Albion Restaurant: Xinomavro with Squid, feta, and Kalamata
This week I ate at a great restaurant. Albion is a neo-bistro in the 10th arrondissement of Paris. The cuisine is very inventive and fresh, with the menu changing frequently. Everything I ate was mouth-watering and delicious! I definitely recommend this restaurant. For my starter, I had a beautiful carpaccio of beefsteak tomato with salmon eggs, salted, cured fish roe, and capers.
For my entrée, I had the squid à la plancha served with artisanal feta, kalamata olives, heirloom tomatoes, and wild herbs.
I asked the server for a wine to accompany the main course and she suggested a red wine from Naoussa, Greece. It is made by Thymiopoulos Vineyards and it’s called the “Young Vines of Xinomavro” as the age of the vines are about 5 to 7 years. The vintage is 2012.
The xinomavro grape used in making this wine literally means acidic black (xino meaning acid and mavro meaning black) so it is not surprising that there’s lots of acidity to this wine, giving it lots of freshness. It is a beautiful dark red color with hints of purple. It has aromas of red fruits, a bit or earthiness, herbs, and even floral tones like violets. As it oxygenates, the wine takes on more earthy and spicy aromas. It is very light and fruity in taste. It is an amazingly refreshing wine with lots of soft tannins.
The xinomavro with the squid dish was a bit tricky in terms of a pairing. The flavors of the dish are typically Greek. I think the server suggested this wine based on a regional pairing. The idea behind a regional pairing is that foods from specific regions generally complement the aromas and the flavors of the wine from that same region because they share the same terroir, which refers to the set of characteristics of a food or wine in terms of its geography, climate, soil, genetic make up, etc. So when in doubt, choose a wine from the same region as the dish you are eating. For instance, if I’m eating tartiflette or raclette in the Savoy region of France, I’ll order a wine from Savoy as well. This type of pairing isn’t limited to wines. Gravlax goes really well with akvavit; galettes from Brittany go really well with ciders from that region, etc…
So how did this Greek wine do with the Greek flavors in the food? The wine did not work for the squid alone. Even when I added the feta, the wine definitely improved but wasn’t perfect. However, the kalamata olive completely changed everything! When I put all three flavors in my mouth and tasted the wine, it was such a fantastic pairing!
Bitter foods like kalamata olives accentuate a wine’s bitterness so you need a wine that is the opposite of bitter – something that is a bit on the fruity side and this wine fits that profile. Also olives are quite salty and briny so you want a bit of acidity to complement these characteristics of the olives and balance the acidity of the wine. This wine wins again in this respect. And of course, the kalamatas are definitely a regional match. I’m not sure where the squid or the feta originated but the similarity of the kalamata’s and the wine’s terroirs created a perfect mix of flavors and qualities that went really well together. Perhaps another reason why the kalamatas went so well with the wine is due to the matching of the colors. Generally, dark foods with dark wines go very well together as so light foods with white wine. The kalamatas provide a much better color match to the Xinomavro than the feta or the squid. But more on color matching in another post!
Overall, I think this Xinomavro from Naoussa is an excellent bottle of wine. It is very well made. I will make sure to look for this bottle when I go to Greece in November.