Archive for March 2011

Greek cuisine makes it into the Oxford English Dictionary…

March 31, 2011

Image via Synergy Sponsorship.

When we came across a news item announcing new and unexpected terms that had made it into the prestigious Oxford English Dictionary, we weren’t surprised — frankly — that a classic Greek dish had “made the grade.”

We consulted the online edition of the famous lexicon (available by monthly or yearly subscription) and here’s what the “OED” had to say about kleftiko:

kleftiko, n.

Pronunciation: U.S. /ˈklɛfdəˌkoʊ/
Forms: 19– kleftiko, 19– klephtiko.
Etymology: < modern Greek κλέϕτικο, use as noun of the neuter of < κλέϕτικος of or relating to the klephts (compare klepht n.).

In Greek cuisine: a dish of lamb (typically seasoned with herbs and lemon juice) cooked slowly in a sealed pot or parcel until very tender; lamb cooked in this way. Also as postmodifier.

1968 Times 5 Jan. (Holidays Suppl.) p. x/3 Apart from kebab-meat‥you should try Kleftiko, lamb baked in a mud oven.
1973 E. Hunter Tree of Idleness iv. 52 Lamb Kleftiko‥. Did you know that is Philip's favourite dish?
1988 Capital (Annapolis, Maryland) 3 Feb. b2/1 Kleftiko. ½ pound lamb‥. Cube meat and sprinkle with lemon juice. Add salt, pepper, oregano, thyme and 2 tablespoons oil to meat. Seal tightly in foil. Cook in oven at 300 degrees for 3 hours.
1994 Observer 27 Feb. (Life Suppl.) 25/3 Roast lamb's head‥came in large slices which had (I think) been poached before being roasted, and the end result was warmingly dark and meaty—not unlike a very good piece of kleftiko.
2007 Olive May 104/1 Tuck into‥the great Greek comfort food, moussaka, and slow-cooked kleftiko, lamb shank that simply falls off the bone.

We were disappointed, however, that neither Xinomavro or Assyrtiko have not made it in yet!

Boutari Moschofilero Wine Spectator Daily Pick

March 25, 2011

This just in from the Wine Spectator (Daily Pick)…

Mar. 24, 2011 BOUTARI Moschofilero Mantinia 2009
Crisp and juicy, with fresh, vibrant flavors of apple, green pear and citrus. Hints of anise and savory herb mark the finish. Drink now. 18,000 cases imported. —Kim Marcus

Greek wine basics: Nemea I

March 24, 2011

The following post is the fourth in a series of Greek wine basics. It’s been transcribed from Konstantinos Lazarakis MW’s The Wines of Greece (London, Mitchell Beazley, 2005, currently out of print). While Lazarakis’ book is difficult to find these days, it remains THE number-one resource for information — technical and historical — on the wines of Greece. We highly recommend it. You’ll find an archive for our Greek Wine Basics series in the right-hand navigation of our home page.

Above: A photo of the archeological site at Nemea (via the Wiki).

The climate of Nemea is typically Peloponnesian: mild winters, summers with several days above 40°C (104°F), and long autumns. However, the harvest is one of the longest in Greece, with some parcels ripening around 20 September and others going well into mid- to late October — impressive for a mono-varietal appellation. Regarding rainfall, there is a big difference between these two months, with September having anaverage rainfall of 14.3 millimetres (0.6 inches) and October going up to 58.2 milimetres (2.3 inches). Under these circumstances, it is not just the ripeness levels of the grapes that dictate harvest time in Nemea but also the timing of the heavy autumn rains. Rain-related harvests happen about four times every decade, at least for the later-ripening sites…

Nemea, like Naoussa, is one of the appellations where special sites — crus, or sub-appellations — are fiercely debated. Most producers argue not about their existence — they are taken for granted — but how and if these names can be incorporated within the present legal framework.

More on Nemea and its crus in the next post in the series.

Boutari is “leader in Xinomavro” says Wine & Spirits

March 18, 2011

“For the first time in 22 years of the W&S Poll, diners are ordering enough Greek wines to warrant a list of top bottlings,” write the editors of Wine & Spirits in their current issue. “Boutari is the leader in Xinomavro…”

For their profile of the current state of Greek wines in the U.S., the tastemaker magazine turned to the author of the top all-Greek wine list in the country today, Kamal Kouiri (above) of Molyvos in New York City.

“I used to be scared sometimes that people would think a bottle wasn’t worth the price,” said Kamal. “Now I never have that worry. The quality is there.”

Click here to download/view a PDF of the article.

Santorini (and Boutari) return to NYC March 23

March 13, 2011

From island to island: Santorini returns to New York City

Save the date for Wednesday, March 23rd


The vineyard of Santorini will be the focus on an invitation-only special seminar and tasting in New York City on March 23. Dr. Yiannis Paraskevopoulos of GAIA wines, one of Greece’s top oenologists, will lead a presentation with fellow winemakers from Santorini for members of the trade and media. The special tasting event will feature the 2010 harvest, projected to be one of the best of the last decade.

Attendees will taste the current and older vintages of the dry white PDO Santorini wines featuring the Assyrtiko grape with other native varieties such as Athiri and Aidani. The tasting will also include barrel-fermented Assyrtikos and of course the island’s “original” Vinsanto wines. A reception will held at BLT Fish after the seminar.

Greek wine basics: history of the Peloponnese

March 6, 2011

The following post is the fourth in a series of Greek wine basics. It’s been transcribed from Konstantinos Lazarakis MW’s The Wines of Greece (London, Mitchell Beazley, 2005, currently out of print). While Lazarakis’ book is difficult to find these days, it remains THE number-one resource for information — technical and historical — on the wines of Greece. We highly recommend it. You’ll find an archive for our Greek Wine Basics series in the right-hand navigation of our home page.

Above: The ancient theater at Mantineia (Mantinia). Photo via the Wiki.

The Peloponnese must surely have been one of the first places on earth to systematically grow grapes and make wine. We know that viticulture has been present for at least 4,000 years — some claim as long as 7,000 years. Although export successes came later than for the Aegean Islands and Thrace, it outlasted many of these regions. The high point came during the Middle Ages, when the port of Monemvasia became world-renowned as the source of the famous Malvasia wine. Monemvasia remained vital for the Malvasia trade at least until the sixteenth century, even if, by that time, other Aegean Islands had become equally important. The next two centuries under Ottoman rule were extremely difficult, and viticulture was neglected. People began relocating to the key coastal areas, bringing vineyards with them.

A turning point in the viticultural history of the Peloponnese was the development of raisin plantations just after the end of the Ottoman rule in 1828. These lasted until the end of the phylloxera crisis. The region of Corinth was home to Corinthiaki, a variety capable of producing excellent raisins. At the time, the Peloponnese and the Ionian Island of Zakynthos had the exclusivity on Corinthiaki production. Thus, booming sales persuaded vine growers to plant more Corinthiaki vineyards. Corinthiaka vine is a difficult plant to grow: it is highly sensitive to all fungal diseases and responds very badly to rich soils, high-capacity sites, crowded canopies, and high crop loads. In essence, Corinthiaki requires top terroir and careful viticulture. Consequently, all wine grapes have been uprooted from the best parcels of land to make room for ore Corinthiaki. Even today, a century after the end of Corinthiaki’s Golden Age, there is no dilemma in a grower’s mind — planting a site with Corinthiaki can be as much as three times more profitable than growing wine grapes, even if the latter attracts top prices. This has been the area’s vine-growing curse. It is certain that without Corinthiaki the Peloponnese would have been a differnt, more diverse wine region.

Despite the difficulties, vine-growing persisted in the Peloponnese. Real growth emerged after World War II, mainly in the centre and the north, in Patras, Mantinia, Nemea, and the Corinthian coast.

Fringe Wine tastes Boutari 2004 Vinsanto

March 1, 2011

Fringe Wine, a wine blogger based in Quincy MA, was pleasantly surprised to taste Boutari 2004 Vinsanto for the first time when his wife innocently bought a bottle thinking it was Italian Vin Santo. Here’s his tasting note.

BoutariGreek vinsanto is made from grapes that are allowed to raisin on the vine (as opposed to mat-drying as is done in Italy). The blend that I picked up was made from 50% Assyrtiko and 50% Aidani, another native Greek varietal found only on the Cyclades islands in the Aegean which is used almost exclusively in blends due to its lowish acid content. This wine was aged for four years prior to release. In the glass, the wine had a tawny, dark amber/reddish brown coloring. The nose was full of roasted hazelnuts and almonds, raisins and maple syrup. On the palate, the wine was medium bodied with surprisingly high acidity. There were flavors of honey and maple, golden raisins and dried red fruits along with toasted almonds and a kind of spicy orange twist. This wine was sweet, it’s definitely a dessert wine, but not syrupy thanks, I think, to the high acid provided by the Assyrtiko grapes. That acid really kept this lively and interesting in the mouth for me. I’ve had a lot of sweet wines that taste amazing at first but which get old really fast because your palate gets beaten into submission by the relentless sugar assault. The nice acid here keeps this interesting and alive in the glass. This is a wine I will not hesitate to purchase again and I would be very anxious to try it with my southern-style pecan pie.

Click here to read his entire post, including his tasting notes for another bottling of Assyrtiko.

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