What’s the most interesting wine you have experienced lately?
For my own answer, I’ll go back a couple of months ago when I opened this bottle of semi-sparkling orange wine from northwestern Greece (Zitsa to be specific.) I had in mind to make roasted tomato toasts as an appetizer, and this wine seemed like it would be up to the challenging flavors. See, roasted tomatoes are still quite acidic, and I tossed them in oregano — two strong attributes that can make wine pairing difficult. But I had high hopes that this little wine oddity might do just the trick…and it did!
The wine itself is very herbaceous and actually has just a touch of sweetness so it was a perfect foil to the tomato toasts. For those of you wondering what in the hell is orange wine…this is simply when white wine grapes are not immediately pressed (before fermentation.) Grape skins are what give all wines their color, and when whole white grapes are allowed to ferment (versus just their juice) the skins imbue the wine with varying degrees of orange color and an interesting mouth-feel. Here, the local white grape Debina is actually blended with a touch of a native red grape — adding even more color. Evidently semi-sparkling wines are an old tradition of this region, and this is an homage to that history. It actually has quite a bit of sparkle initially (which also makes it play nicely with food), but that subsides quickly. I served it with a bit of skepticism and even opened a bottle of white just in case. But the little orange wine did not last long — always a good sign! Lesson learned again — don’t be afraid to think outside your proverbial wine box!
P.S. If you are more interested in making roasted tomato toasts than drinking orange wine — the process is easy…place cherry/grape tomatoes in a baking dish/roasting pan and season with salt, black pepper, and dried oregano. Drizzle with enough olive oil to thoroughly coat. Roast in a 250 degree oven for about 4 hours. Allow a log of fresh goat cheese to come to room temperature. Place in mixing bowl and season with salt, black pepper, and dried herbs of your choice. Mash with a fork or spoon and begin to stir ingredients together. Slowly add enough olive oil to create spreadable consistency. Toast high quality (preferably locally made) bread until just crispy. Drizzle with more olive oil. Smear with the goat cheese mixture. Top with roasted tomatoes and fresh basil (or parsley.) Eat your heart out!