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Wednesday, March 25, 2015

ZHTW HELLAS! - Happy Greek Independence Day!

March 25th is a day of national pride for Greeks all over the world.  On this day in 1821, the Greek revolution to overthrow four centuries of Ottoman rule, began.  There are parades across Greece to commemorate this day and to honor all who fought for independence.  

In honor of Greek Independence, here are some beverages that you can pair with any Greek dish you may have today.
In recent years, microbreweries are popping up in all regions of Greece.  We carry the Donkey beers from Santorini.
Red Donkey - Santorini Brewing Co.  Established in 2011, Santorini Brewing Co is Santorini's only brewery.  They produce three styles of beer - Yellow, Red & Crazy IPA.  Have a Red Donkey with meze today or with a souvlaki.

There are many options in this category ranging from a traditional retsina, to a crisp white wine all the way to a fruity, refreshing red.
Retsina - This type of wine is considered an "Appellation by Tradition", meaning that it can only be produced in Greece.  A well made Retsina pairs exceptionally well with robustly flavored dishes that have lots of garlic & spice.  Think of Retsina like a palate cleanser between bites.  Serve well chilled.  Options for a well made retsina (not the stinky stuff of old) include Vassiliou Retsina & GAIA Ritinitis. The former is produced from Savatiano, which renders a softer style of Retsina, while the latter is made from Roditis, giving it more acidity and lemon notes.
White - Great options from indigenous Greek grape varieties include a Savatiano from Domaine Papagiannakos or a crisp Assyrtiko from Estate Argyros from Santorini.  These wines will be great with fish, pasta or salads.
Red & Rose - Now that we are officially in spring, it's time to enjoy rose & lighter reds.  Try Harlaftis Petaloudes rose made from 100% Syrah or Thymiopoulos' Young Vines 100% unoaked Xinomavro.  These wines pair amazingly well with a lamb burger, pork chops or even pizza!
Booze & cocktails - Your Greek Independence Day would not be complete without a fun cocktail.  Try a Johnny Samos - spiced rum, Samos Vin Doux and a splash of orange juice on top.  Otherwise, enjoy a little Stoupakis Kazanisto Ouzo or Katsaros Tsipouro well chilled or on the rocks!


Friday, March 13, 2015

Wines to pair with your Friday the 13th celebrations

For the second month in a row, we have a Friday the 13th.  Coincidence or is it a sign of something to come?

While we wait to see which it is, here are a few ideas for wines to drink tonight as you celebrate the traditionally unlucky day as you watch a horror flick.  Also, check out these food ideas that might be fun to make as well.

Made from a blend of the local variety Avgoustiatis & Mourvedre, this wine is spicy and earthy.  Perfect to pair with blood sausage or deviled eggs.....  

Spiropoulos Red Stag

Made from 100% Agiorgitiko, this wine is bright ruby red in color with lively acidity.  You can pair this wine with spicy chipotle burgers or squid ink pasta.

Here is a small bit of trivia for you to impress your friends (or loved ones) with tonight as you celebrate Friday the 13th!

The fear of Friday the 13th is called friggatriskaidekaphobia - "Frigg" is the Norse goddess whom Friday is named after and "triskaidekaphobia" means the fear of "13". It's also known asparaskevidekatriaphobia, partly from the Greek word Friday. It is a real fear - some people who have this disorder are even too afraid to say the words “Friday the 13th”. Others avoid flying on a plane, going to work, or even getting out of bed. According to the Stress Management Center and Phobia Institute in Asheville, North Carolina, millions of Americans are afraid of Friday the 13th. Symptoms of this fear range from mild anxiety and a nagging sense of doom to full-blown panic attacks.

Tuesday, March 10, 2015

The Easter Bunny is coming! Wine recommendations for your Easter celebration

In 2015, Catholic & Orthodox Easter fall in the same month but a week apart (April 5 & 12 respectively). While the celebrations may vary between the Christian faiths, there is one common fact - it is a time for family & friends to gather around the table for a celebration.

On both Easter tables you will find some version of lamb (chops, legs, whole animals....take your pick), perhaps a ham and fresh spring vegetables & salads.  With all of the fresh flavors that will abound on the Easter table, finding wines that will match well can be a difficult task.  

Here are a few recommendations for wines that pair well with any food - Greek or not:
White Wine
When pairing white wine with lamb or ham, you need a wine with good acidity and body to stand up to the fuller flavors of these meats.  In these instances, I would recommend white wines that have seen a small bit of time on oak to give them structure.  While a nice Chablis from France would be a good choice, great Greek options include:

Ktima Pavlidis Assyrtiko - it has great acidity but spends a small amount of time on its lees (dead yeast cells), which gives the wines a creamy texture while preserving the lovely floral aromatics.

Gentilini Robola - A grape variety that is known for weight on the palate and blossom notes on the nose.  it has great acidity and can hold up to the Easter meats as well as the lighter dishes as well.

Rose Wine
For me, nothing says springtime and warmer weather like rose.  Rose offers the best of both worlds - they have great acidity and are lighter than red wines so they can be served chilled and offer a refreshing alternative to red wine.  Even though many prefer the pale salmon colored rose wines, I prefer the darker colored, more full bodied rose wines for the Easter meal.  Options here include:

Mercouri Lampadias - The Mercouri Estate is located in the Western Peloponnese, near ancient Olympia. Lampadias is a unique blend of the Italian grape, Negroamaro, Syrah and the Greek grape, Agiorgitiko.  it is a beautiful rose color with bright acidity and floral notes.  This wine pairs amazingly well with asparagus, spring peas & ham.

GAIA 14-18h - The name refers to the amount of hours the juice & the skin remain in contact for color extraction.  This rose is a red wine drinkers rose - it is more full bodied with subtle tannins and great acidity. This wine is a true crowd pleaser.

 Red Wine
When pairing red wines with the delicate meats of Easter, big, oaky styles are NOT your friend.  They overpower the food and typically do not have enough acidity to balance with the meal.  Look for lighter styles of wines including Oregon Pinot Noir or Sicilian reds made from local varieties.  From Greece, look for wines that are either unoaked or lightly oaked.  For me, with warmer weather, I turn towards unoaked red wines to give me great acidity and subtle tannins.  Options here include:

Karavitakis Little Prince Red - made from the Cretan varieties Mandilari & Kotsifali, this is a 100% unoaked wine that has some pepper and wild herb notes - perfect with lamb.  Serve slightly chilled

Spiropoulos Porfyros - This option is a bit more mainstream and is a blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc & Merlot.  This wine has seen some time in the barrel, but is not an overpowering oak-y style. Guaranteed to be a hit with your "big red" wine fans.

You can find these wines in retail shops across the country - if they do not have them in stock, ask them to order them for you.

Best wishes for a Happy Easter!!!

Friday, March 6, 2015

Your ticket to spring - Thymiopoulos Boarding Pass 2014

Your ticket to spring!

If you live on the on the East Coast of the United States like we do here at Athenee, you are dreaming of warm spring weather, birds chirping, flowers blooming and most importantly, No Snow!!!  In order to get us in the mood for spring, which is less than 3 weeks away officially), we have begun receiving the newest vintages of our white & rose wines.

Thymiopoulos Boarding Pass is made from 85% Malagouzia & 15% Kountoura Blanc, a local grape variety found in central Greece.  Boarding Pass is is the perfect wine for warm spring days - bright fruit, balanced acidity and a pleasant finish.  It pairs well with spring dishes filled with tender vegetables like spring peas, baby lettuce, ramps and lamb.

Boarding Pass is fermented 100& in stainless steel and is then left "sur lie", i.e. the wine is left in contact with the lees of the fermented wine, to develop a rich texture & complexity.

Be on the lookout for the 2014 vintage - we just received it and it's making its way through our distribution channels.

Meet Tsipouro - Ouzo's elegant cousin

Tsipouro, Greece's version of a must-based brandy distillate, has been produced and consumed for centuries and is traditionally consumed in the countryside.  Until recently, most of it has remained within Greece or within the EU.  Much of it had not made it to the US because of compliance reasons.  However, that has changed.  Greece has submitted the paperwork to the US government that provides the regulations & laws surrounding Tsipouro production, which now allows us to use the name "Tsipouro" on the label (in the past we were obligated to call them "Diluted Grappa Brandy" - not very appealing).

Our portfolio includes Tsipouro from Katsaros Distillery, Tsikoudia (the Cretan name for the spirit) from the Cooperative of Sitia, and in the near future, several spirits from  the Tsililis Distillery which will include Dark Cave, a 5 year barrel aged tsipouro in addition to grape varietal distillates.

Tsipouro results from the distillation of alcoholically fermented pomace (grape skins) which remains in contact with the wine, until distillation. Grape marc distillates exist also in other Mediterranean countries, such as Grappa in Italy, Eau-de-vie de marc in France and Orujo in Spain.  

Copper pot stills at the Tsililis Distillery

Tsipouro's history is a lengthy one.
For centuries, it was the secondary product of viticulture and domestic wine production. It was considered "the black sheep" of wine and it was always related to the life of the middle-class Greek.
Tsipouro was present in everyday moments of rural people, in joys and sorrows and it became a hallmark of the Greek hospitality.

The first reference to grape-marc distillate appears in Ancient Greece during the Hellenistic period, mentioning a drink named "trimma" which was produced by the boiling (distillation) of grape skins.
The art of distillation evolves during the Byzantine era at the monasteries of Agio Oros (Mount Athos), in Athos Peninsula.  The monks of Mount Athos taught the monks of Meteora in the secrets of distillation, in a region where viticulture is witnessed since the Paleolithic Era. In the prehistoric cave of Theopetra, archaeological excavations revealed the presence of grape seeds.

Until the 15th century, the art of distillation of tsipouro expands to surrounding areas. In Epirus, Macedonia, the rest of Thessaly, and Crete as well as in many other parts of Greece. For many centuries, tsipouro was produced amateurishly by villagers as a way of reclaiming grape pomace, which would otherwise be discarded. Merchandising of small quantities was allowed, always in bulk, within the county and neighboring counties, as any kind of bottling was forbidden, in order to enhance the income of farmers and residents of border regions.

In 1883, the official Greek Government established the first law on the taxation of alcohol and in 1896 the first official licenses are given for the production of tsipouro. In 1989, with the relevant establishment of  National and European legislation on drink spirits (Law 1802/1988 and Reg 1576/1989), production and bottling of tsipouro is allowed to official distilleries. This represented a huge shift for the qualitative evolution of tsipouro as it contributed significantly to the development of the culture of distillation and to the flourishing of tsipouro’s industrial production. 

With the latest revision of the regulation for spirit drinks in the EU (Regulation 110/2008), tsipouro is established as an exclusively Greek product produced from grapes which are grown in the Greek land and which are distilled within the country.

With such a rich history, I encourage you to seek out Tsipouro and it enjoy it well chilled straight up.  We are proud to offer several options of this spirit and look forward to increasing the items offered in the near future.