Yes, Easter… A thrilling time of the year. It’s perhaps because I was brought up in this land that I find Easter celebration even more vibrant here, in the Balkan area.
From unknown parishes to the largest cities, generations of Orthodox Christians flock to the churches on the days before Easter, in mourning spirits, only to rejoice on Sunday morning. For, on Easter Sunday at midnight, from timeless monasteries on cliffs to the large cathedral churches, bells announce the Resurrection, while millions of voices chant “Christ has risen from death” throughout the East of the continent. One hour later, holding lighted candles, the crowds disperse to their homes, while a few remain for the service till dawn.
At home, tables are set for the feast. All sorts of mezédes2 have been carefully prepared for what is the preceding act of Sunday’s Easter lunch. As for drinks, although some may prefer ouzo, raki or țuică with the mezédes, in this region, like in other parts of Europe, wine has seemingly been on the Easter table since the beginning of Christianity. Artisanal wines, redolent of the past, that many households still proudly make, delight friends and families in many parts of the region. Today’s modern wines are also there, to offer the broad range of styles that the variety of foods demand. Imagine a wine route which may start in North Romania to reach Greece’s Aegean islands and some foods the locals enjoy on Easter. The fresh whites of Lechința appellation in Transylvania would pleasantly accompany appetisers based on simply cooked shellfish. Grilled oily fish like sardines or goby – the latter is very popular in Romania – would ideally pair with the wines made on Santorini island, where Assyrtiko tastes like nowhere else. More weighty mezédes, such as dolmádes3, taramosaláta4 or drob5 would be better enjoyed with Retsina, that unique formula of a rather neutral wine seasoned with pine tree resin. Those delicious hot starters, many of them based on cooked feta cheese, would ask for a medium-bodied crisp dry white. Here, I can’t help naming one single wine, that is Biblia Chora White – a unique blend of Sauvignon Blanc and Assyrtiko – although many others would do.
Nevertheless, the true feast is Sunday’s lunch, starring the roast lamb. PDO Naoussa or PGI Imathia appellations in Greece’s Macedonia region produce the perfect red wines for this delicacy. Cabernet Sauvignon wines from Bulgaria’s Thracian Valley or Dealu Mare appellation in Romania are also there to do the best.
To end our culinary and oeno-geographic itinerary, I briefly hint at the dessert wines made on the island of Samos.
As for me, I will write two new articles on my food and wine picks for 2017’s Easter.
Faith, friendship, families together, food prepared with love and care… and wine… are definite marks of the Easter celebration in Southeast Europe.
- 1 The Ancient Greek word for wine. FORMAL or LITERARY in Modern Greek.
- 2 Appetisers in Greek. Plural of mezé.
- 3 Vine leaves stuffed with rice, herbs and spices. Greek word, plural of dolmá. The word may also refer to stuffed vegetable recipes in general.
- 4 Fish roe dip.
- 5 Romanian speciality. Put simply, this is a paste made primarily of lamb offals – liver, kidney, heart, etc, seasoned with herbs and wrapped in the caul of the lamb.
Categories: Reviews & Opinion