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The Xinomavro Grape


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About Xinomavro

(Synonyms: Black Naousa, Xynomavro of Naousa, Xynomavro Naousis, Mavro Naoussis, Mavro Naoustino, Niaoussa, Popolka, Pipolka, Xyno Mavro, Xynomavro.)

Background

Map showing Greek Macedonia

Xinomavro (also often spelled Xynomavro) is a red-wine grape originating in Greece, more particularly in northwestern Greece, in the Imathia region of Macedonia, in what are now the monovarietal appellations of Naoussa and Amynteo; Naoussa is often regarded the best source. Xinomavro is generally considered one of the dozen and a half or so of world-class grapes (those in boldface in the dropdown varietals lists near the top of the page).

There seems some differences of opinion on how "Naoussa" should be spelled: some sources only put in one "s". We have tried to follow the winemakers' preferences wine by wine, but refer to the class as a whole with the two="s" spelling.

Xinomavro is not a wine of our times (in any sense). It is a tricky devil in the vineyard: if the vineyardist lets it go, hoping to obtain quantity, quality takes a nosedive, and thin, acidic plonk results; but neither can it be made into the sort of huge Parkerized, internationalized, Shiraz-like red that is so popular today. It can only, made with care and skill, be itself, a red more like Pinot Noir or Nebbiolo in that it trades on delicacy and requires some nontrivial bottle age to get to where it should be.

Nor is it a fruit-forward "jammy" wine: its flavors are (as you will see below) variously described, but almost never in red-fruit terms. Tomato, olive, spice, and earthiness are the recurring descriptors. And it is high-acid and high in tannins (which is why it both bears and usually requires that bottle aging). If you are interested in wines that require some care from both the wine maker and the wine drinker, this will be your sort of wine; if you want a fruit bomb, look elsewhere.

At least one writer observes that there are now two distinct styles of Xinomavro emerging: "traditional", with high tannins and a need for nontrivial amounts of bottle aging; and "modern", vinified to be more fruit-forward and drinkable young. That last is relatively new, and it looks like many observers think it inappropriate for this varietal (though there are certainly at least a few successful versions).

Factoid: One obstacle to Xinomavro popularity outside Greece is the matter of how to pronounce it, which can embarrass some people. Fortunately, there are some videos on YouTube that can relieve your stress. (ksee-NOH-mah-vroh, if you don't like video links.)


Some Descriptions of Xinomavro Wines


Some Xinomavros to Try

(About this list.)

There were several more we could reasonably have included, save that each seems to be carried by only a very small number of retailers (at least per the big wine-search engines). There remains, however, a respectable core of accessible Xinomavro specimens (most from Naoussa).

But keep an eye out for monovarietal Xinomavro from any of Hatzimichalis, Pavlou's Klima, Foundis, Dalamara's Paliokalias, or Vaeni's Damaskinos (if you see any at a good price).
The quotations below are excerpts; we strenuously urge you to click on the green diamond symbol by each quoted review to see the full article.
Thymiopoulos "Young Vines" Naoussa
(Naoussa, Greece.)

• Retail offers of this wine listed by 1000 Corks
• Retail offers of this wine listed by Wine Searcher
• This wine's CellarTracker review pages.
• This wine's Wine Searcher "Tasting Notes" page.


Some quotations and facts about this wine:

[A] bargain priced bottling that is going to consistently offer great value if you like its style. Given the charm and the nice price point, I suspect a lot of folks will rightly make this one of their staple Greek red purchases. This young vines Xinomavro admittedly lacks the concentration and future complexity of its big brothers, but I won’t be surprised if many people like it as well. What it does do is be more expressive at a younger age and more exuberant. The fruit is much more open and intensely flavorful--even to the point of a sweet, slightly candied note on the finish that admittedly not everyone will care for. Still, while lighter styled, fruitier and sweeter, this Xinomavro retains powerful echoes of traditional Xinomavro, meaning that it executes its exuberant style especially well by including a real backbone and good acidity, not just being simple and fruity. It is as if one blended traditional Xinomavro with Gamay. Silky in texture, young and primary, it is awfully hard to resist. This is what I call a 'waiter with the water' wine after the Ella Fitzgerald novelty song. You know it is not quite as serious as it could be, but you can’t resist it anyway. This is a different vision of Xinomavro and being fair to it requires just a little palate adjustment. This has to be judged in its own context; it is its own creature, for better or worse. Most will think it is quite a deal.

This could well be the best wine to try first, if you have never tasted a Naoussa. It is gloriously bright and seductive, bursting with cherry and raspberry fruit with fresh acidity and attractively chalky light tannins. Fresh tomato and tomato stalk characters provide the savoury notes to balance the sweetness of the red fruit. A lovely user-friendly wine that goes with all manner of lighter dishes and tastes good lightly chilled too, if you like good Gamay, Pinot Noir, Nebbiolo or Barbera this is the wine for you – 89/100 points, it scores especially high marks for value.

♣ Wine Advocate (February 2012), 89 points

Unique and engaging, this wine is earthy cinnamon red in color, like the underbrush. Briar. Slight essence of sherry gives way to juicy, refreshing wild berries on the nose. This continues on the palate with undertone of pure bing cherry. Notes of blackberry, red and black currant are tart and wild sweet. Spicy herbaceousness is present, with ubersoft, smooth mouthfeel and tannins that offer an ultimately dry finish. I love this style wine and found it absolutely delightful, with much finesse, even restraint. After some breathing time, depth and sensuality. One could also imagine enjoying it with a slight chill on, in warmer sunnier climes.

The fruit is from 5-15 year old vines. It is fermented in stainless steel with indigenous yeasts, undergoes malolactic fermentation, then aged for three months with 70% in tank and 30% in used barrels which originally held the Uranos [Thymiopoulos' upscale] wine. The color is a light ruby with a garnet rim. There is a well-done, scented nose with floral and cinnamon-like aromas along with a sweet undertone. In the mouth there is light to medium bodied red fruit, some weight, and fresh acidity. The flavors follow the nose, with a cooler climate aspect, and a tart finish with pleasing tannins.

The 2nd vintage of the single vineyard that has been bottled it is the younger sibling of the Uranos offering from the same winery that is only made from 15+ year old vines. Bright, brooding red cherries up front with fresh acidity and spiced cinnamon notes before soft, chalky, minerally tannins (the limestone shines through) take over on a dry, lingering finish. Smooth, pure and focused throughout. While good on its own this one shines with burgers. Perhaps a bit simple at $14 compared to some of its brethren that cost just a few dollars more but certainly an enjoyable wine… Rating: Worth Exploring

Sourced from the estate's youngest, newly replanted organic vines, this vibrantly fresh, unoaked red offers an unexpected interpretation of the grape. A bit like Greece's answer to the top crus of France's Beaujolais region, the Young Vines is best served with a slight chill, which highlights its bright, wild-berry freshness. The wine's herbal kick, forward fruit and gentle smack of tannins make it the perfect partner for spiced dishes.

This is only the young vines version, but it gives you an idea of how classy Xinomavro can be as a grape. It's part Nebbiolo, part Pinot Noir, part Nerello Mascalese, but also has a savoury note that is all its own. Scented red fruits, mid weight tannins, a whisper of oak and pine resin. Not many countries can deliver quality like this at just over a tenner.

[T]his wine has a wonderful purple red colour. Complex, typical bouquet of red small fruits, cherry, blackberry, plum. Full mouth, rounded tannins, balanced acidity. Long and pleasant aftertaste.



Siatista Winery Dio Fili Xinomavro
(Macedonia, Greece.)

• Retail offers of this wine listed by 1000 Corks
• Retail offers of this wine listed by Wine Searcher
• This wine's CellarTracker review pages.
• This wine's Wine Searcher "Tasting Notes" page.


Some quotations and facts about this wine:

This comes from a region about an hour southwest of Naoussa that had fallen off the wine map until Yannis Boutari (of Kir Yianni) lent a hand to his two friends (dio fili), Georgia Gkoutziamani and John Polyzou; they produced their first vintage in 2007. It's intensely cherried, sour and bright, with tobacco scents and mastika spice that leave it feeling cool and fresh. While the tannins are serious, the supple fruit washes over them, leaving the length of the wine the main evidence that they exist. 91 points.

This red wine struck me as soft and subtle, and it was dry with potent tannins. It was listed as a wine that could age for several years. Some other tasters thought they'd prefer to let this wine age before opening another bottle. I liked it as-is.

Grown at 3,116 feet, the Xinomavro is intensely cherried, sour and bright, with tobacco scents and mastika spice that leave it feeling cool and fresh. While the tannins are serious, the supple fruit washes over them, culminating in one of the most exciting reds we've tasted from Greece.

Tannic yet juicy and deeply fruity.



Katogi & Stella "Katogi Averoff" Xinomavro
(Naoussa, Greece.)

• Retail offers of this wine listed by 1000 Corks
• Retail offers of this wine listed by Wine Searcher
• This wine's CellarTracker review pages.
• This wine's Wine Searcher "Tasting Notes" page.


Some quotations and facts about this wine:

Classically earthy on the nose, with a touch of mushroom, it has an elegant demeanor, with a modest mid-palate and very bright acidity around the edges. Purity of fruit is a hallmark here. It has no artifice. Tannins do pop out with air, so don’t hesitate to cellar this as it may well improve a bit with time. With air, this improved notably, fleshing out and showing better texture. It needed to do so, because it was a bit thin and sharp early on. This should make a great food wine, but note that it is not going to be your casual, easy sipper. It should seem like a lot of wine for the price, though, if you like its style (yes, traditional Nebbiolo admirers – I’m speaking to you.)

[This] wine stood out head and shoulders [in a tasting of vintage 2000 Naoussas] for its colour, freshness, and ripe-tannin tasty structure. . . Tawny ruby. Strawberry scented. Attractive fruited ripe tannins. Earthy spice, succulence. Richer and sweeter than any other wine in this vintage. Keeps evolving in the glass. Focused austere finish. Serious. Worth ageing. The single vineyard character is a revelation.

♣ Wine Spectator (November 2012), 90 points

A clean, mature, ripe and savoury example of xinomavro from Katogi-Strofilia, as is the house style, with earthy, sun-dried tomato, black olive tapenade and leathery fruit – all very inviting and engaging. The palate is mid-weight, firmly structured but not austere, with dusty tannins and crunchy acids, but quite fine length and depth overall. For fans of Italian-style, dusty reds, excellent with grilled proteins.

Nose of dusty plum, blackberry eucalyptus, spice and slight smoke; ripe and berry-like but not overly fruity. Mouth-filling suppleness; balanced with some astringency on the finish.

Dark ruby color. Rich craisin, roasted pepper and tomatoes, clay, and spicy gherkin aromas and flavors with a silky, dry-yet-fruity medium-to-full body and a juicy, sour cherry, mint, and peppercorn accented finish with fine tannins. Great flavors and sense of place.

Deep ruby in colour with a slightly orange rim, a nose of red berries, clove and forest floor; full-bodied with a cedary note and dusty tannins. It reminds me of a Barbaresco. 3½*

Lifted fruit aromas. Vibrant acidity and firmly structured tannin with fresh redcurrant fruit. Slightly puckering now [2001 vintage in 2005] but could develop well.



Boutari Naoussa
(Naoussa, Greece.)

• Retail offers of this wine listed by 1000 Corks
• Retail offers of this wine listed by Wine Searcher
• This wine's CellarTracker review pages.
• This wine's Wine Searcher "Tasting Notes" page.


Some quotations and facts about this wine:

A pale ruby in the glass, this wine opened up with aromas of raspberry, cherry, plum, licorice, earthy and minerally notes. On the mouthfeel, medium bodied, dry, rustics in the best sense of the word with lively acidity and firm, dusty tannins. Medium length and weight on the finish, bright fruit flavours and a nice tannic grip lingering. For those of you who have never experienced Xinomavro before, this one reminds me of two Italian grapes: Aglianico and especially Nebbiolo. This wine is most interesting and a superb value, strongly recommended to fans of old world wines. It will need a little time to open up (1 hour decant would be a good idea), as recommended by the winery on its label, best serve at 16-18 °C. Final note, this wine was even better the next day, score 89 points.

The wine had a light ruby color in the glass and and a generous nose of crushed red berries, stewed cherries, rich raspberry and some redcurrant with kind of a leafy, herbal edge. There was kind of a chocolate note in it too, like a chocolate covered dried cherry. The texture was a little thin and the wine had a very high acidity and very grippy tannins. I've seen a lot of comparisons between Xinomavro and Pinot Noir, but I definitely agree more with Konstantinos Lazarakis (in his The Wines of Greece) in that I think the more appropriate comparison is with Nebbiolo based wines from the Piedmont. This wine demands food (think meats and pretty much anything you'd serve with a Barolo) and has the structure to age for awhile yet.

The color is an amber-orange on top of brick red. It’s not deep, but rather interesting. It has a really nice peppery, floral smell. The anticipation is killing me. The flavor is dry and sharp. It’s still quite light though. No one note overpowers. I taste a lot of herbs, mostly thyme. There are also notes of tobacco, maybe chocolate. The finish is long and consistent. To be honest, it smelled better than it tasted. Still, I really liked. The smell, however, had my expectations soaring. . . As far as the value, I paid $18.49. For something a little different from the reds I’m used to, I think it was money well spent. It can be found in the $15 range. That would be a great value. Rating: 86

Color: The wine tends to be a little brown around the edges regardless of age, but this one is 5 years old so it was a deeper brown/garnet. Smell: Strong licorice/ouzo smell (yes, I was thinking of other Greek things I know), the wine had the same alcohol burn in my nose as the Greek spirit does. I also smelled like black cherry, dark bitter chocolate, dirt, herbs, prunes and a little bit goat-y or like tangy goat-cheese. Taste: I hated my first sip but loved my third. This is a wine that you may have to sip a few times to appreciate. It tasted like licorice, dark chocolate, and earth. Nary a fruit to be tasted, but lots of texture in form of strong mouth drying tannin and a big alcohol burn down the hatch. That said, I’d say the wine is more light to medium in texture, and it was pretty balanced. . . Unique and interesting, I liked that I hated it at first and then wanted more when the bottle was gone. . . If you get this, make sure that you’re ready to invest a little time in sipping it. It’s not immediately gratifying but if you want to dork out and give it chance, you may change from hater to fan in the span of 30 minutes…not a bad experiment!

This integrated red from Greece’s premium red wine country offers all of the hallmarks of the variety but is still pleasing to the international palate. Aromas of tobacco, anise, cherry and smoke lead, followed by spicy but balanced flavors of coffee, smoke, dark berries and pepper. Can age but good to drink now. Pair with heartier dishes. 88 points

This is a red wine is made from 100% Xinomavro, and appears as a pale garnet color in the glass. It is clean with developing characteristics of sweet spice, earth and leather. It is dry with a higher acidity, high tannins and a medium body. The palate is similar to the nose, but with more complexity: leather, spice, red fruit and tobacco. This is a good wine with potential to age. I think it would be best suited to enjoy with food though.

Typical, classic wine of Naoussa. Deep red colour with an intense personality. It produces a rich bouquet of ripe red fruit, blackberry and plum, together with sun-dried tomato and the aromas derived from ageing, cinnamon and wood. A rich body, good balance and structure, soft tannins in its finish.

[It] is traditional in style offering flavors of tomato, herbs and cedar with good acidity and firm tannins.

A terrific bargain and a really excellent rendition of Xinomavro, this shows medium body and lots of nice little aromatic nuances, with sufficient stuffing to get even better with age.



Kokkinos Naoussa
(Naoussa, Greece.)

• Retail offers of this wine listed by 1000 Corks
• Retail offers of this wine listed by Wine Searcher
• This wine's CellarTracker review pages.
• This wine's Wine Searcher "Tasting Notes" page.


Some quotations and facts about this wine:

The 2013 Naoussa is a Xinomavro (of course) that was aged for 15 months in well used French barriques. It comes in at 14% alcohol. Sourced from vines ranging from 15 to 35 years old, this is most notable for the lovely freshness it shows. It is not quite as concentrated as the 2011, but it is exuberant in its youth, bright and lively. It's pretty delicious, too. Overall, this is a vintage that combines fine structure and consumer appeal. It should be approachable relatively young, but it will age well, too. 90 points. [Wine Advocate, August 2016]

The 2011 Kokkinos, Xinomavro, Naoussa smells great and will tempt any fan of maturing Southern Rhone wines. It is firm in the mouth and did not give up the level of mature flavors promised by the nose. Still, it is a wine to try and if you do so I would try double-decanting it.

Very fine aroma of black-berried fruit, strawberry, disappearing into ripe tannins. Expansive juicy fruit. Not over-extracted. Seamless oak. Attractive balance between acidity and tannins. Smells and tastes like no other Naoussa, yet brims with character of the PDO snapshots from which it hails.

I found it to be light in smell and taste with light tannins. Recommended for the bottle to be opened at least half an hour before serving.

In a nutshell, Kokkinos wines are excellent to get to know Naoussa wines. Enjoyable, these are good and promising wines leaving space for quality to level up.
  •2011 vintage: Dried red fuit, oxidative hints, some earthy minerality on the nose. Not very intense on the palate, starts smooth finishes with astringency. 88 points.
  •2012 vintage: Blood oranges, even roses on the nose with ripe cherries. Refined on the palate with strong peppery flavours finishing long. Stylish and polished. 91 points.
  •2013 vintage: Quite a lot of oak, deep spicy, savoury and earthy nose. Very young and awkward at the moment but with potential. Needs time to mellow. 89+ points.


Really funky stuff, but well-nuanced and round. Cellar floor. Massive oak, but a good chunk of acid to balance everything out. Kinda boring.



Chrisohoou Estate Xinomavro
(Naoussa, Greece.)

• Retail offers of this wine listed by 1000 Corks
• Retail offers of this wine listed by Wine Searcher
• This wine's CellarTracker review pages.
• This wine's Wine Searcher "Tasting Notes" page.


Some quotations and facts about this wine:

Earthy red with a kiss of orange pink in the rim too. Delightfully vibrant nose, with red cherry and leaf mulch forest floor sort of aromas. Plenty of soft fruit, red raspberry and deep cherry on the palate. Lovely almost creamy texture with some spice and oak characters like toffee and coffee and the acidity provides a balancing touch of freshness. The most Pinot Noir like Xinomavro I tasted on the trip, beautifully balanced and ageing very very slowly. 92/100 points.

Sweet cedar, cigarbox and allspice lead the nose on this embraceable Greek red. On the palate, soft tannins, bright red fruit and spice offer a clean, dry character. The finish is smoky and lingering. Not overly complicated but definitely a fine Greek red. 87 points

♣ Wine Spectator (August 2010), 89 points

Elegant and full of silky tannins. Dried cherry, fig, raspberry and Asian spice flavors are lush and broad in texture, with a long, minerally finish that features French roast notes.

Domaine Chrisohoou located in the legendary Naoussa region of northern Greece is an outstanding producer of Xinomavro and Xinomavro-Merlot wines. .  Estate Chrisohoou . . . [is] aged 18 months in oak, then 2 years in the bottle. Estate Chrisohoou is 100% Xinomavro, and is rich, with complex aromas and flavors of cherry, vanilla and raspberry, balancing tannins and a long finish.

Jammy,oak nose and dried fruit cake flavour on the palate.Pungent, old school style Xinomavro. 3*/5

Surprisingly good, at its peak right now [1999 vintage tasted 2009] with a fairly dark color with some garnet-brick hues, ripe tomatoe and some red fruits on the nose, mid-bodied on the palate with very soft tanins, nice fruit and balancing acidity. Fairly long finish. Nicely aged. 88 points.

Their vineyards are located in the south-eastern slopes of mountain "Vermion" at an altitude of 250 meters, in the region Strantza Naoussas. These conditions are perfect for the production of light Xinomavro wines (only 12.5% alcohol as you can see on the label), with a good structure and with a tomato leaf note that is so characteristic of the grape. Xinomavro as its best!



For a Splurge

By reviewer average points, it's only a little better than what's listed above, but then it only costs a little bit more then they. It's the Domaine Karydas Naoussa.

• That wine at 1000 Corks
• That wine at Wine Searcher
• Its Wine Searcher "Tasting Notes" page.
• Its CellarTracker pages.

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