Whether you are a wine enthusiast or just enjoy a glass of quality wine with your meal, now is the time when visiting Mykonos to sample some of the island’s finest wines. There are plenty of opportunities to taste a variety of wines at Saint John’s Symposium restaurant as they have an extensive wine list of international and local wines to accompany their array of wonderful delicious dishes. However, there are also many restaurants in the area that offer wine tasting evenings too, which are very much a cultural event on Mykonos.
Wine, as we know is not just a beverage, but also a flavor agent in regional and international cuisine. Greek chefs especially, use different wines a great deal in sauces and marinades bringing additional flavor and moisture to their dishes.
During your stay on Mykonos, learn a little about the local wines and take note of the recipes that include it in their ingredients. Greek people are only too happy to share their secrets of their wonderful cooking.
“I cook with wine; sometimes I even add it to the food.”
W.C. Fields (American comedian, actor, juggler and writer)
Greece is one of the oldest wine-producing regions in the world and evidence confirms that Greece is home to the second oldest known grape vine remnants plus the world’s earliest crushed grapes. Wine-making became popular during the period of 1600 BC and onwards, when Greeks began to worship “Dionysus”, god of wine (pictured above). Several festivals were held throughout the year in honor of his name and they included theatrical performances of both comedies and tragedies.
The medicinal use of wine was frequently studied by the Greeks too, including Hippocrates, who did extensive research on the topic. He used wine as a cure for fevers, to ease convalescence and as an antiseptic, and he readily prescribed it to his patients.
In ancient times, the reputation of a wine depended on the region it came from rather than an individual producer or vineyard. The most common wine in ancient Greece was sweet and aromatic with only a few drier wines being produced at that time. It was almost always diluted; usually with water (or snow when the wine was to be served cold) as the Greek men saw that drinking too much of it would lead to undesirable conduct. They asserted that the dilution of wine with water was indeed a mark of civilized behavior.
There are many wine growing regions all over Greece including Crete, Macedonia, the Peloponnese, the Ionian Islands, Epirus and the Aegean Islands; Santorini, Kos, Limnos, Paros, Rhodes and Samos. However, a winery is also gradually being developed on Mykonos too.
The Mykonos ecological vineyard is located in Maou, an agricultural region near Ano Mera, the most populated village on the island. It hosts Cycladic varieties of wine along with international varieties too. Eventually, the winery will have completed construction and house a cellar, production area, visitor reception, catering and tasting tours for the members of public.
A good quality fine wine goes well with cheese, a snack, as a beverage in the evening and with any meal when served with the correct type of food. Generally, the rule is that light-colored wines (white/rose) accompany light-colored meats, while dark-colored wines (red) are served with dark-colored meats.
Red or white/rose wines, for example, can be served with pork, while red dinner wines go well with hearty or highly seasoned foods, such as beef, game, duck, goose, and pasta dishes. White dinner wines are best with dishes containing chicken, turkey, fish, shellfish, ham, and veal.
In Greece, it is quite usual to see carafes of wine including “Retsina”, (a resinated wine with a unique flavor) flowing freely on every dinner table, especially with meals being served on the beach.
A chilled fine wine is also pleasant when watching the spectacular sunset fall over the Aegean Sea.
With its sunny climate, rich history and traditional culture, Mykonos is a dream travel destination which leaves many of its visitors spellbound and eager to return. Apart from the tiny picturesque villages that dot the rugged hillsides, the long stretches of sandy beaches and the flurry of activity during the summer months at the popular coastal resorts, Chora, the beautiful town of Mykonos, with its old-world charm is just as inviting.
Chora, although a sleepy haven during the winter, soon becomes a thriving holiday town towards the end of spring. It’s particularly popular for its cosmopolitan and easy lifestyle that can be enjoyed at many of the small cafes, bars and local restaurants; it’s a place for discovery, relaxation and enjoyment whilst without doubt being breathtakingly beautiful and incredibly interesting.
The Cycladic town is made up of narrow winding streets lined with intriguing stores of every kind. Shoppers can slowly wander the cobbled paths, browse the variety of souvenir stands and peer in small-paned windows for countless of hours. White-washed houses with low terraces and brightly colored shutters in shades of bright blue, green and red are a common sight just like the pretty squares surrounded by Bougainville trees in purple bloom.
It is not unusual to come across a friendly pelican or two in Chora, as they too like their fair share of sightseeing. They wander the streets quite happily throughout the day often posing for photographs and seem quite oblivious to the hoards of visitors embarking from the ferry boats on a regular basis.
The pelicans have been considered lucky mascots by the islanders ever since one was found wounded in 1958 and subsequently nursed back to health. “Petros”, a Great White Pelican lived happily being taken care of by locals until he was sadly struck by a car in 1985 and fatally injured. He was so popular that even today; visitors returning to the island still look for his presence.
On approaching the harbor of Alefkandra, the seven Mykonos windmills near the village of Neochori, can be seen perched on the hill overlooking the neighborhood of Little Venice in Chora and the Aegean Sea. Most of them face north and are prominent landmarks, seen from every point of the island. There are another nine windmills on Mykonos, most built by the Venetians in the 16th century, when they were used for milling wheat. One of the picturesque windmills has been maintained as a museum where visitors can see exhibits from the times wheat was used from the mills in the island’s bakeries. In fact, a relic in Neochori, is a working example of one of Mykonos’s bakeries of past time and is also worth a visit.
The many small white domed, churches, chapels and monasteries dotted around Mykonos add to the island’s extraordinary beauty and some have been designated as historical monuments by the Ministry of Culture. In Chora, stands the tiny church of Agia Kyriaki situated just behind the windmills and Agia Panachra, the Catholic Church which is located close to the Orthodox Cathedral of Mykonos. The most well-known church on Mykonos is Agia Paraportiani, built in the 15th century. It’s particularly interesting as the building is constructed of four separate churches. There is also the beautiful Monastery of Panagia Tourliani in the village of Ano Mera just 8 Km east of Chora. The village’s historical landmark was founded by monks in 1542.
There are two harbors on Mykonos; the old harbor was used over 15 years ago for all arrivals and departures to the island, however, today it is a haven of small fishing boats and perhaps one or two luxury yachts that have been permitted to dock there. The main harbor, in Tourlos is quite close to the town, but requires taking a bus from the main bus station near the windmills or a taxi from the waterfront if carrying luggage. Most ferries leave and depart here, along with cruise ships heading for other islands, Rafina and Piraeus.
The Mykonos Archaeological Museum, in Chora was built in 1902 and houses a beautiful and rich collection of Greek pottery, sculptures and antiques representing works from the 6th century BC. There is also the Folklore Museum containing old furniture, ceramics, Byzantine icons and hand-woven textiles. Other fascinating museums can also be found in Tria Pigadia; the Naval Museum of the Aegean, built in 1985 and formerly a Mycenaean captain’s home is devoted to featuring replicas of boats, old maps, engravings and ancient coins, whilst Lena’s House is a showcase of a 19th century Mycenaean house complete with furnishings and décor.
Here lies another gem of Mykonos; Chora, its beautiful ancient historic town.
Easter in Greece is the most celebrated and significant holiday on the calendar and within the Greek Orthodox Church. The preparations for Easter are just as important as the festivities and many of the old-established customs and traditions are still passed down from generation to generation, keeping family ties as strong as ever in today’s modern society.
Although the days, (Holy week) leading up to Easter are deemed very sorrowful and sad in respect for the crucifixion, the celebrations that follow on Easter Sunday are colorful and lively with sumptuous feasts, drinking and dancing. Holy week is also a time for fasting and the Greek diet excludes meat, fish, (but not seafood), eggs, oil and dairy products. This fasting has actually begins seven weeks before Easter Sunday on “Clean Monday”.
Holy Thursday marks a busy day for the women at home; distinctive aromas of freshly baked sweet Easter bread, “Tsoureki” and tasty biscuits, “Koulourakia” linger in kitchens throughout Greece, and women and children dye dozens of boiled eggs vivid red or an array of bright colors.
The ruby red eggs symbolize the blood of Christ and also the renewal of life.
Holy Thursday is also a time for private and special prayers; it is a start of a two day traditional mourning, when most people of all ages go to church to light brown candles and to silently pray next to a symbolic representation of the crucifixion. Church services are held in the evening and many of the older women will even hold a night- time vigil.
An aura of great sadness falls over Greek communities on Holy Friday as the steady death toll rings out all over the country. It is a day of deep mourning with flags at half-mast and a somber atmosphere prevails in many homes. During the afternoon church services, there is a re-enactment of the crucifixion where the figure of Christ is removed from the cross and placed in a shrine that has been decorated with flowers by women and children.
Later in the evening, a subdued congregation follows the shrine, (representing Christ’s tomb) in a silent candlelit funeral procession as it is carried through the streets. The crowded procession stops on every corner in the neighborhood, while a priest announces that they are all mourning the death of Christ. On returning to church, everyone who attended the service receives a carnation or rose to take home.
Holy Saturday is a day of last minute preparations for Easter Sunday’s celebrations. For example, the traditional Easter soup, Mayiritsa (which signifies that the forty day of fasting is finally over) is prepared from lamb offal ready to eat after the midnight church service. Special long decorated candles instead of the brown ones are used to celebrate Christ’s resurrection and all over the country anticipation mounts.
Late in the evening, crowds of people descend on the church for the most celebrated service in Greece. Then, just before midnight, the lights in the church are extinguished and the bells start to ring out the announcement that Christ has risen. Finally, a priest passes a single eternal flame from his candle to pass round the congregation and the dark sky overhead is lit up with fireworks. “Christos Anesti” – Christ has risen can be heard all around.
It is a tradition in Greece to carefully carry the eternal flame home to make a cross with black smoke over the top of the door, which is said to bless the house. After everyone has returned home, it is time for the Mayiritas soup and the red boiled eggs. However, first, each person has to see who has the strongest egg by smashing it together with their opponents.
After the previous evening’s excitement and early morning meal, surprisingly, nearly everyone is up early on Easter Sunday. In most cases from the bright of dawn, grills are fired up and the traditional lamb or goat along with “Kokoretsi”, (seasoned lamb offal) is already turning slowly on the spit. Tables are prepared for a great feast and the aroma of roast meat wafts over the countryside and from the rooftops in the city. Loud Greek music drifts through the air and high-spirited Greeks are ready for eating, drinking, singing and dancing all afternoon at their family Easter celebration.