Thursday, March 26, 2020

Kouneli Stifado + Gaia Ritinitis Nobilis Retsina #WinePW


For next month's Wine Pairing Weekend event, Nicole of Somm's Table is inviting the blogging group to look at Ancient World pairings. When I sent her a quick note about the parameters she had in mind, she replied, "my thoughts had been to highlight areas that have claims to oldest evidence of winemaking -- Georgia, the Middle East (Lebanon, Israel, Iran), Armenia, also Greece and Sicily, China also has good claims." Then she pointed me to this article about the History of Wine on Wikipedia that summarized what she had in mind. Sweet! Her invite isn't live yet, but based on my exchange with her, I sourced some wines and started testing pairings.

In the Glass

I began to look for wines that were from those regions and aged in amphorae. That was tougher to find than I thought. Then I came across a bottle of Retsina from the Peloponnese. So for my first Ancient World wine adventure, I headed to Greece.

Retsina is a traditional Greek wine that includes the addition of resin from the pine tree Pinus Halepensis during fermentation. I've actually read that as well as the addition, the barrels are also sealed with pine sap during aging. But I can't find that article again. So, I can't verify that bit of trivia.

This Retsina, a single varietal 100% Roditis, was made by Gai’a Estate which was named after Mother Earth and established in 1994 by Leon Karatsalos and winemaker Yiannis Paraskevopoulos. Their mission was to utilize Greece’s indigenous grapes and merge traditional viticultural and production methods with innovative techniques.


I rarely try a wine that just makes my head spin, as in complete befuddlement. I have never tried a Retsina and honestly couldn't decide if I wanted another sip or to toss it out and drink something else. So completely unique. We ended up experimenting with differing pairings and are more than a little intrigued. I shared those comments on social media and received some responses that ranged the gamut...
  • Not my favorite. - J
  • Whenever I was in Greece, I only had retsina and ouzo! Many glasses thrown into fireplaces! Yasou! It took me a few tries but I grew to like retsina. - I
  • Oh! Now I want to try some so badly!! - A
  • This sounds interesting. A friend gave me a bottle of gin that was very heavily laden with Juniper berry and I loved it. I might have to give it a try. - O
  • I couldn’t really get to a point where I wanted to drink retsina... - C
  • OMG love this description!! Welcome to my world growing up with Retsina that my grandfather made and we enjoyed some variation at every relative’s house! - T

Have you ever tried a Retsina? What did you think??

On the Plate

So, I decided to try a new-to-me Greek recipe with a rabbit that I had gotten from friends who homestead locally. While Jake and I were torn on the wine, and didn't really enjoy this pairing, this recipe was delicious. The version I adapted was from Crete.

Ingredients

  • 1 rabbit (about 3 lbs.), cut into 6 to 8 pieces
  • freshly ground salt
  • freshly ground pepper
  • 4 T olive oil
  • 1 onion, peeled and cubed
  • 1 fennel bulb, trimmed and thinly sliced (reserve the fronds)
  • 5 to 6 cloves garlic, peeled and smashed
  • 4 to 5 carrots, halved and cut into 3" lengths
  • 2 C diced tomatoes
  • 1 C liquid (broth or water)
  • 1/2 C white wine
  • 3 bay leaves
  • 2 small sprigs fresh organic rosemary
  • one 2" stick cinnamon
  • 2 C potatoes, scrubbed and cubed (I used Yukon gold)
  • 2 T fennel fronds + more for garnish
  • 1 C pitted olives (I used green olives)
  • Also needed: steamed rice for serving

Procedure

Season rabbit with salt and pepper. Heat 3 T oil in a Dutch oven over medium heat. Working in batches, if needed, add the rabbit pieces and cook, turning once, until browned, approximately 4 minutes per side. Transfer rabbit to a plate.

Pour remaining 1 T oil to the same pot. Stir in onions and fennel, cooking until the onions are softened and beginning to turn translucent. Stir in the garlic and add the browned rabbit back into the pot. Place carrots on top of the meat, then add in the tomatoes, liquid (I used chicken broth), and wine. Nestle the bay leaves, fresh rosemary, and cinnamon stick into the stew. Sprinkle in the fennel fronds. 

Bring liquid to a boil, then cover and reduce to a simmer. Cook for an hour. Stir in the potatoes and olives and return to a simmer. Cover and cook for another 30 to 40 minutes. The potatoes should be fork tender.


Transfer rabbit and vegetables to a large serving platter or bowl. Remove the rosemary and cinnamon stick. Bring the sauce to a boil and cook until thickened and reduced, approximately 5 to 6 minutes. Pour the thickened sauce over the rabbit and vegetables and serve immediately with steamed rice.

Stay tuned for more of my Ancient World recipes and pairings. While this wasn't my favorite wine and pairing, I am enjoying this culinary challenged levied by Nicole for #WinePW.

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