I have always liked to host Christmas, and it usually, meaning always, involves a lot of food and wine. Think huge antipasto platters, an array of salads, and a great big selection of meat and seafood carefully marinated and ready to hit the barbeque.
A varied selection of wine is always available at our place to suit most palates (perks of being in the wine industry), but at Christmas time I usually stock up on the more approachable styles to make sure nothing is too overwhelming for the food, and of course, my guests.
The safest bets when hosting a larger group of people are soft reds (Merlot, Pinot Noir, Tempranillo), for the red drinkers wanting to lay off the big jammy styles in the heat, and cold crisp and young whites (Sauvignon Blanc, young Riesling, Sauvignon Blanc Semillon, Semillon Sauvignon Blanc), perfect nursing material for a warm summers day- and an exceptional match to barbequed seafood.
So needless to say, Christmas at our place usually means by the end of the day, after the barbeque is lit a second time and my guests gorge themselves on another helping, everyone jumps into their taxi’s pretty content and very, very merry!
This year though, I am itching to do something different. I am taking my guests to Greece!
And no, I don’t mean just putting together a few skewers or “Souvlakia” for the barbeque - which I will do anyway just because a barbeque is an Australian adult’s Santa Claus, it absolutely must make an appearance. I am talking Homemade Dips, Moussaka, Saganaki Prawns, Slow Cooked Oven Lamb with Lemon Potatoes and Warm Pita Bread.
To create the atmosphere, traditional music will play in the background, and wine will be free flowing. Greek wine, that is.
Unfortunately, Greek wine has taken a bad rap over the years, mostly due to the fact that Greek themed restaurants both in Australia and abroad feature the cheapest and nastiest version of Retsina to offer patrons as their house wine.
But believe me - this is not what premium Greek wine tastes like. If you know what to look for, some Greek wine can be absolutely spectacular and will rival some of the best wines in the world.
So before you go on your Greek wine-hunting mission I want to warn you - don’t go too cheap. There is a great deal of shipping and import costs associated with imported alcohol so if its still cheap, the base cost of wine is probably too cheap and it may or may not burn your throat on the way down! Spend at least $15 a bottle, or better yet, if your guests ask what to bring, ask them to select a bottle of decent Greek wine from their local and bring it along with them. That way everyone will get to sample and compare a fabulous variety of wines on the day!
A few Greek varietals to you may want to try;
Moschofilero- A dry and bold wine with lots of spice and perfume- perfect summer drinking and a favourite of mine. Comparable to Riesling.
Malagousia- Greece’s answer to the Pinot Grigio- highly aromatic, medium bodied and elegant.
Xinomavro- Native to Greece, this is a varietal that is probably incomparable to any other in the world, but perhaps closest to a Nebbiolo. High in tannins with lots of savoury characteristics, it’s almost an entrée in itself. Well worth the try and very Greek.
Agioritiko- Soft tannins and great with food- if you are a Merlot drinker this is your thing
Muscat of Samos- A yummy, sticky varietal often with aromas of dried apricots, honeycomb and nougat and fruity on the pallet (its sounds like a dessert in itself, right?) A perfect pairing to a dessert of ice cream, cheese, or baklava!
Of course, Christmas isn’t only about fabulous lunches and dinners, the most important thing is that family and friends share a memorable, laugh and love filled day together- but great food and wine is always a bonus.
I can’t wait to take my family and friends to Greece this year - where are you taking yours?
Have a safe and Merry Christmas!
You can buy Greek Varietals at www.redwhiteandbubbles.com.au