When you think of Greek delicacies, visions of crisp Greek salads, made-to-order souvlaki (gyro), fresh feta cheese, tzatziki, and spanakopita come to mind. Greece evokes a sense of hunger—both in the sense of adventure and appetite. Go beyond the staples of Greek cuisine and dare to dip into the true local flavors of Greece by picking fruit, joining a fisherman out at sea, and eating homemade dolmades in a local barn. Do as the Greeks do, and wash it all down with a swig or two of ouzo if you dare, it’s 42 percent alcohol. If that’s an alarming alcohol content for you, don’t worry, Greek wines are equally delicious.
Greek cuisine is heavily influenced by seasonal produce and calls for the highest-quality ingredients. Dishes are seasoned to perfection with fresh herbs such as oregano, thyme, bay leaves, rosemary, and almost always—lemon slices and olive oil. Traditional recipes vary by region in Greece but focus on simple recipes that let the natural flavors of the ingredients shine.
In the islands, you’d be remiss not to have meals of freshly caught seafood. The bounties of fish caught on the Aegean Sea are tenderly cooked and pair well with home-grown vegetables, bread made from local barley and wheat, greens gathered in the mountains, and fresh goat cheese. Try fried fish dipped in a zesty sauce, savoro, made of olive oil, vinegar, rosemary, and oregano.
As each island has its own microclimate, what’s on offer varies from one island to the next. Be sure to always ask for local specialties such as crithmum (rock samphire) which grows wild by the seashore. On Tinos Island, petimezi (grape molasses) is often added to food giving it a unique flavor. On Mytilini order red mullets with a barley rusk crust; on Lesvos try oven-baked fish with tahini; on Rhodes enjoy chub mackerel with capers; on Santorini grab a fish pie made with Mediterranean sand smelt; on Kimolos Island go for the stuffed squid feta cheese.
In Greece, even the cheese loves wine. On Sifnos and Folegandros Islands manoura cheese ripens in wine sediment and on Kos the krasotyri is a ridged, log-form wine cheese. Wine cheese can also be enjoyed on Nisyros and Leros Islands.
Dionysus is the ancient Greek god of winemaking. Honor the god by enjoying a variety of Greek wines. Limnos is where you can enjoy wine from Mithymna which was once believed to be drunk exclusively by the Olympian gods. According to Homer’s Iliad, the local wines put an irresistible spell on people. See for yourself by enjoying wine from local grape varieties including quality white wines and sweet wines made from Moschato Alexandrias on the island’s volcanic terroir. Red wine lovers will want to try Kalampaki which is cultivated in east Limnos.
Chios is also known for a wine associated with the ancient Greek Gods, Ariousios Oinos. The red wine is referred to as the nectar of the Gods. While around the country you can find strong Greek red wine such as syglino, viticulture is being revived in Thrace. It’s here that in Homer’s Odysseus offers the Giant Polyphemus wine from Ismaros port town to get him intoxicated in what’s presumed to have been Avdira town.