On my last trip to Greece, I brought back a bottle of Xinomavro: 2010 Alpha Reserve Vieille Vignes (old vines). This is a delicious wine with fruity aromas – dark fruits and cherries – with a bit of spice. It has a lovely texture with a good amount of soft tannins as well as some acidity.
I have written another blog entry on xinomavro (check out Albion Restaurant: Xinomavro with Squid, feta, and Kalamata) and there I discovered that I really love pairing kalamata olives with this wine.
Salty food and acidic wines pair wonderfully (think champagne and potato chips)! Salt really works well to balance out the acidity in a wine. With the kalamata olives, the xinomavro becomes so much smoother and richer. And the fruitiness of the wine offers a nice contrast to the briny flavors of the olives. Fantastic!
Another food that works well with xinomavro is beets. The acidity in the wine balances the sweetness and the richness of the beets. And the earthiness of the beets is the perfect contrast to the fruitiness of the wine. Of course, I had to add some kalamata olives to my beet dish. So I decided to make a baby beetroot salad served on wilted beetroot greens and topped with kalamata olives and feta.
I really loved using baby beets because not only is the texture more tender but also the flavor tends to be sweeter. But they are also just gorgeous – I truly believe that we eat mostly with our eyes and I always try to make my food as beautiful as I can.
Now for the main course. To me, lamb is one of the most quintessential Greek dishes and I couldn’t think of a better meat dish to serve with this wine than lamb chops. I kept the fat on the chops for more flavor. This makes the dish richer too but the acidity in the xinomavro is perfect to cut through any heaviness you might get from the fat. I bought some grass-fed, free-range lamb. I marinated it for a few hours in some Cretan olive oil (that I also brought back from my trip to Greece), thyme still on the branch (that I brought back from Turkey), and crushed rose garlic (that I brought back from Paris).
I cooked the lamb chops for a few minutes on each side in an iron cast skillet on the stove. This dish is so easy to make but it’s oh so delicious!
The earthiness of the lamb and its mild gamey flavor (while I do enjoy gamey flavors in general, I tend to opt for mildness with lamb) both work really well with the fruitiness of the wine. And as predicted, the acidity in the wine cuts right through the fat.
Finally as a side dish, I served some roasted baby potatoes with rosemary (to add earthiness).
Throughout this meal, the theme was juxtaposing earthy flavors in the food with fruity elements in the wine. Worked perfectly!