Assyrtiko Food Pairing

This Assyrtiko Food Pairing Guide will help you find the right foods with Greece’s best white grape. It’s the famous grape from the island of Santorini. It is a delicious wine, and pairing food with Assyrtiko can be an AHA moment if done correctly.

Aromas and Flavors of Assyrtiko
Smells and tastes exactly how you’d imagine a grape grown in lava beside the Aegean sea. Assyrtiko smells like lemons and limes, orange blossoms, wet rocks, seashells, and petrol.

What does Assyrtiko taste like?
On the palate, Assyrtiko is a very acidic wine with strong minerality and a undeniable saline quality. It has a tannin quality as well.When pairing food with Assyrtiko, you need to remember that it is not some passive grape; its the star of the show. You can’t pound a bottle of Santorini Assyrtiko on the back porch. It’s a wine that demands respect and the proper food pairing.

What food pairs with Santorini Assyrtiko?
Assyrtiko pairs with anything coming out of the sea. Sardines, grilled fish, fried calamari and grilled octopus with a drizzle of olive oil and squeeze of lemon are absolutely superb with Assyrtiko. Oysters and lobster are a definite match with Santorini Assyrtiko, as well. HOEWEVER: Assyrtiko from Santorini DOES NOT PAIR with sushi unless you like the taste of aluminum foil. Sushi is way too delicate.

 Assyrtiko pairs well with strong salty cheeses like feta and haloumi. It also matches with Greeks spreads like taramosalata (fish roe dip) and ahinosalata (sea urchin dip) It even pairs with notorious wine-killer asparagus, preferably in risotto form.

Assyrtiko Food Pairing (rest of Greece)
Assyrtiko’s minerality and saline are toned down in grapes grown off of Santorini, but that citrus character is unrelenting. Assyrtiko smells and tastes like lemon, lemon zest, and lime with some stone fruit like apricots. Without the lava soils and extreme heat and wind, the vines are less stressed and don’t express minerality as strongly. Assyrtiko from the rest of Greece can accommodate even more foods in addition to the one’s above. Pair it with anything you’d squeeze a lemon on like horta, or wild greens, Greek chicken with lemon potatoes, or pork souvlaki sticks.

Where is Assyrtiko planted?
You’ll mainly find Assyrtiko grapes in Santorini. Santorini is a volcanic island between the mainland and Crete. The volcano erupted in 3500 years ago. The blast was so massive that it changed the landscape of the Aegean and possibly destroyed entire civilizations. What it left behind was 30 meters of pomace and lava soils. 

The intense winds blowing through the Cyclades islands made it necessary to train Assyrtiko vines into baskets called koulouria. Experienced farmers train Assyrtiko grapes, as well as all other grapes grown on Santorini, to grow on the inside of the basket to protect them from the wind and the sun. They are a nightmare to harvest. Santorini vines bake in the sun from April to September without a drop of rainfall. It is one of the most extreme terroirs, or grape growing climates in the world.

Farmers have planted Assyrtiko throughout the rest of Greece. Wineries are making beautiful expression of Assyrtiko in northern Greece, the rest of the Aegean, and on the island of Crete. These Assyrtikos are much less aggressive but very worthy of exploration. Mainland Assyrtiko is much more fruit-driven and floral. Even without the basket-trained vines, Assyrtiko is a sensitive grape to grow. The best part of these non-Santorini Assyrtikos is that they are half the price of Santorini Assyrtiko. Start with Assyrtiko from the rest of Greece if you’re warming up to wine. You can build up to the Queen in due time.

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