I never seem to learn my lesson.
Every time I go to Greece I descend into the same predictable cycle: I fall in love with Greek wine, I buy a few bottles to bring home, I open one in rainy London and I wonder why it never tastes as good as I remembered.
Much of the enjoyment we derive from wine comes from the surroundings. My garden – as pleasant as it is – simply cannot compete with white sandy Myconian beaches and the sparkling blue Aegean sea. So, after three holidays to Mykonos and countless bottles transported home only to sit unopened in my fridge for months on end, I made an executive decision: no more Hellenic wine for me outside Greece.
I was doing a pretty good job of avoiding it – until last Sunday.
That morning a few friends and I had participated in a 10km running event, so by the time we had finished we had built up quite an appetite (carbs, anyone?). Through an unexpected stroke of fortune, the clouds in the sky somewhat dissipated to make way for the gorgeous September sun, at which point it became obvious that al fresco dining was the only way forward.
Fast forward an uneventful tube journey from Wembley Park to Marylebone, we ended up standing outside the newly-opened Opso, a Greek addition to Marylebone High Street’s diverse offering of quirky restaurants and pubs. I was reliably informed by a friend that Opso is thankfully not a mundane rendition of The Real Greek (which, ironically, is situated right opposite).
Through a second stroke of fortune (I’m not usually this lucky, I promise) a table became available and we swooped in before the waiter even had time to clear it. I’m not proud of our desperation. Well, maybe a little proud.
When the wine list materialised, I took a quick straw poll to determine the group’s preferences on colour. Given the aforementioned shining sun (I shouldn’t have bothered asking – I knew what the answer would be), the general consensus was pink. My eye scanned the wine list and settled on the rosé section; I squinted at the only three wines on offer and… they were all Greek.
I had no choice but to break my “no-Greek-wine-outside-Greece” rule. Two of the wines were from Macedonia in the North of the country, the third from the island of Santorini. With fond memories of my prior holidays in the Cyclades, I selected the latter.
I wasn’t quite sure what to expect. Would the wine (made from the Greek grape variety mavrotragano) be a colossal let down much like my previous experiences of Greek wine in London? Or would it be the wine equivalent of being swept off my feet as I had experienced on holiday? Should I have dictatorially ignored the consensus on the table and opted for the more conventional (but arguably dull) pinot grigio from Italy?
I waited for the wine (Domaine Sigalas Ean 2013) with bated breath. When it finally arrived, I noted that it was darker in colour than initially expected. The aromas on the nose were really quite intense; the palate followed with bold and juicy flavours of raspberry and strawberry. As far as rosés go, it was pretty full-bodied but the high level of acidity kept it crisp and refreshing. Overall, an extremely palatable wine.
So why was this encounter with Greek wine in London so much more pleasing than my past experiences?
On reflection, it must have been a combination of the unseasonably good weather and more critically the local food (which was excellent). Opso’s menu offers a modern Greek take on Sunday brunch: my Eggs Benedict ditched the English muffin for Greek koulouri bread, eschewed bacon strips in favour of lardons and leeks, and swapped traditional thick hollandaise with a yogurt-based hollandaise instead. On a side note, as fantastic as it sounds, I did suffer from an acute pang of food envy: my cousin had a deliciously creamy scrambled eggs with feta and cherry tomatoes. Finally, not one to (ever) skip dessert, the pancakes with cream cheese, strawberry jam and blueberries sounded tantalising enough to tempt me away from my usual chocolate fix.
They say the first rule of food and wine pairing is “if it grows together, it goes together”. Essentially it means that wine and food that originate from the same area are inherently designed to be enjoyed together and therefore make a great pairing.
Looking back at my wine experience at Opso, I can see a lot of truth in that theory. I have therefore decided to can my no-Greek-wine-in-London promise. It’s just silly.
Grapeful is an app that helps you pair food with wine, view restaurant wine lists, impress a date with geeky facts about wine, and much more. Download it for free on iOS and Android devices. This video explains it all.
This post is my entry into the Monthly Wine Writing Challenge (#MWWC12) under the theme “local”. If you like what you’ve read, please vote for me between 14th and 20th October. Thanks!