The marriage of a Greek to a Portuguese would be a weird one. All that Greeky gregariousness mixing with Portuguese reticence and historical sadness? Odd hook-up in my book. Or maybe it would work. Certainly did in the food and wine realm last night.
Greek food isn't defined by its bigness. It's defined by its contrast of earthiness and brightness. This Douro red slides right in by offering exactly that - earthy, spicy, herby core lifted by an acid that keeps it springy, pause-y, pucker-y and oh-so non-pricey pleasant.
Food: Greeked-up hanger steak with skordaliá, pita and tzatziki
Hanger steak marinated in a ton of oregano, olive oil, lemon juice, parsley and onion, seared medium rare. Crusty, gnarly, Greeky, good. Simplified skordaliá, more chunky, less bordering on gluey, highlighted by the prep letting the garlic-and-potato-together goodness shine. Pita from Middle Eastern Grocery on Foster. Homemade tzatziki. Turned into a meal that made us wonder why we haven't eaten more Greek food lately. Used to be a staple. Happy-slappy Food.
Wine: 2007 Quinta do Vallado Douro Tinto ($10 - Binny's)
On close-out at Binny's and I have NO IDEA WHY! Typically around $20, this wine is only now hitting its stride with the delicate earth and Moroccan spice interplay just starting to sing. As medium-bodied as medium-bodied gets, darker notes dominate only to be lifted to a place that's perfectly light on its feet. Sparkles with its balance and complete sense of place. I've jumped off the train of trying to turn people on to Portuguese red wine. Their eyes just glaze over when I mention it, which is too bad. The Douro is a region that's only been seriously making still wine for about 15 years and the winemakers have already found the region's utter distinctiveness, with wines you can drink now or hold with pure pleasure found in both (though we're seeing a brief shutdown period about 4-5 years out), and prices (though creeping up) entirely reasonable when compared to quality.
And 2013 just started. If you're thinking about vacations, may I recommend this winery? Quinta do Vallado (page down, click on the winery, click on atmosphere) brings all the peace, quiet, beauty, relaxation and unpretentious splendor wrapped in one package. And pretty damn cheap, considering. Look at those pictures. No "taken from a good angle" here. That's what it looks like. The extension was only in the planning stages when we were there in 2010 and it seems to perfectly blend in with the rest of the winery. which was their utmost concern when talking about it. Looks like a big success. Gorgeous infinity pool that was all ours on more than one occasion. CLEAN air, calm atmosphere, great people, and...shockingly memorable. Everything. All of it. Most calm I'd been in years.
Pairing: Greek and Portuguese. Surprisingly similar stuff.
Greek food isn't large. It just wears its earth, spice and herb next to brightness on its sleeve and on the same plane, which is just another way of talking about happy balance. Portuguese Douro reds do the same thing. They don't try to hide a (perfect) simplicity with extraction or cater to anybody's palate except their own. It's honest wine no matter how platitudinous that sounds. And here's a situation where the high scores early on probably helped. And the fact that these guys led the wine revolution in the Douro helped even more. No compromise with this group. They found something, found success and stuck to it.
Food just big enough to love the graceful aggressiveness with wine in lockstep with such things. Happy, happy, joy, joy pairing.
The week's pairings for record-keeping purposes:
*** Fava bean and ricotta salata strozzapreti with 2009 Fattoria di Lucignano Chianti Colli Fiorentini ($13 - Binny's). Spring-like deliciousness brought to you by Lidia Bastianich. Big food love in our house with a bargain, old-school Chianti. Tons of grace in a cheap package. Just above average pairing here but would do it again when Sancerre or cabernet franc isn't craved with this food.
*** Thai chicken legs and cold Chinese peanut-sesame noodles with ma la oil with 2008 Gramona Gran Cuvée Cava ($19 - Binny's). Vintage cava with a nice elegance somewhat clouded a bit by a dominant creaminess. But this meal's flurry of flavors needed bubbles. Still wine just wouldn't do (and we tried). Average pairing but a modicum of goodness.
*** Coconut-cashew chicken curry with 2009 Kurt Angerer Kies Grüner Veltliner ($15 - Binny's). New York Times Sri Lankan curry recipe from last week. Recommendation. Amp up the spice a touch across the board. VERY subtle. But great integration with this recipe, coming off complete, just needed a few minor tweaks. The grüner veltliner, with its steely deliciousness and balanced swirl of flavors, played right into the subtlety though, frolicking beautifully and broadly with the food and stretching itself out quite nicely. Very good pairing and would do this again.