Zambartas Wine and Food Pairing

Zambartas Wine and Food Pairing

at the Dionysus Mansion in Limassol

Thursday 19th April 2018 was an important day for me for adding to my taste-memory album. You see some people have photographic memories, some people find it easy to sing in tune. Now, in my case, I have a pretty good memory for taste, which is quite useful when I am experimenting in the kitchen and preparing new food combinations. I tend to remember the taste of exceptional food and where I have eaten it.

For example, I remember the taste of the best roast lamb I have eaten. It was at a restaurant in Nafpaktos in Greece approximately in the year 2000.  The most memorable Courgettes with beef Kokkinisto were prepared by my Yiayia when I was about 12. My mouth waters to think about them. The best Tavas dish I have eaten was in a little restaurant near Aphrodite Hills about eight years ago.

I could go on, but you get the picture. Well on this April day I ate a dish that goes in the exceptional taste album that I have in my memory banks.

I had come to the Zambartas Wine and Food pairing dinner that they had organised in Limassol at the Dionysus Mansion. Having taken part in a few videos on wine and food pairing, I was interested in the subject and Zambartas is a winery in Agios Amvrosios in the Limassol District which I hold in high regard both for the quality of their wines and for the fact that they have an organic approach to vine growing, bringing only a “limited intervention to nature’s way”, as they put it. They do not use chemical fertilisers and irrigate only a few times a year. The winery is included in my earlier article, “My seven top Cyprus Wine discoveries for 2017” with special mention of its Maratheftiko 2014. I would have liked to have organised around this event a 2-day wine tour for Wines and Tours but did not learn of the event in sufficient time to prepare this. I booked myself a night at a cheap hostel within walking distance and came along as an ordinary customer for my own enjoyment.

I like to arrive relaxed at an event like this and turned up a little early. I took a few photos and checked out messages on my IPAD. In the background George Zacharoglou, the manager, was giving a final briefing to his waitering staff. I was very impressed with the professionalism with which everything was being organised.

A little before the start time of 8pm, one of the waiters offered me some of the first wine, a young Xynisteri. He said that the place designated for me was at the table for six by the window. They had put together the six people who had come to the event on their own. I had the delightful company initially of just two Sommeliers, and then of two lovely English ladies who had come down from Nicosia for the event and also of a charming Indian lady living in Milan, working for a fashion House, now on a two-day business trip to Cyprus.

They had put together the six people who had come to the event on their own.

To accompany the Xynisteri, the waiters brought round what the French call an “Amuse Bouche”, a single piece of hors d’oeuvre destined to whet one’s appetite.  It was an interesting choice, a Greekified Sushi with a tiny piece of tuna in sushi rice wrapped in vine leaf a la “Dolmades”.

All of the menu was interesting and paired nicely with the wines. It was not surprising that something really special was to emerge from it. One of the interesting delicacies we had, was heated Feta Cheese in a Kantaifi crust and a tomato marmalade. Another was a delicious Zucchini and Salmon croquette. The young Zambartas Rosé made from a blend of Cabernet Franc and Lefkada paired well with these. The dessert of Pumpkin Cheesecake with raisins and thyme honey served with Zambartas Commandaria was pretty special too.

The dessert of Pumpkin Cheesecake with raisins and thyme honey served with Zambartas Commandaria was pretty special too.

But the Pièce de Resistance, the Crème de la Crème, the part of the meal that would remain forever etched in my memory was to be found in the main course. There were three main courses to be precise. You see in Cyprus (I have this fear too when I prepare a dinner for guests) we tend to worry that our guests will leave the table hungry, whereas, in reality most people are already fairly full by the time we get to the main course.

We had five wines in total. With our main courses we had the Zambartas Shiraz-Lefkada 2013. The Lefkada red grape originates from Greece after the Ionian island of that name. However, it has been widely adopted in Cyprus and its production here probably now surpasses that of Greece. It has become a kind of indigenous grape by adoption. It is noted for its spicyness, and Zambartas have blended it very well with their Shiraz and it paired nicely with all three of our main courses.

I will probably remember the whole menu forever, but there is one of the main courses that really stood out in my mind. The three main courses comprised first, thin slices of pork belly marinated in Zambartas Shiraz-Lefkada red wine and peppermint, second, beef fillet “Kontosouvli” flavoured with basil oil and finally Grilled lamb chops. “Kontosouvli” is a meat skewer that has chunks larger than in “Souvlaki” but smaller than in “Souvla”. I have only come across beef as the meat of choice in this type of food in Corfu. In Cyprus one usually finds souvlaki as pork or chicken and souvla as either pork, lamb or chicken.

“Kontosouvli” is a meat skewer that has chunks larger than in “Souvlaki” but smaller than in “Souvla”

The three dishes were all special, but when I took that first bite into the tender succulence of the beef Kontosouvli, I knew that this would be sharing a place in my food memories with that remarkable roast lamb that I had eaten in Nafpaktos nearly twenty years ago.

Zambartas Wine and Food Pairing

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