by Markus Stolz

A step ahead?

byMarkus Stolz
March 31, 2010, 10 Comments

The Netherlands might be a small country, but the Dutch certainly impressed me with their open attitude towards Greek wines. Martin Van Der Heiden shares a similar past with me: He spent most of his career in the financial industry before deciding to promote Greek wines full-time. He is now a successful wine merchant in the Netherlands, concentrating heavily on the gastronomy. Martin organised several wine and food events in Rotterdam, Amsterdam and Sprang Capelle over a 3-day period and kindly asked Alexandra Manousakis and myself if we would like to attend.

On our first day, we witnessed a presentation of a number of Greek wines to Dutch end consumers. This was followed by a 4-course dinner at the Smaak restaurant in Rotterdam. On the next day we visited a modern styled Greek-Mediterranean restaurant before driving to Amsterdam, where a number of private wine lovers made their way to the very cute and exciting Fyra restaurant. The restaurant offered Greek wines to accompany a special menu for all diners, and the owner took great care of introducing their guests to the wines from Greece. I wish that more restaurants would make a similar effort, the diners certainly were very intrigued indeed.

The highlight of our visit was certainly the last day – we drove to the Restaurant/Hotel Le Défi where the top Sommeliers of the country were present to taste Greek wines. A total of 14 different wines were shown from Argyros, Gerovassiliou, Claudia Papayianni, Alpha Estate, Kir Yiannis, Manousakis and Karelas. After two hours of intense tasting a selection of the mentioned wines then accompanied a stunning menu that was out of this world.

First we enjoyed cod served with oyster, avocado and crisp sourdough with Champagne vinaigrette, which matched beautiful with a Malagousia from Gerovassiliou. The zander with veal cheek, pineapple, popcorn (no typo) and parsley coulis strived with the great acidity of the Claudia Papayiannis Assyrtiko-Malagousia-Chardonnay blend. For me, the most successful pairing was the dove with cherry, artichoke and mustard texture with the Manousakis Grenache 2006. Also superb was a foie gras and bacon cake that went perfectly with Alpha Estate Omega Late Harvest, a blend of 85% Gewürtztraminer and 15% Malagousia. The cuisine at Le Défi is extremely sophisticated, and the Greek wines were not only able to cope well, they certainly enhanced the exciting flavours of the dishes.

Apart from Martin, Alexandra and myself, the following guests participated: Michael Daas (Sommelier and Maitre at La Défi), Alexander Renner (former Sommelier of Parkheuvel), Adrian Zarzo Habraken (former Sommelier of De Librije, now Ivy), Job Seuren (Sommelier Solo), Marcel en Maaske von Zommern (Chef and Gastronom at Restaurant Rustaat) and his wife, Maurice van Bussel (Restaurant Critic), Robert Benier (Wine Importer) and a gentleman from the Winelife Magazine. And of course Sophie Post, a childhood friend from Alexandra, who simply is a wonderful person! She went out of her way to make sure that we had a great time – thanks so much Sophie!

The conclusion from the Dutch Sommeliers was that Greece today features Gourmet wines par exccelence. Given that the mentioned Sommeliers work(ed) in restaurants that represent a total of 10 Michelin stars, this certainly can be seen as a true expert opinion. I noticed that these experts are excited to promote Greek wines to their clients – this seems to set them apart from their German counterparts, who also value Greek wines highly, but deemed them to be a “tough sell” in the past. I have stated before that I clearly see a shift in the attitudes towards Greek wines, and I am hopeful that the German market will also benefit from this.

On a much more lighter note, my other favourite impressions were:

Most funny wording: “What is the difference between wine matured in a tin tank versus wooden barrel?”
Most astonishing look-alike: Pizza maker looked like Johnny Depp in Pirates of the Caribbean.
Most suprising hotel: CitizenM in Amsterdam City – ever seen a single hotel room with toilet, shower and bed? I mean, all in the same room, not en suite? What a fun place this was!


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  1. DIMITRIS SEITANIDISMarch 31, 2010, 5:16 pm

    Excellent review!!

    Thank you for supporting our efforts in promoting Greek Wines to the World!!

  2. Christina KroMarch 31, 2010, 5:29 pm

    Markus, that dinner sounds like an ultimate mouthwatering experience… :-)
    Foie gras and bacon cake?

  3. elloinosMarch 31, 2010, 5:49 pm

    Dimitri, thank you for your kind words. I would like to clarify though that I was unaware of your own promotional efforts with Martin. I had contact with him 9 months ago, and he was on my “list” of contacts to visit.

  4. elloinosMarch 31, 2010, 5:52 pm

    Christina, we had the best food over the 3 days, the menu at Le Defi topped it all. There were also some tiny pre-courses that I did not mention, one a soup of langoustinos on top of liquid chocolate in a tiny flute that was sipped with a straw – incredible!

  5. Viviane Bauquet Farre / Food & StyleMarch 31, 2010, 6:07 pm

    Markus! As always, you wrote a delightful piece… but this time it was also a delicious one. The Dutch are always a step ahead!

  6. elloinosMarch 31, 2010, 6:19 pm

    Viviane, I thought of you while I was enjoying these stunning combinations – shame I was too shy to make pictures of the dishes, the presentation was as perfect as the food itself!

  7. Kostas KatsoulierisApril 1, 2010, 12:34 am

    Markus, you lucky lucky soul! Your blog made me so hungry! I wonder if La Enoteca in Rotterdam has any Greek wines on their list… How truly open minded of the Dutch to have Greek wines in non-Greek restaurants. As Greek wines are so food friendly this might be a way to break into the UK and other markets. I mean I’ve seen Moschofilero on a NYC Dim Sum winelist, have enjoyed a barreled asyrtiko with Chinese food and think modern retsinas ably cope with Indian curries… Kalo Pasxa!

  8. elloinosApril 1, 2010, 11:35 am

    Kosta, so true – I was really impressed by the Dutch. They showed such an honest interest in the wines, and did not exhibit any of the prejudice I have encountered so often in the past. It was a great experience, and I agree totally with you that the wines from Greece are real gems when it comes to food pairing.

  9. Christina KroApril 1, 2010, 11:35 am

    Markus, you are only making things “worse”… :-)
    I tried a dish with lobster and chocolate sauce in Denmark once and it was divine!! Incredible combination…

  10. elloinosApril 1, 2010, 11:42 am

    :-) I certainly admired the food. I also find it quite amazing that the Dutch have been able to integrate top cuisine in their lifestyle, as the “normal” Dutch food is more basic in style. There is a lot of talent out there…