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Wine A - Z: Xarel-lo and Xynomavro

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In the alphabetical world of grape varietals, there just happen to be one white and one red to represent the letter 'X.' Who knew? Both are well-established, very regional varietals. Xarel-lo is a white grape from Spain, and Xynomavro is a red grape grown in Greece.

As Champagne is to France, Cava is to Spain. More specifically, to the Penedes region of Spain. Like champagne, cava comes with varying degrees of sweet to dry, and can be either vintage or non-vintage. Just as champagne is legally regulated to production from a select list of grapes, so is cava. One of those main grapes is Xarel-lo (along with Parellada, Macabeo, Chardonnay, and Subirat), whose role in the cava blend is bring a round body, firm acidity, and complexity.

Xarel-lo is also made into a fine still wine, known for it's balanced sugars and acids, and has shown to have a high degree of the antioxidant resveratrol. It has light colored, yet thick skin. In some parts of Spain, it is spelled without the hyphen - Xarello. Penedes is located on the North-East coast of Spain in the Catalonian region, and it is no surprise that wine made from Xarel-lo, in both it's still and sparkling versions, is a great companion to seafood dishes.

Along a different portion of the Mediterranean Sea is Greece, home to a red grape known as Xynomavro. Xynomavro is one of Greece's two most important red varietals, the other being Agiorgitiko. While not well-known in the United States, wines from Greece are currently getting more attention than before. One of the better known reds is a wine called Naoussa, made from the Xynomavro grape. Another popular Greek wine is Goumenissa, in which Xynomavro is blended with Negoska grapes.

The name Xynomavro breaks down as Xyno, meaning acid, and Mavro, meaning black. It is grown in the Macedonia region of Greece, as well as in the foothills of Mount Olympus, in the Rapsani wine region, in Thessaly. It produces a wine that is often deep red in color, but not necessarily as dense on the palate. It is typically a late ripening grape, yet retains high amounts of acidity and tannin, making an age-worthy wine. Tasting notes for wines made from Xynomavro often recount a tomato-y flavor on the palate, as well as red fruits and spice.

Next time you are searching for a wine to impress your guests with your knowledge of obscure wine grapes, X marks the spot!

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