Wines for Orthodox Easter - Wine & Spirits Magazine

Wines for Orthodox Easter

I don’t actually remember what I ate—or drank—on my first Easter in Greece.

I’d just worked for three months straight, six days a week, dawn ’til well after dark, as the chef at a small restaurant in Athens, and the owners closed the restaurant for a three-day weekend. In Greece, Easter is the most important holiday of the year and most people celebrate at home with family. So, the hostess and I booked it to Hydros, a small, nearby island, and collapsed on a secluded beach to sleep. We didn’t have much money, so we took in the smell of the lamb roasting in every backyard and the licoricey smell of the tsoureki, an Easter bread, and ate spinach pies and bread from the bakery instead. Until that weekend, I’d hated living in Greece as all I knew was work and Athens, with its stinking piles of trash and incomprehensibly broken systems. I didn’t know how good a spinach pie could taste eaten in view of the beach with all the time in the world to enjoy it. I’m not a religious person, but that Easter marked a new beginning, the one in which I, an Irish-American from Western New York, began to focus an inordinate amount of my life on Greek food and wine. And so, every Easter since, I’ve gathered up all the different spring greens I can find—spinach, dandelion greens, dill, wild onion tops, whatever—and cooked them into a phyllo pie. For me, it’s a sign that spring is here a reminder that, whatever is going on in life, there’s something new and delicious around the corner.

Wines for a Spring Greens Pie

(Find a recipe here for hortapita here.) Lyrarakis 2017 Crete Psarades Vineyard Plytó ($21) Made from a variety the Lyrarakis family resurrected in the 1990s, this tastes of bay leaf, chalk and thyme, with a sense of minerality so strong it brings to mind lemons crushed on rocks. It’s firm and powerful, the sort of staunch wine that could go up well against the salty chunks of feta in a spinach pie. USA Wine West, Sausalito, CA Gaia 2017 Santorini Wild Ferment Assyrtiko $39 This is the wine to go with if there’s a leg of lamb on the table next to the pie. Cold macerated for 12 hours on the skins, then fermented without any added yeasts in an array of French, acacia and American oak barrels, it’s a substantial white, creamy as avgolemeno. The initial oak scents are quickly subsumed in a tsumani of saline, chalky flavor, broad and savory, ready to go stand up to meat, fish and bitter greens. Craft + Estate/The Winebow Group, NY Domaine Papagiannakos 2017 Retsina $15 Vassilis Papagiannakos takes a light hand with his Retsina, choosing a base of clean, fresh savatiano and adding only a small amount of fresh pine resin. The result is a wine with lemon-pulp juiciness and the fresh scent of a pine forest after a rain. Craft + Estate/The Winebow Group, NY Domaine Zafeirakis 2017 Tyrnavos Malagousia $17 Made in a light, fresh style, this is round and delicate, with jasmine and green herb scents and lemony fruit. It ends on cleansing mineral acidity; a wine for greens, whether in a salad or cooked into a pie. Dionysi Grevenitis Selections/DNS Wines, San Francisco, CA Alpha Estate 2017 Amyndeon Rosé $24 Orange-pink, this is made from xinomavro grown on a high, cool plateau in the far northwest of Greece. It’s earthy and broad, with a sour-cherry savor and a little white pepper spice that’s delicious against the salty richness of feta cheese. Diamond Importers, Chicago, IL   This is a W&S web exclusive feature.

is W&S’s editor at large and covers the wines of the Mediterranean and Central and Eastern Europe for the magazine.

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