A very good friend of mine is getting married this Fall who posed a wine pairing conundrum: which wine to serve? While there are endless possibilities, her situation had a couple of caveats:
1) The venue for the reception does not allow any red wine to be served, because the space is actually lined with white marble.
2) Oh, lamb is on the menu, so that white wine should pair well with that too…
3) … and there will be around 300 guests, so it has to have an excellent price to quality ratio.
The issue is a common one, I think, and we actually challenged ourselves in an office tasting two years ago that I wrote about on snooth, in which we paired whites wines with barbecue and red wines with fish … with great results. But on a value level (without compromising quality, of course), it poses another level of difficulty.
It is easy enough to find a white wine that behaves like a red wine–but only at a certain price point. Wines with great, red wine-like structure, like a Savennières or a Ramato-style Pinot Grigio from Friuli, are not inexpensive, typically starting at around $30 on the retail shelf. Not exactly ideal for a larger crowd of 300.
The solution came after brainstorming with many of my restaurateurs and retailers. More off than not, the answer that came back was Assyrtiko from Greece (pronounced Ah-sere-tea-koh).
And why not? They do serve lots of lamb in Greece, so why not choose a Greek white? Grown on the poor soils of a volcanic crater-island, Assyrtiko offers richness, minerality, smoky, haunting flavors, making it a wine that really does lend itself well to red meat (and it works, we had it with meatloaf last weekend to test it out). And there are several good ones on the market: Athina, Argyros, Gai’a, Sigalas. Try it for yourself. And if it piques your interest, you can find out more about Assyrtiko and other Greek wines here or in a recent article by Eric Asimov.