Feta Mediterranean Cuisine is a gem of a family-run Greek restaurant in downtown Ocala, FL. The owner, Dimitri, also has a passion for Greek wines. He poured me more than one on the last occasion I visited the restaurant, but one in particular was instructive.
The Delectable score on the third wine I sampled that evening was a meager 7.7, the equivalent of 77 points in Parker 100-point-score parlance. In other words, the wine in front of me was below-average plonk – on the fringes of undrinkable. Or so the crowd said.
But this is a great example of how a crowd can be wrong.
Chef Bill Briwa teaches a series of cooking courses for the Culinary Institute of America in Napa. In one of his courses about spices, Briwa reminds us that, when making dressings like an Italian vinaigrette, the dressing should taste a bit sharp and aggressive when sampled by itself.
This is a good thing because the vinaigrette will be poured on top of many strongly flavored foods, such as onions, olives and green peppers, for example. So a dressing sometimes has to have “big elbows” to stand out in its environment.
This brings us back to that 77-point plonk. What do you think happened when an assertively acidic, sharp wine meets a plate of Keftedes, a Greek lamb meatball spiced with mint, garlic, and pepper – served atop a tangy tzatziki (a Greek condiment made from yogurt and dill)?
The long answer is, that the intensity of the wine, both in terms of acidity and flavor, is perfectly well suited for the powerfully spiced food. The short answer is, opa!
So why the lousy score?
People were rating the Greek red blend using the standards of California red blend. The Mega Spileo was a food wine with a specific purpose: to pair with strongly flavored Greek food. It was never designed to be a walk-around wine.
Wine wisdom? Perhaps the next time you taste a wine that tastes “wrong,” consider the possibility that you may be using it wrong. Take a moment to research the wine, its origins, and the foods that the local culture ate alongside it.
When we remember “what grows together, goes together,” we might turn that 77- point plonk into an 88-point party.