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Naoussa Wines: Experiencing the Xinomavro grape varietal

Georgia Fondi holding the elegant Lady of Naoussa wine.
Georgia Fondi holding the elegant Lady of Naoussa wine.
Cori Solomon

Continuing my exploration of Greek wines, I was invited to discover the wines of Naoussa, a region in Northern Greece that is centered around the town of Naoussa. This town is located in western Macedonia at the foothills of Mount Vermion. Naoussa is known for producing wines from the Xinomavro grape. The vineyards of Naoussa encompass 700 hectares.

Melitzani was one of many wines sampled at the Naoussa Wines tasting at the Angeleno Hotel.
Cori Solomon

The region is the first PDO, Protected Designation of Origin. Naoussa received this designation in 1971. This means that the wines produced from the Xinomavro grape have been grown in a certain way and the vines bear a particular yield. Under the guidelines of the PDO if a label designates the wine as a reserve, it has been aged for 24 months. If it specifies Grande Reserve it has aged at least 48 months.

Xinomavro means acid black in Greek and this grape has very black skin. The wine has characteristic flavors of olives and dry tomatoes, making it an extremely desirable wine to accompany Mediterranean food.

History shows that this wine-growing region was plagued with phylloxera in the 1930s. In the 1960s and 1970s the area was replanted with Xinomavro. The grape was chosen due its resistant to diseases.

At this wine tasting at the Angeleno Hotel in Los Angeles, I tasted a variety of wines created from the Xinomavro grape. They ranged in texture, complexity and body. Of those wines these were my favorites.

I started with a very light yet fruity 2008 Xinomavro from Estate Foundi, a wine aptly named “The Lady from Naoussa” because the winemaker is female and the wine exhibits feminine qualities. Created by Georgia Foundi, I found this wine elegantly balanced and one that could carry itself with almost any type of cuisine because of its lightness. It is a perfect summer wine for those who do not want a white wine or Rosé.

Having just spent time during Down to Earth Month learning about the biodynamic process of making wine, I was intrigued to find the Thymiopoulos Vineyards Uranos 2011. It was very fruity and balanced. The philosophy of this biodynamic winery and vineyard is not to stress the vine. This can be difficult when the grapes are grown in very rocky mountainous soils. The winemaker, Apostolos Thimiopoulos explained the significance of the label to me. The circle stands for oxygen, the line means equates to the soil and the wave of the line is the water that is necessary to grow the Xinomavro grape, while the dot represents the light or sun that is needed to ripen the grape. All these facets play a part in biodynamic practices.

I sampled three wines from Vaeni and met with Yannis Pliatsikass, the winemaker from Vaeni. I enjoyed all three wines. The 2008 Naoussa although deep red in color, it is a light textured and very dry wine. The 2006 Damaskinos is also light but I found the wine very bright and balanced. The aging process of this wine is quite interesting. After 12 months in French Oak barrels, the wine is than placed for six months in new oak barrels that are intensely smoked and adds a smoky aroma to the wine. This is followed by six months in the bottle. My favorite was the 2006 Naoussa Grande Reserve. This wine with its deep red color is a rich full-bodied wine with complexity and structure.

The 2008 Estate Chrisohoou Xinomavro has a marvelous dark color with rich textures exuding hints of cherry but at the same time one perceives the classic tomato flavors that are so apparent in the Xinomavro grape.

The Diamantakos Naoussa 2008 is a nice drinkable wine with aromas of red berries.

I found the Kelesidis Merchali 2006 a smooth very dry wine.

Ktima’s 2010 Naoussa Melitzani, a dark colored wine that is balanced, very dry with flavors of cherry.

Summarizing these Greek wines I tasted, I found a resemblance to those of the local wineries I have sampled in the South of France. Although the grape varietals are different, perhaps it is the Mediterranean culture and similar terrior of both areas that influences the winemaking.

As my second venture into Greek Wines, I continue to be impressed with the quality of winemaking in this country. I started by experiencing coastal wines and have moved to the more mountainous regions that have a greater elevation. Both areas possess an inherent beauty that inspires me delve deeper into the wines, sites and local traditions of Greece.

For more information:

Naoussa Wines

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