Do you know your Greek Grape Varieties?
Wine Regions of Greece: Naoussa
Naoussa, in the hills of Macedonia, is another wine region. It’s most famous for producing Xinomavro… the King of Greek grapes. We asked sommelier and consultant Kavita Faiella to tell us what she knows about this lovely place.
- The wine region of Naoussa is located in the north of Greece in the greater area known as Macedonia. Macedonia is both a region in northern Greece, a country in south-east Europe (Republic of Macedonia) and an ancient kingdom (Alexander the Great).
- Naoussa is also famous for its stone fruits. In summer you will find orchards full of peaches, plums and the most delicious cherries! Hence the jam brand Naoussa is also famous across Greece.
- The weather of Naoussa is largely influenced by Mount Vermion (2000m). The Vermio Mountains are the home of Greece’s ski resorts. That’s right – you can ski in Greece!
- Naoussa is the home of Xinomavro. Xinomavro, a tannic red varietal, is thought of as the King of Greek grapes, whose Queen is most certainly Assyrtiko.
- Wines of Naoussa are often referred to as ‘Greek Burgundy’. The region produces some of the country’s most elegant and age-worthy wines made from Xinomavro, which are also lighter in colour.
- Xinomavro literally translates to acid (xino) black (mavro) or black acid… Sounds more like a heavy metal band, but also gives you an indication of the high acid levels of this wine.
- Just like oysters and Chablis or hot chips and Champagne… The perfect pairing for Xinomavro is lamb. Bring on the souvlaki!
Get to know your Greek Red Grape Varieties
The most notable variety of Nemea. These wines stand out for their deep rep colour and aromatic complexity. Soft tannins in combination with acidity allow for both fresh, aromatic, young reds and extraordinary ageing reds.
Pale-coloured, Cretan grape, that is a truly Mediterranean variety. Kotsifali has high alcohol content, intense red fruit aromas and moderate acidity. Kotsifali needs a blending partner that can add colour, acidity and tannins, usually Mandilaria.
An ancient grape variety indigenous to the island of Limnos; first mentioned by Homer. The wines are full of fresh herbs and small-berried fruit aromas, coming across with clarity and intensity. The palate displays moderate tannins, relatively low acidity and moderate-full body.
Also Limniona is the rising star of the Greek red grape varieties saved from extinction when only few vines were left. The wines combine extract, concentration, acidity and flavour without leaning towards fatness and volume. Limniona is thought to be originating from Thessaly although it is increasingly found in other regions all over Greece.
Krassato is the heart of Rapsani, the red dry wine made out of the vineyards of the “godly” Mount Olympus. Krassato yields wines with a deep ruby red colour, a nose full of character, showing leather notes and black, sweet fruits. On the palate they are rich, high in extract, dense in structure, moderate in tannin and relatively high in alcohol. Krassato responds very well to oak aging, especially in top quality new oak barriques.
The Mavroudi variety owes its name to the dark, nearly black colour of its berries. This dark colour is also the reason why Mavroudi is used mostly in the production of dark red wines, though they remain rare. Either on its own or as part of a blend, Mavroudi is stamped with such a forceful personality that no oenophile worth his wine can remain indifferent to it.
Also known as Amorgiano, mainly cultivated on the islands of Rhodes and Crete. The most deep-coloured variety in Greece with intensity of aromas and flavours. Relatively small bodied but with plenty of acidity and tannin. Therefore, Mandilaria’s role is frequently to act as a colouring agent in many blends.
Mainly found in the Pelponnesean regions of Achaia and Ilia (as well as the Ionian Islands). Usually associated with a pale tawny-red, sweet, fortified wine. Silky, fine-grained and faintly tannic; impressive and extraordinarily complex when aged in oak barrels for years, even decades. Very promising dry varietal reds too.
Relatively recent discovery, found on the island of Santorini, with deep, dense colour, a concentrated and “old viney” nose, but without a single note of hotness. It is rich on the palate and coated with graceful tannins that can stand up to two years in oak. A rising star.
Stavroto is cultivated only in the area of Rapsani, central Greece, where together with Krassato and Ximomavro it yields PDO Rapsani wines. Its resplendent colour is responsible for the ruby red in Rapsani wines while its ostensibly tough tannins soften quickly giving way to those of Xinomavro without, however, relinquishing their hold on its own spicy aromas and taste.
The predominant grape variety in Macedonia, producing wines that rise to prominence with aging. Displays bright red colour, strong tannins, good structure and elegance. Xinomavro displays a complex aromatic character, with red fruits, tomatoes, olives, subtle spice, dried prunes, tobacco and nuts present, accompanied with wood ageing characteristics. Long ageing potential in bottle.
Get to know your Greek White Grape Varieties
Steely, elegant oral wines, with fresh acidity and round texture. Mainly found in the Cyclades Islands and most commonly used in Santorini blends to round out and soften the structured Assyrtiko grape.
First cultivated on the AOC Island of Santorini. Firm structure, with fresh and crisp acidity and occasionally high levels of alcohol. Distinctive citrus fruit profile and intense minerality. Aged wines reveal a more solid structure and increased complexity.
One of the most ancient Greek varieties, originating from the AOC Island of Santorini. Fresh, elegant, fruity wines with moderate to high alcohol, medium-body and soft acidity. Due to its thin skin it produces a very sweet juice, often used to add suppleness and softness to the more angular Assyrtiko.
Originated in the Nafpaktos region of Western Greece, and is now most commonly found in Macedonia. Intense, complex and idiosyncratic aromatic profile, with ripe peaches and apricots, coupled with hints of fresh green pepper. Moderate acidity, high extract and a full palate. When aged in oak, it shows excellent development and ageing potential.
Found within the AOC region of Mantinia, in the Peloponnese. The grapes have grey coloured skins producing wines with intense flowery characters, with an emphasis on rose petal aromas, citrus and fresh fruit. The palate carries fresh flavours and acidity, with medium to low alcohol levels.
MUSCAT OF ALEXANDRIA
Mainly grown on the island of Lemnos but also in northern Greece, Muscat of Alexandria is a variety with a vigorous growth, susceptible to diseases that requires warm climate. The wines have medium to low acidity levels and explosive aromas of ripe grapes, citrus fruits and flowers. It is part of the PDO Lemnos and PDO Muscat of Lemnos designation.
The Cretan Plyto is remarkable case of a variety which was literally snatched away from the verge of extinction. At present, Plyto yields a small number of white wines. Modern irrigation methods in Irakleion’s contemporary vineyards seem not only to have helped this rare grape variety overcome its aversion to droughts but to have enhanced its lemony character and resplendent freshness as well.
Most notably grown in the mountainous Cephalonia vineyards, producing delicately balanced wines with crisp lemony acidity, minerality and medium body and depth of fruit complexity. Interesting when aged in bottle.
Pink-coloured variety, very popular in Attica and Macedonia, Thessaly and Peloponnese where it is harvested for AOC Patra wines. Produces best results from low-yielding vines on mountainous slopes. The wines contain high levels of fruit -often reminiscent of ripe melon and honey- broad, dense structure on the palate and a refreshing, almost Sauvignon Blanc-like, lemony finish.
Vidiano is a variety mainly found, in small acreage, around the area of Rethymnon in Crete. It is a white grape variety coming from Crete, used to produce white dry whites, sometimes aged in oak.