Xinomavro, without doubt is the noblest variety of the vineyard of North Greece, and due to its temperamental character has earned the title of the “diva of the North”. Its high acidity and strong tannins are a challenge to the winemaker, while the sensitivity of its vines to drought and diseases require great experience and care in the vineyard. However, in the hands of the skillful producer, who can tame its difficult character, Xinomavro is able to give memorable wines, showing unique aromas, outstanding structure and amazing ageing potential that can reach several decades.
Moreover, having been adapted to the vineyards of North Greece since hundreds of years now, this rare variety is able to express, apart from the particular characteristics of the grape, the unique features of the land where it is cultivated. Therefore, depending on the climate, the soil, but also the agricultural tradition of each area, in other words, the factors that constitute the terroir, Xinomavro can offer wines with distinct characteristics and a typicity that changes from place to place, making this unique variety even more fascinating.
Prime example of this diversity are two viticultural zones that, while they are located at a short distance from each other, produce Xinomavro wines different in character. Naoussa and Amyndeon, two areas with millennia-old history in winemaking, are separated by mount Vermion. This natural barrier is enough for creating conditions that give Xinomavro wines that offer a different expression of this variety, while they showcase its basic characteristics.
In Naoussa, an area located in the NE of Vermion, the mountain protects the vineyards from the north winds helping to create a mild Mediterranean climate. Here, the soil ranges from neutral-alkaline to acidic and from clay to clay-loam. The typical character of the wines that bear the “Naoussa” appellation is robust structure, strong tannins and amazing ageing potential. “Harsh” in their youth, Naoussa wines acquire unique finesse and complexity as time goes by. However, within the area, changes in altitude, slope, exposure and soil composition from vineyard to vineyard have led to the designation of sub-regions offering variations of the general character of the Naoussa Xinomavro. A small-scale replica of the whole area, Kir-Yianni Estate in Yiannakohori produces wines offering distinct expressions of the area’s flagship variety: Ramnista a wine sourced from the best vineyard blocks of the Estate, is a benchmark for Naoussa wines, while Diaporos, an outstanding single-vineyard Xinomavro offers a rare expression of this indigenous grape.
On the other side of mount Vermion, in the Amyndeon plateau, the climate is harsh for the vine. At 600 m. of altitude, cold winters that last longer than in other areas in Greece and wide diurnal temperature variations make the ripening of the grapes difficult even for the well adapted Xinomavro, and despite the fact that there are more days with sunshine and less rain compared to Naoussa. Here, on the mainly sandy soils, Xinomavro gains higher aromatic intensity, but also finesse, as the always present tannins acquire a more silky texture, typical of the wines of the area. A pure expression of this particular combination of climate and soil, Kali Riza, apart from the typical aspect of a Xinomavro from Amyndeon, offers a taste of the old vines of the area, a source for wines with more volume and balance.
Very often, Xinomavro is compared to varieties such as Nebbiolo or Pinot Noir. However, its great affinity for the Macedonian vineyards, but also its ability to express its terroir, make this rare variety even more special. A valuable component of the wine history of North Greece.