic pumice you use to scrub your feet with in the shower!

Kind of gross… but actually really important. The island is super dry, so when it rains the pumice acts like a sponge soaking up all of the moisture and slowly releases it back to the vines when they need it throughout the year.

5. In winter, Santorini is CRAZY windy.

The winter winds that hit the island are so strong that the grape vines are trained in small baskets rather than the usual rows you might be accustomed to seeing in other wine regions. 

6. On the island of Santorini vines are grown in Koulores (rings) or Kakthia (baskets).

A traditional training technique that protects the vines from strong winds in the winter and intense sunlight in the summer. The upper part of the vine is usually replaced every 15-20 years, but the roots below the ground can be centuries old! It’s the only place in the world where vines are grown like this. 

7. The three main white grape varieties of Santorini all start with A.

Assyrtiko, Aidani, Athiri

8. Assyrtiko is the most planted variety in Santorini and arguably the most well known Greek grape.

It makes super delicious wine. The first planting of Assyrtiko outside of Greece can be found here in Australia’s own Clare Valley.

9. They also make sweet wine in Santorini – Vinsanto (Vino di Santorini)

Produced from sun-dried grapes that bake over summer – just like the tourists visiting the island!

Recipe: Elyros’ Roast Lamb

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Can’t wait until Oinofilia to try Elyros’ roast lamb? Angie and her team have shared the recipe with us ahead of time so you can try it yourself at home. Perfect for these cooler nights.

Ingredients

2.25 kg quality lamb shoulder, bone in
Cretan olive oil
sea salt
dried Greek oregano
6 shallots, peeled
2 heads garlic, peeled
10 baby onions, peeled
100ml white wine vinegar
1L water

Method

Preheat your oven to 200ºC. Rub the lamb with oil, sea salt and dried Greek oregano and put it into a deep roasting tray.

Pour 500ml of water into the bottom of the tray. Cover the lamb with a layer of baking paper and then a double layer of foil and put it in the oven. Turn down the oven temperature to 170ºC/325ºF/gas 3 and cook for 3½ to 4 hours, or until the lamb is tender, melting and sticky and you can pull it apart with a fork.

For the onions, garlic, and shallots, add some olive oil to the bottom of a sauté pan, add the onions and shallots and cook on a medium high heat until caramelised all over. You will need to give them a stir around every few minutes.

Once the onions and shallots are nicely caramelised, add the garlic and continue to cook for 5 to 6 minutes so the garlic can absorb some of that yummy caramel goodness (note: the garlic is added later as it caramelised much faster than the onions and shallots). Deglaze the pan with white wine vinegar and allow to reduce until almost all gone, then add the remaining 500ml water, stirring to make sure no vinegar and caramelised onion are left behind.

At around the 4 hour mark (or soft, melting and sticky and you can pull it apart with a fork) take the cover off the lamb and add the onion, shallot and garlic mixture to the lamb pan and add back to the oven to cook for a further 30-40min so the juices can reduce and get nice and sticky. Spoon a little sauce over the lamb to give it a nice glaze.

Serve with lemon potatoes, sautéed greens and a nice glass of red wine.

Note: It is a good idea is to drain the lamb juices off to that you can skim the fat from the sauce then add the sauce back to the pan before serving.

Angie Giannakodakis on Greek Culture

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Angie Giannakodakis is Melburnian, but she’s also third-generation Cretan and has spent over a decade living in Athens. Her two restaurants, Carlton’s Epocha and Camberwell’s Elyros, are involved with Oinofilia, so who better to talk to us about Greek culture and its expression in Melbourne than her?

Melbourne has a huge Greek population. How similarly does Greek culture play out here to how it does in the motherland?

Family and duty is pretty huge on the Greek spectrum, so I think that sense is the same here and in Greece. Most Greek-Australians have a nostalgic attachment to the homeland, they’re very much into their meat and foraging, they still have their traditions and religion, they still go to church, they still dance like they used to dance, nothing’s changed as far as that’s concerned. They’ll fast right up until just before Easter. So that’s been kept up. I remember fasting and being really upset about it!

What’s changed?

I guess when we came here there was a need to work, there was a need to prosper, and a need to evolve and continue the race, really. We still have our spirit – the spirit of Greece is still strong in us. But I think we don’t always understand why. Some of the younger generation don’t understand why we celebrate the 25th March (Independence Day) or the 28th October (Oxi Day). So there’s a lot of information some of us have missed out on, a lot of history, a lot of culture unique to us.

There is this perception that because we still dance, we still eat souvlaki, we’re temperamental and we use our hands, that that’s all there is. But that’s just a basic way of looking at things. In Greece, students study Ancient Greek, they write in different languages, they’re educated to a point where it’s crazy. But they understand life better than we do, they understand how precious it us. We get caught up in the rat race here more than they do. They still find time to have a coffee in the morning with their friends, to take a holiday break around August. Their work ethic is intact, but their mental health is completely different. They’re thinkers, definitely.

What about Greek food?

The dishes are similar but the way we eat here is maybe a little different. If you went to someone’s house, they wouldn’t start off with bread and all the dips and fry some cheese up, it’s not sustainable for a Greek household. During the winter time you’d get a casserole dish, something quite hearty. In summer, maybe some stuffed tomatoes and peppers, your Greek salad or seafood, just really simple with olive oil. We still go through quite a lot of olive oil in Australia which is a good thing.

What do you want people to take away from Oinofilia?

I want people to think that Greece is something that’s part of them. If one of the first European cities was Knossos in Crete, and we are the original Europeans, and we are the beginning of Western civilization as we know it, there must be something that ties all of us together. The reason lots of what’s done in cuisine and wine is a direct link to the ancient world of Greece. And there are other similarities. If I went to a wine bar in Greece right now (and there’s shitloads of wine bars over there right now), there would be young people drinking glasses of wine and socialising and enjoying life, and they’d have the same viewpoints about the world as the Australians do.

Half the English language is based on Greek, too, so in a way, Australians actually speak Greek. So many words that we use… even the word ‘dialogue’ is Greek. My favourite is ‘symposium’ which means ‘a drinking party’ in Greece. The original sommeliers came from that drinking party. The symposiarch was in charge of keeping things in good spirits, he would source and serve wine and manage the whole process of the party. That’s your modern day somm.

Basically I don’t want anyone to think that Greece is a foreign world. I want everyone to feel like they’re part of it. They should feel like the modern Greeks. It’s a state of mind and not a citizenship.