Tsiknopempti (literally ‘Smoky Thursday’) – the traditional grilled-meat feast before the Lent fast begins – brings with it an important question: what meat will you be throwing on the barbecue? Will it be pork, beef or lamb? (Note that, renegades aside, poultry is rarely considered. While a grilled chicken breast may technically be meat, it’s hardly in keeping with the all-out carnivorous extravaganza that is tsiknopempti.)
Then comes the follow-up question: what wine to pair with your meat of choice?
To answer that question, a beef steak, a fillet, lamb chops and pork tenderloin – all cooked on the grill – were paired with six single-variety wines produced at Greek wineries.
For some tsiknopempti means one thing: lamb chops. Their rich flavor demands an aged wine with serious character. We open a Xinomavro, specifically a Ramnista from Kir-Yianni, to be on the safe side. It cuts through the fattiness of the lamb, and the result of the combination is impressive and slightly rustic, highlighting the best of both.
For steaks I would suggest you open a Cabernet Sauvignon, a good choice being Ovilo from the winery Biblia Chora which allows the flavor of the beef to come through, while flattering it at the same time. The beef returns the favor by conferring a velvety touch to the tannins. Another great and more original pairing would be a Tempranillo from the Pavlidis Estate.
The pork tenderloin, gentle and polite, was partnered with an elegant Nemea Reserve from the Harlaftis Estate, but flirted very openly with a barrel-aged Chardonnay from the Katsaros Estate in Krania in the foothills of Mount Olympus.
The juicy, rare beef fillet fell head over heels for a Syrah from the Avantis Estate in Evia, which proved itself to be a refined and aromatically balanced choice.
I should say that the combinations above concern meat simply grilled, without elaborate spices or sauces that would cover the flavor of the meat. If each of the above cuts is served or cooked differently, then the optimal wine pairings would also be different.
Now, if you are planning to fire up a charcoal barbecue – a good choice if you know what you are doing – and if you plan to grill a mix of sausages, lamb chops, pork and beef, then opt for a Xinomavro-based wine, such as Goumenissa from the Hatzivariti Estate.
Mince, on the other hand, is best paired with an Agiorgitiko like a Nemea from the Lantidis Estate, while tomato-based meat stews will prefer a blend of Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot – a Chateau Semeli, I would say.
And for the even more advanced, I would suggest something radical: a rich, bold whisky!