Swiss Wine: Gamaret

Gamaret is another modern variety of grape developed by the Swiss in Pully in the 1970’s. It’s known for its deep colour, dark berry fruits on the nose and spiciness. It is often aged in oak which can give it a slightly “burnt” characteristic – one of the best examples of a Gamaret I’ve tried in the past, the Grande Reserve from Chateau du Mont had a wonderful hint of toast about it.

Gamaret’s creator, André Jaquinet, crossed the Gamay and Reichensteiner (an Austrian white grape) varieties with the aim of creating a high yield, early ripening wine similar to a Pinot Noir, but with a good resistance to mildew and parasites. He succeeded and managed to generate not one but two new varieties that are still used in Switzerland today.

Gamaret (or Pully B-13 as it was first known) was originally intended for the French speaking cantons and its sister variety Garanoir (Pully B-28) for the German ones. I can’t comment on the German speaking cantons, but quite often down my end of the country they are both grown and then sold together as a blend with the lighter Garanoir softening the punchier Gamaret. You can also however buy Gamaret (and more occasionally Garanoir) as a single varietal all by itself, which is exactly what I did.

The first bottle I tried for this post was an oak aged 2011 from Villard & Fils in Geneva (CHF20 from Wine Universe at Geneva airport)

Gamaret Villard & Fils

Gamaret Villard & Fils

This was an exceptionally dark purple colour in the glass and had magnificent legs considering it was only 13%. It looked really elegant and beautiful. The nose was full of fresh berries with a hint of the woodiness underneath.

Gamaret Villard & Fils in the glass

Gamaret Villard & Fils in the glass

To drink, this wine was very smooth and refined with only a slight hint of acid and tannins. It was rich and silky and while you could taste the oak a little, it was just a hint and not at all overpowering. There was a fresh and light spiciness on the palate that became much more pronounced when I drank the wine with some food. All in all this was a lovely bottle of wine.

The second bottle was a 2012 from Domaine de Château L’Évêque who are also based in Geneva (CHF15.50 from Coop)

Gamaret from Domaine de Château L’Évêque

Gamaret from Domaine de Château L’Évêque

I was very excited to give this one a go as it had been biodynamically grown and harvested. I have heard a lot about biodynamic wines but before now I’ve not actually been able to give one a try. I was intrigued to see if the effort involved in producing such wines would show through in the glass.

Gamaret from Domaine de Château L’Évêque in the glass

Gamaret from Domaine de Château L’Évêque in the glass

Unfortunately, while this was a perfectly lovely, drinkable wine, it was not the shining example of a Gamaret that I was hoping for. It appeared was very light and thin. The colour seemed much closer to a Gamay or Pinot Noir and there were very few legs despite this wine also being 13%. At first, there was not too much scent either, it took a good vigorous swirl for it to start giving up its aromas.

When they were released, they were not the dark berries I was expecting but instead something more herby and medicinal. There was also a sweet background note which was almost toffeeish (which is “burnt” in a way I guess).

The wine itself had a very subtle spiciness with a plum/damson like finish. Overall it was a very pleasant light wine to drink and I enjoyed it quite a lot, it just tasted nothing like a Gamaret! I don’t know if this had anything to do with it being Biodynamic and reflecting its particular terroir or maybe it was just my particular bottle. I think I’ll have to try and find some more biodynamic wines and experiment!

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Swiss Wine: Petite Arvine

Petite Arvine is one of the “speciality grapes” of Valais canton and is generally considered to produce high quality wines.  The people of Valais are so proud of it that they hold festival (the “Arvine en Capitales”) in Fully every two years for the producers to show their wares. Unfortunately I found out about the festival too late to attend the previous one (in Nov 2013) and I now have quite a long wait till the next one.

The origins of Petite Arvine are unclear.  Local lore has it that it originated in Martigny, but it’s also been suggested (presumable by the less patriotic sort) that it may have come from the Aosta valley over the Alps in Italy.  Either way, it’s not a grape that has travelled far since it’s pretty much only grown in these two regions.

As with so many of the Swiss grapes, it’s a tricky one to grow.  Late ripening and needing lots of sun and water, it’s also fragile and prone to wind damage.  It’s really no wonder that it’s not widely grown around the world and that the Valais are so proud when they get it right.

While Arvine is a synonym for Sylvaner, Petite Arvine is a completely different grape.  It was originally thought that it was related to the Aminge variety also grown in the region, but this has recently been disproven (by DNA testing no less) so now it’s parentage is also unknown.

The grape can produce a wide variety of both dry and sweet wines and the defining flavours are usually rhubarb, citrus (moving to honeyed fruit for the sweet versions) and a slight saltiness. Both the two bottles I tried were dry wines, but they were quite different from one another.

The first Petite Arvine I tried was a 2012 vintage by Jean-René Germanier  (CHF19.90 in Coop).  Given that on their website the vineyard boasts of “their place among the premiers crus” of Valais I had high hopes for this wine.

Petite Arvine Jean-René Germanier

Petite Arvine Jean-René Germanier

The bottle itself was certainly elegant enough and I was also impressed by the custom corks which had the vintage printed on the end and the name of the producer along the side.

Petite Arvine Jean-René Germanier - the cork!

Petite Arvine Jean-René Germanier – the cork!

The wine itself was a pale gold colour.  It’s 14% which, to me, seems fairly strong for a white but it seemed to have no legs in the glass.  The nose was a mix of citrus fruit and mineral tang.

Petite Arvine Jean-René Germanier - in the glass

Petite Arvine Jean-René Germanier – in the glass

In the mouth it was very dry and acidic at first; however the finish was softer and a little sweeter in a pink grapefruit sort of way i.e. still full of acid and punch, but with a hint of honey to take the edge off the astringency.  I found that when I tried this wine with some food it seemed to get even more acidic and lose all sweetness which wasn’t great.  The label had promised rhubarb, but I couldn’t detect any in this bottle.

All in all the acid was a bit much for me in this wine, but saying that I can see how it would work well as an option for an aperitif.

The next Petite Arvine was also from 2012, this time by Frédéric Zufferey  (CHF24.90 in Globus)

Petite Arvine Frédéric Zufferey

Petite Arvine Frédéric Zufferey

While a very similar colour to the previous wine there was something special about the hue of this one.  It seemed to have an internal vibrancy and glow that just doesn’t come across in the pictures, but which instinctively drew your eye to the glass.

Petite Arvine Frédéric Zufferey - in the glass

Petite Arvine Frédéric Zufferey – in the glass

Once again there was a fairly high alcohol content (13.5%) but no legs.  It had one of the strangest aromas I have ever come across in a wine, and I hesitate to even write this, but it smelt like a box of Ryvita crackers!  While I’m rather partial to a Ryvita or two (usually topped with cheese!) I can’t say it’s an aroma I usually look for in a wine.

Fortunately, while there was a certain savouriness to it, it didn’t taste too much like Ryvita.  Instead it had a warm creamy fruitiness and a general rich feel in the mouth.   I think that there was a hint of soft pear and peach, and maybe a little of the fabled rhubarb, although to be honest, I found it hard to be specific on the flavours when my nose was still screaming Ryvita!

Once again this wine was fairly acidic, but in this bottle there was also more sweetness as well as a slight (and again unusual) saltiness to offset the acid tang.  When I had previously read the descriptions of Petite Arvine and seen salt listed as one of the flavours to expect I wasn’t quite sure about it (luckily no one mentioned aromas of Ryvita or else I probably would have avoided this grape altogether), but in this wine it really did work.

While this was possibly the weirdest wine I’ve had in a long time (or possibly ever), it’s one I really enjoyed.  Their website says that’s it’s sold out, but I’m going to keep my eyes open for this in the shops.  I would love to get some more and see what other people make of it!

Swiss Wine: Chasselas

People have always told me that Pinot Noir is a tricky grape to get right – that sometimes it’s great and sometimes rather less than great.  While that may be largely true throughout the world, I would say it’s a grape that the Swiss seems to have mastered.  They grow quite a lot of it in Switzerland (it’s their most planted grape) and I’ve yet to have a glass of Swiss Pinot Noir that I didn’t enjoy.

Unfortunately the same can’t be said for Chasselas which is Switzerland’s second most planted grape.   Since I got here I have had some okay glasses of Chasselas, the occasional very nice glass of Chasselas and an awful lot of very very bad glasses of Chasselas –  some of which I’ve actually not been able to finish they were that bad.  As a result I have completely given up ordering Chasselas when I’m out, the chances of getting something awful are just too high!

Chasselas is called Gutedel in the German speaking cantons and Fendant when it’s produced in Valais (where it also sometimes also has a slight sparkle).  Unfortunately the name change or the slight hint of fizz doesn’t seem to significantly improve your chances of getting a drink you can enjoy.  It’s just worth noting the other names so you don’t accidentally order it!

One of the reasons for the high degree of variability might be to do with the fact the wine very strongly reflects and takes on the characteristics of the terroir where it was grown.  Chasslas grown in one area will taste very different to that from another.  This would explain why some are floral, some fruity and some are very mineral.

However it doesn’t explain why so many are just plain bad.  That probably has more to do with the fact that, in order to provide plenty of cheap wine for workers, an awful lot of Swiss Chasselas used to be grown for quantity rather than quality.  While some vineyards are now trying to produce better quality wine I suspect that some others are still going for the quantity method.

In an attempt to locate a couple of better examples for this post I decided to opt for some medal winning varieties.  I know that studies have shown that the awarding of medals can be a bit arbitrary, but I figure if a bottle has a medal at least one person has enjoyed it so hopefully it’s at least drinkable.

First up was a Chasselas from Chateau de Duillier which had won a “best of Swiss wine” award.  The Chateau is just above Nyon in Vaud and I found this 50cl bottle in Nyon itself for CHF9.90 in L’Horloge.

Chateau de Duillier

Chateau de Duillier

Their Best of Swiss Award

Their Best of Swiss Award

This wine was a pale straw/hay colour with an almost brown honeyish hint to it. There were also a few bubbles lurking at the bottom of the glass although I couldn’t feel these on my tongue at all when I drank the wine.  It has a light crisp citrus nose with some chemical notes.

Chateau de Duillier Chasselas in the glass

Chateau de Duillier Chasselas in the glass

Taste wise it was rich and full of mineral and earthy flavours with only a small amount of fruit.  Consumed by itself if was a bit too acidic for my taste and that was the main thing that came across.    The Swiss always recommend you drink Chasselas if you are going to have a fondue or raclette.  I opted for fondue and the strong acidity did help with the richness of the cheese however even the acid taste was too overpowering for me.

Fondue for one!

Fondue for one!

Certainly not the worst Chasselas I’ve ever had but not something I would buy again in a hurry.

A few days later I tried a different bottle of Chasselas and this was a very different creature.  Called L’Arquebuse it’s from Bonvillars near Neuchâtel and had won a Terravin Vaud gold medal which they are very proud of.  I bought a 75cl bottle in Coop for CHF 9.90.

L’Arquebuse Chasselas

L’Arquebuse Chasselas

It was also a pale straw colour but a bit more golden that the first bottle.  The nose had a lot of tropical fruit; pineapple and passion fruit, which had an almost fake candy like quality to them rather than fresh fruit.

L’Arquebuse Chasselas in the glass

L’Arquebuse Chasselas in the glass

In the mouth however there was no fruit at all.  It was extremely dry, short and mineral.  I hesitate to say this because I don’t mean to imply that I didn’t like it, but it was a bit like licking a rock!  I don’t think I’ve ever encountered something with so much mineral and such a complete lack of fruit flavour.  It wasn’t an unpleased experience though, just a surprising one.  There was also almost no aftertaste – one hit of rock and then nothing – very unusual.

There was still plenty of acidity, but in this case it didn’t overpower.  I was happy to drink it both by itself and with the mussels that I was having for tea that evening.  I think this was a really interesting wine and I’ve love to get it again and share it with some other people to see just what they make of it!

So there you go – Chasselas – hit and miss but never boring!

Fête de la Saint-Martin in Peissy – A celebration of wine

This past Saturday (the 9th November) I spent the afternoon in the village of Peissy for their St Martin’s Day festival.  The village, which is part of the commune of Satigny in Geneva, has been producing wine since 912 (making this their 1100th vintage!) and has been holding the festival to celebrate these wines since 1995.

To get there, for me, it’s a wonderful 10 minute bike ride away through the vineyards which are even more stunning than usual as their leaves are turning and on a beautiful cold and sunny day I couldn’t wait to get out and enjoy the day.

Choully vinyards

The Choully vinyards on my way to Peissy

Despite the village being pretty small there are 7 wineries!  All of them are involved in this festival and open their doors to the public for free tastings.  As with cave ouverts, you just buy a glass etched with the name of the village (CHF12) and walk from winery to winery trying what you fancy.

The festival begins at 10am with an auction of 7 barrels of the best of the previous year’s vintage (one from each domain and each holding 300 bottles!) with the money raised going to a charity which sends clowns to children in hospital.  The lucky winners will receive their wine in personalized bottles at a later date.  I didn’t turn up till after lunch so I missed this, but apparently it’s great fun to watch!

The festivities then continue all day with donkey rides and a carousel for the kids and plenty of wine, food and music for the adults to enjoy.

The donkey!

The donkey!

One of the bands - playing daddy cool!

One of the bands – They were playing daddy cool!

Of the 7 caves and domains that were open I made it round four starting off with Domaine les Perrieres.  Researching beforehand I found out that this domain has an impressive number of gold medals and I was looking forward to trying some of them as well as their very unusual Rose de Gameret

Domaine les Perrieres

Domaine les Perrieres

After sampling a fair few of their wines I could see why they have so many awards, the only one that disappointed me was their viognier which smelt divine but then tasted rather flat.  I ended up buying a Sauvignon Blanc, an oak aged Gamaret and a Premier Cru Cab Sauv and Merlot blend.

Next up I strolled down the hill to the Cave les Cretets where I tried a very interesting Sauvignon Gris (a mutation of Sauvignon Blanc) and a wonderful Gewurztraminer before working my way through their extensive collection of reds.  I eventually left with a bottle of Garanoir.

Cave les Cretets

Cave les Cretets

Feeling pleasantly merry it was time to head back up the hill and off to the Domain des Trois Etoiles which was also hosting the carousel and a candy floss machine.  Inside was another band was playing and quite a few people were dancing and joining in.  While they produce as large a variety of wines as the other domains, they only have a limited selection available to try.

Domaine des Trois Etoiles

Domaine des Trois Etoiles

My final stop was Domaine des Charmes which in addition to wines was handing out some lovely puff pastry cheese straws –  a very welcome snack as while sunny, it was quite cold out and I was getting pretty hungry.  After tasting a few of their wines it was time to head home with all my purchases before I started to lose the light.

Domain des Charmes

Domain des Charmes

Heading home

Heading home

For those who stayed the evening ended with fireworks at 18.30!  I could juts about make these out from home so I didn’t miss out entirely!

Chinese Wine, a “Cronut” and a large plate of meat: A Culinary Mix in Berne

The touring exhibition of the Terracotta Warriors has been at the Bern Historical Museum since March and ever since it arrived I’ve wanted to go and see it.  This weekend (two weeks before the exhibition closed!) I finally managed to make the trip up to Bern.  Rather than go up and back in a day I decided to book a hotel to make a weekend of it and explore the city a bit as well.

Bern

Bern

Saturday was surprisingly sunny and dry (they had predicted rain), but extremely windy.  Making the most of the good weather I rented an iPod from the tourist office and embarking on a walking tour of the town.  This was in two parts, one going from the train station down to the Bear Park and then the reverse via a slightly different route.

I arrived around noon and because I’d snacked on the train so I wasn’t too hungry before I started the walk.  However with all the walking and the wind by the time I reached the half-way point of the Bear Park I was starving!  Luckily for me there’s a lovely Microbrewery there serving a mix of German, Swiss and general International Cuisine (Altes Tramdepot).

I don’t drink beer myself, but apparently theirs is very good.  It’s certainly very popular!  The place was packed even at just gone 2pm and they were having to turn larger parties away.  However luckily for my rumbling g stomach being by myself I was able to share a table with another couple who were already seated.

Altes Tramdepot Pretzel with sweet mustard

Altes Tramdepot Pretzel with sweet mustard

Aware that I still had plenty more to see before the light faded I opted for a quick snack and a glass of wine (to protect against the cold wind!) rather than a full meal.  I ordered a pretzel with sweet mustard and a glass of the Petite Arvine.  Rather than the cold, crisp and salty pretzels that I am used to this was a warm and soft affair with no salt.  While not quite what I was expecting this was delicious – I wish I had ordered two!

Fortified, I set back off on the return leg of my walk to see more of the beautiful old town.  Towards the end of this second leg I was getting rather peckish again.  I was glad to spot a Migros takeaway and even happier to see that they were selling “cronut”s inside!  Migros has been making its own version of these treats since August (angering the original creator), but for some reason it only sells them in certain stores in German speaking cantons.

A Migros Yoghurt Cronut

A Migros Yoghurt Cronut

After all the hype worldwide about the originals and all the press in Switzerland about Migros’s recreation I had been dying to try one.  When I was in Zurich recently I popped in three different Migros take aways in the hope of locating a “cronut” with no success so I was excited to finally be able to get my hands on one.  I was the only one by the looks of it, there were about 5 people in from of me in the queue all of whom it turned out were after the same thing.

When I did manage to purchase mine (yoghurt flavoured) I wasn’t disappointed.  Delicious and moreish the lemon yoghurt filling was cut nicely through the sweetness (I dread to think how sickly the nougat version is!).  The texture is much lighter and richer than a doughnut with all those buttery flakes and despite what I assume is a hefty calorie count it wasn’t heavy on the stomach.  I can see why they have become so popular and I have no idea why Migros aren’t selling these in Geneva, they could make a fortune!

After a rest and a (free!) welcome drink at my hotel I set off in the evening in search of some tradition Bernese grub.  Most of the Bernese cuisine I came across on this trip was of the sweet variety (more on that in a minute), but I during my walk I had spotted a couple of places offering a savoury dish called a Bernese Plate.  This carnivore’s delight I had at Brasserie Chez Edy near the Parliament buildings consisted of slices of sausages, bacon, boiled beef and smoked belly pork, a piece of bone marrow and some potatoes and sauerkraut.

Bernese Plate

Bernese Plate or Platter

Heavy and rich, despite being very hungry when I started, this dish was more than I could manage.  The different meats had been slow cooked and were succulent and delicious.  The belly pork was a particular highlight with its oh so soft layers of fat, the sharp sauerkraut a necessary and welcome relief from the never-ending pile of meat!

The next day I enjoyed a continental breakfast at the hotel and headed off (in the pouring rain!) to the Historical museum.

Breakfast

Breakfast

I’m really glad that I made the trip to see this exhibition.  While the number of warriors on display is small compared to what can be seen in China, you see them at close quarters and the information on the creation of the warriors and the society at the time was fascinating.  After exploring the exhibition for a fair few hours I was ready for lunch so headed to the museums Chinese themed restaurant.  As with the Bear Park this place was packed and I had to share a table.

Qin Restaurant stirfry and Chinese wine

Qin Restaurant stirfry and Chinese wine

After the all the food I had eaten the day before I fancied something a bit lighter and so choose the stir fry of chicken, peppers, leeks, peanuts and chillis and feeling adventurous to go with it I tried a Chinese red “Cabernet Blend” wine.  The meal itself was disappointing with the stir fry very bland, the peanuts burnt and the accompanying “Jasmine” rice very dry (it did not taste at all like Jasmine rice!).  The wine on the other hand was much nicer than I expected.

When I first smelt the wine it seemed rather sweet and I wondered what I had let myself in for, however upon tasting it was fruity, mellow and inoffensive.  Aside from it being from China I wouldn’t say there was anything particularly distinctive or great about this wine, but it was perfectly nice, if a little boring, and it came in a large measure (for Switzerland) which I really needed to help me with the food!

After the Historic museum, and a quick detour via Einstein’s house, it was time for me to hit the bakeries (the only places other than museums that were open on Sunday!) to get some Bernese treats.  During a bit of research before visited I had discovered that there were two types of biscuits that are traditional; Huniglebkuchen and Haselnusslebkuchen .   I managed to grab one of each type as well as a Berner Mandelbärli, an almond cake in the shape of a bear!

Huniglebkuchen (bottom) and Haselnusslebkuchen (top)

Huniglebkuchen (bottom) and Haselnusslebkuchen (top)

Berner Mandelbärli

Berner Mandelbärli

The bear was by far my favourite (I love almonds!).  It was quite a sturdy sponge but it was still moist and the flavor was lovely and strong.  The Huniglebkuchen was in the same vein as the ginger/spice biscuits that you get all over the German speaking world, it just had  bear on it!  That’s not to say it wasn’t nice, just not particularly special.  The Haselnusslebkuchen on the other hand was very unusual.  It had a texture more like a set paste than something that had been baked!  Unfortunately I didn’t like it, I could hardly taste any nut flavour and the texture was just too cloying in the mouth.

I won’t be trying either of the biscuits again but next time I’m in Bern I think I might just stock up on the little cake bears!

Swiss Wines: Cornalin

Switzerland is not known globally for its wine – in fact before moving out to here I had no idea that the Swiss even produced wine.   The majority of Swiss wine (about 98%) is still consumed within the country rather than exported.  You won’t find Swiss wine in many shops outside of the country (despite being able to see Swiss vineyards from my balcony I still have to travel into Switzerland to buy Swiss wine as it doesn’t make it to the shops over the border!), but due to the wonders of the internet you can now purchase a fair few different bottles online and as a result its profile abroad seems to be rising slightly.

While there are some common grapes grown (for example Chardonnay and Gamay), many of the grapes are unique to Switzerland or even to certain Swiss Cantons.

One such grape is Cornalin (or Rouge de Pays/Cornalin du Valais) which is grown in the French speaking Valais canton (and is completely separate and different to the Cornalin grown in the Italian Aosta Valley).  The Swiss Cornalin is a cross the Mayolet and Petit Rouge grapes (both from that nearby Aosta Valley) and was grown since the early 14th Century under the Rouge de Pays name until for reasons I can’t discover they changed the name to Cornalin in the 1970’s.

Apparently it’s not the easiest of grapes to grow maturing late and suffering from irregular yields and so needing a lot of love and care throughout the year as well as luck with the weather.  As a result the areas in which it was grown decreased over the last century.  More recently it has been having a bit of a revival, however the area of growth is still pretty small (only 290 acres in 2009).

However hard it is to cultivate that the results are well worth the effort.   An intense and unusual wine, it’s both fruity and floral.  The wine has is a concentrated deep red hue with a slight purple edge, it’s so dark you can barely see through it even when the glass is tilted to one side.

A glass of Cornalin

A glass of Cornalin

It has strong aromas of cherry, red berries and violets.  That violet floral note carries over in the taste as well, sometimes as a mere hint but other times quite strongly present (like in the first Cornalin I ever tasted which was made by Clos de Géronde and had more than a hint of parma violets about it).

Also present are big black fruit flavours and general pepperiness or spice.  It certainly packs a punch but it has very low tannins so it’s still easy to drink when young.   As it goes well with strong gamey meats so this is the perfect time to enjoy a bottle or two.  It also holds up well with punchy cheeses.

I’ve sampled a couple recently; 2012 Fleur Du Rhone Cornalin (CHF13.50 – Coop) and a Maître de Chais Cornalin (CHF26.90 – Coop).

Fleur Du Rhone Cornalin

Fleur Du Rhone Cornalin

The Fleur Du Rhone had an intense floral violet scent coupled with a whiff of cherry.  In the mouth this was revered with the deep cheery flavor taking over and just a slight hint of blossom, along with a little spice, to taking the edge off the intense fruit.

Maître de Chais Cornalin

Maître de Chais Cornalin

The Maître de Chais was spicier than the Fleur Du Rhone and with blackberry flavours and a slight herbal note joining the cherry.  In this wine the violet in the nose only not on the palete.  Both wines were very lively and strong with a long lasting aftertaste.  They were both slightly acidic when drunk by themselves, but worked extremely well with food (one time beef and the other cheese) which seemed to tone them down slightly.

Apparently they ages these wines tend to calm down a little becoming smoother and less boisterous.  As I’ve only encountered young versions so far I can’t really comment on this, but while not for every night or occasion, I like the powerful fruit and floral flavors of the young versions.

Greek Delights

To me, the Greek cuisine is very underrated.  While most people (in the UK at least) are familiar with the staples of Mousakka, Tzatziki, Feta and Halloumi the broader spectrum of Greek cooking doesn’t seem so widely known and it can be pretty hard to track down a good Greek restaurant in many cities.

I have visited a few Greek islands as part of holidays and always enjoyed trying all the different dishes on offer.  However it’s been quite a few years now since I was over there and while it’s fun to recreate things at home, it’s always great to enjoy the real deal.  As a result I was really excited that, in addition to all the food I on the boat, I would also be able to sample some authentic Greek cooking while on the Islands and in Athens.

My first Greek stop was the island of Santorini where I embarked a short boat trip round to Oia in order to take in the amazing view of the caldera.  Sanotrini is famous for its wine and I was keen to try some so after a while walking round in the (scorching) heat and taking pictures we popped into a little taverna for some refreshment.  Rather than opting for an expensive bottle we went for a carafe of the unnamed local white which was delicious and at €4 for 500mls an absolute bargain!

Santorini wine

Santorini wine

Refreshed, we then caught a bus round to Fira, the town above where the ship was moored.  After a bit of a look round we popped into another taverna for snacks before heading back on board.  Here we shared a Greek salad and some of the pies of the day, which turned out to be feta.  The portions for each were huge: five crisp and flaky individual pasties which were divine and a very generous portion of fresh salad topped with an enormous slab of feta.

Some of the Greek Salad

Some of the Greek Salad

the delicious feta pies

The delicious feta pies

Our next Greek destination was Mykonos where unfortunately I had already eaten before leaving the ship and so wasn’t able to try any of the amazing fresh fish and seafood that was on offer.  It wasn’t all bad news on the food front though as after some exploring to build up an appetite I was able to sample some delicious homemade baklava down on the waterfront.

A hunk of baklava

A hunk of baklava

Many times when I’ve had baklava both and home and abroad it’s has been made and served as bite size pieces but there was nothing dainty about the baklava at this restaurant.  We were given a colossal slab of filo, nuts and honey all of which tasted divine.

The final Greek destination was Athens where we stayed for one night and where I managed to indulge my craving for gyros.  Gyros is basically a traditional kebab, but bears no resemblance, either visually or in flavour, to the processed “meat” you get in most UK kebab shops.  Instead thin layers of spiced pork are built up on a skewer and interspersed with layers of fat and then rotated and cooked slowly resulting in the amazingly tender and moist pieces of meat which I can’t resist.

A plate of gyros

A plate of gyros

It’s usually served one of two ways: either on a plate with the accompaniments (fresh tomato, sliced red onion and garlicky tzatziki) and pitta on the side or as a quick takeaway snack with the meat et all in wrapped in the pitta bread.  Being greedy over the course of our stay I tried both as well as a slight variation of take away version with the gyros meat replaced with chicken souvlakia (an individual skewer of meat marinated in lemon garlic and oregano)! All were wonderful and I wish I had time (and the stomach space) to have eaten even more.

take away gyro and souvlaki

Take away gyros and souvlaki

For our one evening meal in Athens I reluctantly held back from consuming yet more gyro in order to sample some other dishes – fried cheese with figs and giouvetsi.  The fired cheese with figs was exactly as it sounds, rounds of crisp fried cheese topped with confit figs and a fig and honey dressing/sauce, a ridiculous rich and indulgent starter.   Giouvetsi is a classic Greek dish of soft slow cooked beef or lamb chunks (mine was actually veal) baked with orzo pasta in a cinnamon spiced tomato sauce.

fried cheese with figs

Fried cheese with figs

giouvetsi

Giouvetsi

Overall I can’t praise the Greek food and wine I consumed highly enough.  I didn’t have a single bad/meal or dish and I can’t wait till I can go back sometime and eat more.  In the meantime I’m going to have to see if I can find a good Greek restaurant in Geneva and I’ve brought back some authentic dessert filo to have a go at making my own baklava!