By George Kassianos
Next Sunday is Orthodox Easter, the most sacred holiday in the Greek Orthodox faith. Traditional foods and large feasts are an important part of modern Cypriot life. While each region may have its own local customs associated with Easter, there are several traditions that are observed by everyone.
On Saturday evening, or early Sunday to be precise, just after midnight it is the custom to carry the Eternal Flame home and use it to make the sign of the cross in smoke on the door frame. Once home, everyone gathers around the table for a traditional meal to break the fast. This includes magiritsa soup, tsoureki (sweet bread), and red eggs.
The main focus of Easter Sunday is traditionally a whole roasted lamb or goat (kid) to represent the Lamb of God. However, many prefer oven and stovetop lamb or kid dishes.
Appetizers, such as village salad, olives, tahini and tzatziki are served while watching the whole lamb or the traditional lamb or pork Souvla cook on the spit. Ovens are filled with traditional accompaniments and all the trimmings, such as potatoes roasted with citrus and oregano and spinach and cheese pie. Great Cyprus and Greek wines, ouzo, zivania and other drinks flow. The meal is a lengthy affair, often lasting long into the night. Here are some wine suggestions to go with it.
2020 Makarounas Winery Amphora, Promara, PGI Pafos, Cyprus, Abv 10.5%
The latest addition to Makarounas extended indigenous varieties list after the red Yiannoudi and white Vasilissa. The grapes are sourced from a single vineyard of Promara and it is fermented and aged for six months in amphora.
Gold colour, fresh, a touch flinty, spicy vegetal aromas from skin contact, stone fruit with some tropical and earthy notes developing along with white peach grapefruit and lemon curd, mirabelle plum and honeysuckle. Seemingly sold in the mid palate for the regular fresh white, this is also focused and precise. Juicy and lively with deep minerality, medium body with length. An elegant, expressive wine that can pair with lobster, fish with beurre blanc sauce and with aged goat cheese as well as with your Easter whole lamb. (€18, Bottles)
2020 Ktima Pavlidis Emphasis, Chardonnay, P.G.I. Drama, Abv 14.5%
Another remarkable white wine from Pavlidis Estate in Drama. The passage of the barrel is very careful, while alcohol is pinched in perfect harmony to the whole.
Crystal golden colour, and a nose that is composed of complex aromas of pineapple, mango and fresh peach, honey and butter and fresh herbs hints. Honey baked bread and wax in the discreet background. Mouth with pretty good volume that enters with sweetness but is balanced by a lively acidity that gives it freshness. Delicious aftertaste with aroma of tropical fruits. Excellent with grilled lamb, risotto with seafood and seafood appetizers. (€18, Senaga)
2018 Diamantakis Wines, Diamantopetra Red Syrah-Mandilari Heraklion, Crete, Greece Abv 13%
Syrah and Mandilari seems to be a magic blend in Crete. This is a masterpiece by Zacharias Diamantakis. Syrah and Mandilari are vinified separately. The cosmopolitan Syrah has repeatedly demonstrated that it loves the Cretan soil and climate. Mandilari, with its wild character, is the island’s proper expression. After blending, the precious ‘juice’ is put in French oak barrels where it remains for 12 months. After that it is bottled and rests for a few months until it is perfectly ready to reach the glass.
Ruby red colour with purple hues, complex wine in aroma provided by the two varieties that make it up. Spicy aromas can be appreciated in a balance with red fruits – cherry, plum and sour cherry. Also, some outstanding aromas of vanilla, chocolate and coffee, violet and cinnamon accompanied by licorice and red pepper. The harmony of all these makes this wine fresh and elegant. Intense in the mouth with notable acidity, sweet tannins with a pleasant, sweet spice, cherry and sour cherry jammy feel finish in the mouth. This wine is ideal for grilled Easter meats and some spicy poultry. (€14.10, Alithoinos)
2014 Domaine Mega Spileo Grande Cave, PGI Achaia, Abv 14%
Cavino’s main shareholders Yiannis and Theodoros Anastasiou established Mega Spileo Domaine in 1999 soon bringing to Greek and international markets the highest quality wines from the vineyard of Mega Spileo monastery (Grand Cave) which is located 800 meters above the sea in Peloponnese land. The wine is kept for 20 months in French oak barrels and for a further 20 months in the bottle, becoming well-balanced. To keep all the richness of colour and taste, the wine is not processed by intensive filtration. The blend is 60% Mavrodaphne and 40% Mavro Kalavritino.
Deep red colour with lively red tints with complex aromatics of ripe fruits, laurel, white pepper, gooseberry marmalade, leather, vanilla and chocolate. On the mouth we have balance, a red with finesse and soft tannins, pronounced acidity that supports an equilibrium with alcohol, that allows further ageing. Long and pleasant finish. (€28, Spectus)
2018 Parparoussis Winery Moscato Riou Patron, PDO Patra, Abv 12%
An impressive dessert wine from the top of the market. The first explosion of the typical Muscat aromas in the nose and mouth, followed by the sweet, mellow flavour offset by perfect acidity. Brassy bright colour, a fragrant citrus wine, apricot, lime and orange, as well as hints of roast nuts, caramel and cinnamon. Mouth exuberant with volume and strong personality, with an acidity that makes it sparky and elegant. Aftertaste slightly bitter and very aromatic. An excellent way to end your Easter meal (€20, La Maison du Vin)