Rain, snow, wind, dust and some cold nights – this is how you could describe our winter this year. It looks like it will continue this way for some time. Given this year’s winter’s sudden blasts of snow up in Troodos and constant rain down in the valleys, I find myself dining happily at home a good deal. An obvious advantage is that I don’t have to drive back from a restaurant meal or from a wine bar, therefore, I tend to drink somewhat more full-bodied reds and allow myself an after-dinner drink while settling back on the sofa, reading my (wine) books or watching TV.
I enjoy every season and this year the winter has something magical, it is wet and cold. I do like this combi of weather although I must admit I hate wind and dust, in winter or summer. It’s the season when a lot of Cyprus and Europe’s great traditional foods come into their own; dishes we all love like rich savoury pies, hearty casseroles, and thick, warming soups.
If you have a European background, you’ll be tucking into a stirring stew sometime soon, or grilling sausages and halloumi cheese on the open fire. And if your home cuisine is inspired by Middle Eastern, Sub-Continental or Asian cultures, then you pour in more spice, making those curry sauces richer, and getting those bowls of simmering broths nice and hot. As the food we eat becomes more robust to match the weather, then so too should our wines.
When the temperature drops our first instinct is to turn to wines that help warm the soul as well as the body. It’s even a good time to try out a lighter red from the likes of Maratheftiko, Yiannoudi, Xinomavro, Merlot, Pinot Noir or Tempranillo beside a richer chicken or salmon dish, as well as Chinese style hot-pots with soy and mushroom flavours.
In the white department, thankfully in Cyprus we can still enjoy sipping on spritely, zingy sauvignon blanc, crispy Xynisteri or Pinot Grigio like we do all summer because the low temperatures during our winter do not last long. But then we may think about moving on to a varietal or blended style of white wine, like a Sauvignon Blanc with Semillon that offers a bit more body and can stand up to that fish or chicken which might now be served more seasonally with a creamy mushroom sauce, or a thick, herbed and spiced tomato braise unlike the dry grilling and BBQ cooking methods during the summer months.
But bring on the braised beef and onion pie, or perhaps that slow-cooked lamb shank kleftiko, and it’s time for a rich Shiraz or powerful Cabernet Sauvignon – no questions about that. They have the muscle to match.
And what about a glass of Commandaria? We must not forget the delight that a rich sweet white or a fortified wine can bring at dessert, at cheese or simply after dinner. Apart from Commandaria look for tawny port or botrytis style Semillon or Riesling with some oozing chocolate sweets.
That’s the joy of winter in a glass – so many wines work wonders across so many dishes you might just want to stay indoors that extra bit longer to enjoy the ride.
Wines of the week
2016 Argyriou Estate, Pinot Noir, Red Varietal Dry, Polydroso Phocis, Greece, 13%
Right from the vineyards of Nicos Argyriou, from Polydroso Parnasus, comes this Pinot with soft red colour. Luscious, crunchy cranberry, tart cherry and rising bread dough waft forth with a pleasing hint of cinnamon stick, vanilla and aromatic dry leaves. The smooth weighty palate offers cherry candy, pomegranate, candied orange peel and a touch of anise concluding with a nicely uplifting finish. The tannins are soft, with plenty of juicy acidity. Enjoy it with grilled poultry, oven-baked turkey, red meat dishes baked or stew with complex flavours and fat, and fatty cheese. (€15, Centro Cava Pafos)
Tsiakkas winery, in Pelendri village, is also engaged in some experimental vinification with white and red grape varieties. Just before the end of the year I tasted some of the wines produced under this project.
2017 Tsiakkas winery Mavro Mouklos, Abv 14%
I belonged to the club of connoisseurs that believed you cannot make good wine from the Mavro Ambelisimo grape. I was wrong. A handful of winemakers, including Costas and his son Orestis, are proving that. The fruit of this wine comes from Mouklos vineyard, planted with Mavro Ambelisimo. This varietal greets you with deep aromas of red cherry and strawberry, that give way to subtle notes of cedar spice, mocha and fresh leather. Rich and lush red fruit flavours coat the palate, accentuating the medium body and tannins. Concentrated yet balanced, this wine leaves you with a satisfying, lengthy finish. (€9.50, Available at the winery, Library, Madam and Vinothiki in Limassol)
2015 Tsiakkas Winery Merlot Keranis, Abv 14%
An imported variety from the vineyard zone of Keranis. The wine has a ruby red colour, black cherry and cassis aromas layered with hints of vanilla, mint and toasted nuts. It is elegant and supple on the palate; the juicy plum and cherry fruit flavours are punctuated with cola and black pepper spice. The tannins remain a bit chewy through to the finish. Enjoy it with a bacon cheeseburger, or better with lamb roast for a delicious treat. (€16, Available at the winery, and Patriko tavern at the village of Tersephanou)