Xinomavro-Naoussa/Amynteo wines satisfy the passion of the wine connoisseur for exploration. These intriguing still dry red wines, aged for two years minimum, are noted for their bright pale to deep red color, high acidity, strong tannins and complex aromatic character. The place of origin and most important growing area of the indigenous Xinomavro grape is northwestern Greece, in the monovarietal appellations of Naoussa and Amynteo. With a multitude of terroirs and elevations combined with Xinomavro’s specificity to environment and subtle changes in winemaking, a broad range of wine styles invites discovery. These distinguished reds are ideal for food with intense and rich flavors.
Xinomavro-Naoussa/Amynteo is a wine lover’s wine. It’s not fruity and sweet, nor soft and round. In its most substantial forms, it’s not a wine for beginners to Greek wines, nor wine period for that matter. Xinomavro-Naoussa/Amynteo age-worthy reds are stern and austere, especially when young, with dry, dusty tannins and saliva-inducing acidity. But anyone patient enough to wait and intrepid enough to delve beneath the tough exterior will discover one of the world’s most singular grapes.
Xinomavro-Naoussa/Amynteo has a breathtaking array of aromas and flavors, complex enough to make even the most beguiling old world wines blush with envy. It tastes like it comes from somewhere, with an unmistakable profile born of the combination of grape and place. It’s exceedingly age-worthy and food friendly, and capable of capturing the attention of anyone tuned in to true terroir wines. At it’s best, Xinomavro-Naoussa/Amynteo is a wine worthy of comparison to, say, the great Nebbiolo-based reds of Barolo, Barbaresco and the Valtellina in north-western Italy, or the structured and savory pinot noirs of the Côtes de Nuits in Burgundy. Xinomavro-Naoussa/Amynteo is an intriguing antidote to homogenized global tastes.
Despite all of the survey and the accumulated knowledge on Xinomavro-Naoussa/Amynteo (one of the two most significant Greek red varieties), its preferred terroirs, vineyard management and winemaking techniques, some producers speculate that only about 30-40% of the grape’s potential has been realized. That’s good news for drinkers; it means there are even greater wines to come from Xinomavro-Naoussa/Amynteo!
Xinomavro-Naoussa/Amynteo, a singular, northern red, is the most significant red grape of northern Greece. For the record, there are 4 appellations in Greece that feature Xinomavro. PDO Goumenissa north of Thessaloniki and PDO Rapsani on the eastern slopes of Mt. Olympus require vintners to blend xinomavro with native Negoska, and Krassato and Stavroto, respectively. But Xinomavro-Naoussa and Xinomavro-Amynteo, planted in two wine growing areas of northwestern Macedonia of great importance, Naoussa and Amynteo, give the mono-varietal appellations PDO Naoussa and PDO Amynteo, where this singular, northern red reveals its deeper character. Both Naoussa and Amynteo produce red wines capable of long ageing, arguably the most age-worthy in all of Greece. Yet between them, there are significant differences.
A wine for those in the know
Few would claim Xinomavro-Naoussa/Amynteo to be an easy-going, consumer friendly wine. It’s idiosyncratic; a wine for those in the know that unveils its complexity to those who passionately explore the road less traveled. True, the sparkling, rosé and light red versions are juicy, bright, crisp and pleasant to drink, and make a fine introduction. These wines can match a wide range of foods, from rich, fatty fish (tuna, salmon, Mediterranean sea bass), especially when grilled, to charcuterie, poultry or any tomato-based dishes (pasta al’pomodoro, stuffed tomatoes). The grape’s high acidity also makes it suitable for salads dressed with vinaigrette. A wine for those in the know, the sparkling and rosés even make for fine patio sipping all on their own.
The fuller red Xinomavro-Naoussa/Amynteo wines are a little more particular, though are surely among the world’s great food wines. A wine for those in the know, the firm tannic structure of Xinomavro-Naoussa/Amynteo, coupled with high acidity, cries out for protein and fat: well-marbled beef, lamb, duck breast or duck confit, or hard cheeses like well aged Manchego or Parmigiano for example. The combined effect of tannin and protein softens the wine considerably and allows more of the fruit flavors to emerge.
Traditional styles, as well as modern styles of Xinomavro-Naoussa/Amynteo, with a few years’ bottle age, are incredibly umami-rich. The abundant savory notes are a perfect complementary foil for maim flavors in food. Think of wild mushroom risotto, sun-dried tomatoes and tomato sauces, or meat ragùs of all kinds and Xinomavro-Naoussa/Amynteo is the perfect choice: A wine for those in the know! Finally, “Xinomavro-Naoussa/Amynteo is perfect with chicken or beef teriyaki” shares a local enthusiast who’s evidently traveled the world a little, a match that makes perfect sense: pure umami + umami. In this camp can be included stir-fries with a splash of soy, provided they aren’t too spicy. Dishes to steer clear of would be those with notable sweetness (making the wine seem even drier and more tannic), or fish such as sardines or mackerel whose oils may clash with Xinomavro-Naoussa/Amynteo’s tannins and create a metallic flavor in the mouth.
The lush and varied vineyards of Naoussa
The Protected Designation of Origin Naoussa (PDO Naoussa), reflecting the lush and varied vineyards of Naoussa, takes its name from the eponymous city, though several other communes are encompassed in the appellation. The wines of PDO Naoussa are 100% Xinomavro by law, and always red. In general, they are sturdy, tannic wines in youth and capable of long ageing. They are the most full-bodied of the Xinomavro appellations and offer a dazzling display of aromatic complexity, spanning the spectrum of the variety’s aromatic potential.
The lush and varied vineyards of Naoussa sit between 150 and 450m elevation and receive sufficient rainfall in most vintages to make irrigation unnecessary. Detailed soils analysis has been done, revealing significant differences within the region and at least 25 different soil types (of which 5 main categories have been established). The various expressions of the lush and varied vineyards of Naoussa arising in these sub-regions are already well known to growers in Naoussa, and discussions about officially recognizing them are underway, though for the moment the more tannic expression of the wines from the commune of Gastra, the softness of Trilofos, or the freshness and perfume of Yiannakohori for example, remain deep insider’s knowledge.