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!