Back in June, the Goddess of Wine and JD were invited to attend an intimate tasting of the Wines of Naoussa at the lovely Faith and Flower restaurant in downtown Los Angeles. From the invitation: Wines of Naoussa presents 13 wineries pouring their Xinomavro wines. Xinomavro is the main and noblest indigenous red grape varietal of northern Greece. Its name reveals its basic features: high in acidity (Xino - sour), and deep almost black in color (mavro - black) with powerful tannins. This combination of high acidity and phenolic richness results in wines with the possibility of aging for many years. Wines made from Xinomavro have a complex and unique aromatic character, composed of fruity and vegetal aromas of tomato and olive.
Domaine Porto Carras will present their portfolio of ancient and indigenous varietals including Malagouzia, Assyrtiko, and Limnio as well as their varietal blends including Melesanthi, Magnus Baccata, and Chateau Porto Carras.
We started with Domaine Porto Carras, mainly because we were thirsty from walking from the train station, and they were pouring some whites! The vineyards of Domaine Porto Carras are located on the west coast of the Sithonia peninsula in Halkidiki, Greece.
- Melissanthi - Perfumed nose, soft low acid and very refreshing with a wet stone finish.
- Assyrtiko - Great aromatics; primarily from Santorini, but this one is from a different district. Great minerality from the volcanic soil.
- Malagouzia - Green apple nose, soft finish with great minerality
- Limnio - A very ancient grape; during the Ottoman Empire, winemakers pulled out the vines and fled elsewhere, returning to Limnio to replant. Smoky nose, meaty taste and texture.
- Magnus Baccata - A Bordeaux-style blend of Cabernet Franc and Cabernet Sauvignon; my notes say "much riper than the Greek varieties" - it was a very fruit-forward blend, much more New World than Old World style.
- Chateau Porto Carras - A 2005 vintage blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Petit Verdot, and Limnio; very ripe and fruity.
The other wineries represented included Dalamaras Winery, Diamantakos Estate, Elinos SA, Estate Chrisohoou, Foundi Estate, Karydas Estate, Kelesidis Estate, Kir-Yianni Estate, Kokkinos Stavros Vineyard, Melitzanis Winery, Thymiopoulos Vineyard, and Vaeni Naoussa Co-Op, all of whom poured their best Xinomavro.
- Dalamaras Winery - The vineyards are located on the eastern foot hills of mount Vermion in a traditional vineyard area called Paliokalias at an altitude of 250-300 meters in an area that is warm with dry summers and mild winters. Nice earth aroma, light tannins, it needs a few hours of breathing before it becomes smoother. “Paliokalias” is without cold stabilization and unfiltered so a small amount of sediment in the bottom of the bottle is normal. Suggested to go with red meat and wild game.
- Estate Chrisohoou - Following malolactic fermentation, the wine matures for 12 months in oak barrels and at least 6 months in the bottle in the company's winery in Strantza, Naoussa.
- Foundi Estate produces wines from vineyards cultivated in the Ramnista area, in the heart of the Naoussa appellation zone. Intense red color. Light red fruit aromas with a little coffee and cocoa. Light cherry taste. Very drinkable. Pleasant sharp finish.
- Karydas Estate - Established in Ano Gastra over 20 years ago, the six acres of Xinomavro vines are planted on the hill of Gastra in sandy, clay and limestone soils, noted for their good drainage. Single-vineyard Xinomavro with very little intervention. Vintage: 2010. Light earth on the nose, bright, tart cherry on the palate. Pleasantly dry.
- Kir-Yianni Estate - The Kir-Yianni Estate in Naoussa is located in the area of Yiannakohori, at the highest point of the viticultural zone. Ramnista 2010. The wine is filtered very lightly. 16 months in French and American oak casks, 15% of which is new oak plus further aging in bottle for another 6 months. Lighter color. A touch of smoke and sea notes followed by bright tart cherry.
- Kokkinos Stavros Vineyard - 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.
- Melitzanis Winery - The third generation of the Melitzanis family cultivates 3 ha in the area of Gastra. Since 2000, they apply organic agriculture in their vineyards. The winery, located in the city of Naoussa, has a total capacity of producing 20,000 bottles. The main part of their production is released in the domestic market. Savory, herbal nose. Has some forest, barn notes.
- Thymiopoulos Vineyards are situated on Trilofos, the southern tip of the appellation of Naoussa. The vines are cultivated by biodynamic methods. They poured from two of their labels: Young Vines (Jeunes Vignes) de Xinomavro and Earth & Sky. The winery’s exports represent 97% of the total production. The label Earth & Sky, in the USA, is called URANOS. The Thymiopoulos family has owned vineyards in Naoussa for several generations. Until recently, the family grew grapes and supplied wineries with their fruit. Upon graduating from the University of Athens oenology program, Apostolos Thimiopoulos returned to his family’s vineyards and began producing wine for his own label, Thimiopoulos Vineyards starting with Ghi kai Uranos (Earth & Sky). He is a firm believer in organics and minimal intervention. The winery’s first release was with the 2004 vintage. Uranos is described as similar in style to a modern Barolo and can be drunk now as well as cellared for at least 10-15 years. Thymiopoulos Vineyards will be a winery to watch.
- Young Vines 2012, 7-9 year old vines. Bright, medium magenta. Leather, light dirt on the nose. Light fresh cherry on the palate.
- Uranos- Forty year old vines. Dried fruit on the nose followed by a pleasant tartness.
Overall, this tasting presented a fine cross-section of Xinomavro possibilities with discoveries of some other grapes that need to be sampled further. There are some wineries that bear watching. Thanks again to Please the Palate and Faith & Flower for a terrific tasting!