Meze or Appetizers
Whether you're going Greek with the likes of taramasalata, melitzanosalata, grilled octopus, or not, perhaps with canapé's, bacon-wrapped chicken livers, stuffed mushrooms, clams Casino, or even buffalo wings, there is actually something in common for all of these dishes. They are savory, flavorful and most contain a fair amount of oil, hopefully Greek Extra virgin. The spicier and more flavorful the dish, the more full-bodied should be the wine.
White wines with good acidity to cut the oiliness go best: Kouros Patras, made from the Roditis grape is crisp and refreshing; a good choice for seafood appetizers and Greek dips. For spicier or oilier appetizers, the full-bodied Amethystos white, made from Sauvignon Blanc, Assyrtiko and Semillon, has flavors of tropical fruit and enough acidity to work well. Also consider the delicious Moscofilero-Mantinia, a lively crisp dry white.
For the traditionalists, or the brave, this is the course where both Retsina and Ouzo shine. Retsina, especially the more lightly resinated, such as Retsina Kourtaki go very well with meze. OK, ouzo is an anise based spirit not a wine, but cannot be ignored when covering meze, most especially if it comes from Plomari, the only appellation of superior quality for ouzo. The irrepressible and luscious Ouzo Plomari by Issidoros Arvanitis is an excellent choice.
Here is where you can ignore the need to have a wine with every course. After all, soup is a liquid. If you must, follow the guidelines for main courses.
Will it be a horiatiki (Greek salad) or simply a salad of mixed greens with vinaigrette? How about a steamed artichoke or a salad of beets and goat cheese?
If the level of acidity (e.g., vinegar, lemon juice) in the salad is high, then a "bone dry" wine is called for. Try Mikros Vorias Lagorthi, with its citrus flavors and nuances of mountain herbs to compliment the salad dressing. A wine from Crete made from Vilana grapes, such as Kourtaki Vin De Crete white can work well with its green apple flavors.
If the salad has some sweetness, such as the beets or artichoke, try a rose. Amethystos rose made from Cabernet Sauvignon blended with a little Merlot and Syrah is a good choice with flavors of strawberries and cherries, and enough acidity to cope with the salad dressing.
Of course there is the Grecian Roditis such as Apelia that is crisp and dry and will work well with almost any salad.
So much food; so little space! First some rules of thumb, then some suggestions. Food and wine are meant to compliment not fight each other. If you are serving something delicate and light, a light bodied white wine is in order. If a savory stew is on the menu, a full-bodied red is the best choice. The vast in between allows for a wide range of choices. Here are some examples:
For Thanksgiving turkey try a medium bodied red, made from Agiorgitiko grapes, such as Kouros Nemea, with fresh berry and plum flavors. If white is your passion, a un-oaked Chardonnay works well, such as Ianos Chardonnay from the Peloponnese or Chateau Julia Chardonnay from Drama in the north of Greece.
A juicy grilled steak screams for merlot, unless you are fonder of cabernet sauvignon, which works well, too. For merlot, try Chateau Julia Merlot from Drama. For Cabernet Sauvignon, try Ianos Cabernet Sauvignon from the Peloponnese or Cava Amethystos from Drama. Why fight? How about a blend of both: the velvety Dimitra Cabernet-Merlot from southern Greece, or Amethystos red, a blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and the Greek Limnio, a luscious accompaniment to any red meat.
Lamb: Those from the north of Greece will insist on a Naoussa, whether aged 12 months, such as the Xinomavro Chrisohoou or the elegant Estate Chrisohoou, aged 18 months in the barrel then two more in the bottle. Those from the south of Greece will in insist on a Nemea, such as Kouros Nemea.
Light fish dishes such as flounder, grilled shrimp, or even sushi call for a light bodied white. Try Kouros Patras, made from Roditis grapes; a dry wine with delicate pear-like fruit flavors. For more fatty fishes, a more full-bodied white is in order, such as Amethystos Dry White or Amethystos Sauvignon Blanc.
Going vegetarian? If it's a savory gemista, briam, a vegetable-rice timbale or even pasta, try a lighter red from Crete made from Mandilaria and Kotsifali grapes, such as Vin De Crete Dry Red, or an un-oaked wine from Assyrtiko grapes, such as Chateau Julia Assyrtiko, or even Amethystos Dry Rose to match the sweetness of the vegetables yet stand up to the savory taste.
Desserts and Cheeses
One might ask, why bother with dessert when you can sip a chilled glass of Kourtaki Muscat from the eastern Aegean island of Samos. Nonetheless, Greece makes some of the finest and most value-priced dessert wines in the world, so for this section, suggestions are for desserts that go with the two most popular Greek dessert wines.
Kourtaki Muscat: a simple plate of fresh fruit, Manouri cheese drizzled with Greek honey, Greek pastry, such as Baklava or Kataifi or Galaktobouriko, Greek Yogurt dressed with Greek honey and sprinkled with chopped walnuts or pistachios and little squirt of lemon, French pastry, apple pie, a ripe pear accompanied by goat cheese ....
Kourtaki Mavrodaphne of Patras: anything chocolate, flavorful cheeses, cherries jubilee, pears poached in Mavrodaphne with a scoop of ice cream, karydopita, cherry pie...