About wine and Greek wine

Posted by Theodoros 01/08/2017 0 Comment(s)

Wine history

Wine has been produced for thousands of years. The earliest known traces of wine are from China (c. 7000 BC), Georgia (c. 6000 BC) and Iran (c. 5000 BC). Wine reached the Balkans by 4500 BC and was consumed and celebrated in ancient Greece, Thrace and Rome. Throughout history, wine has been consumed for its intoxicating effects.

Wine (from Latin vinum) is an alcoholic beverage made from grapes, generally Vitis vinifera, fermented without the addition of sugars, acids, enzymes, water, or other nutrients. Yeast consumes the sugar in the grapes and converts it to ethanol and carbon dioxide. Different varieties of grapes and strains of yeasts produce different styles of wine. These variations result from the complex interactions between the biochemical development of the grape, the reactions involved in fermentation, the terroir, and the production process.

The Greek Wine Industry

The wine making sector is directly intertwined with viniculture, which has been known since ancient times. The wine making sector of the Greek has the following characteristics:

The long-standing tradition of the Greeks with the vine and wine.

The climatic peculiarity and the specific terrain characteristics of the Greek land, which aids the existence of a diversified range of high quality (it is estimated that there is a total sum of over 300 native varieties in our country).

The Greeks' cultural relationship with wine, an integral part of their festivals.

The country's tourist development of modern times with the millions of visitors, which may form the spark for the promotion of exports of quality Greek products, accompanied by growth in new dynamic markets.

The total domestic production since the incorporation of the Greek in the European Union has been falling, just like the respective European and world production. The average production of wine during the five-year period between 2000 - 5 comes up to 489,3 million liters.

The wine market in the Greek is highly self-sufficient, more than covering domestic consumption, the result being a large need for exports.

It is worth noting that the domestic market is going through a reshuffling phase, a characteristic of which is the establishment and gradual expansion of wine producing units for "limited" production wines. The necessity is great for a continuous effort for the upgrading of Greek wines (widening of OPAP and OPE wines) as well as for the intensifying of exporting efforts in tandem with the attempt for the establishment of the image of the "quality" Greek wine.

Wine Tasting

Start with a clear wine glass. The rim of the glass should bend inwards to help funnel aromas to the nose, and allow you to swirl without spilling.

Now pour a little wine into your glass. An inch or less is best. If you are tasting several wines, begin with the lightest (sparkling wines, roses, then light whites followed by full-bodied whites) and progress to the heaviest (light reds to more full-bodied reds followed by dessert wines). This will help keep your taste buds more sensitive so you can better appreciate each wine in the series. A sip of water between wines can also help preserve your palate.

Notice the color of the wine. It often helps to hold the glass up to light or hold it against a white background, like a white napkin. Color can give you a clue as to the age of the wine. White wines generally gain color as they age. Red wines lose color. That is, young red wines are more red or burgundy while older wines tend to show a hint of tawny brown around the rim. Regardless of age, the colors of wine are just fun to see, ranging from pale yellow-green to ruby red to brick red-brown.

Swirl the wine a couple of times by moving the glass in a circular motion. Holding the glass by its stem, instead of the bowl, makes this easier. Hold it in your hand or keep it on a surface, whichever is easier.

Swirling is done to aerate the wine and release vapors, evaporating from the sides of the glass for you to smell. Then put your nose right over the rim of the wine glass and breathe in. Since most of a wine’s charm is actually in its smell, rather than its taste, this is important.

Most wines have characteristic aromas of the grapes they are made from, i.e. Chardonnay, Cabernet Sauvignon, Pinot Noir, Zinfandel, etc. The more experience you gain with different wine varietals, the easier it will be to detect and identify characteristic wine aromas and bouquet. For starters, your nose will tell you if the wine is pleasing to you and you may sense hints of vanilla, berries, peaches, or even grassy or smokey aromas. Every wine is different and this is all part of the fun of wine appreciation.

Now it’s time to take a sip. Not a gulp, just a sip that fills your mouth maybe halfway. Before you swallow, let the wine slide across your tongue from front to back and side to side. Notice as many sensations as you can.

You’ll notice many things about the wine. How sweet is it? How acidic is it? If it is a red wine, do you notice the tannins? Is it a light, medium or full-bodied wine? How strong is the alcohol? How fruity is it and do you notice other varietal characteristics? How silky or rough does the wine feel? Finally, does the wine feel “balanced” or does one element overpower the others?

Swallow a small amount if you wish to note any lingering “finish”. But if you are tasting a number of wines – in a winery tasting room, for example – your host will usually provide a vessel for you to spit out the wine instead of swallowing. (It is not rude.)

The bottom line is that a good wine should always give pleasure. It should smell good, taste even better, and be smooth and satisfying by itself or with whatever you’re eating. Wine tasting is harder to describe than it is to do. We suggest just tasting as many different wines as possible. Taste, experience, remember, and above all, enjoy!

Maturation – Ageing

Cask ageing is not recommended for all wine-types. White, Rose and young Red wines are meant to be consumed before ageing begins so that we can enjoy the freshness of the primary aromas and flavours. Unlike the above, great White wines and most of the Red ones require ageing in wooden casks or after bottling, so as to improve their character and soften their tannic taste.

During cask ageing, a series of complicated reactions, collectively known as "arranged oxidation", are taking place. The wood, which is porous enough, allows the slow and continues passage of oxygen causing phenolic development, which softens the wine's rough and aggressive character. Moreover, the wood transfers to the wine numerous substances that develop the nose, making it more complex.

Maturation of the wine is further continued in the bottle, known as "reductive ageing" as the cork ensures the absence of oxygen. During this stage, which lasts from a few months to many years, the bouquet of the wine is developed.

In winemaking, the quality of the raw material -the grape- determines that of the finished product. Factors that determine the quality of the grape are the location of the vineyards, the type of soil, the variety and its adaptability, the root-stock, the climate and microclimate conditions as well as the human factor: the wine-grower and the vinification tecniques he applies, definitely affect the quality of the grape.

Wine Storage

Can all wines be stored for aging or are there specific ones which can and others that will spoil?

Most wine, the overwhelming majority of wine, is meant to be consumed within a year or two of release. Sure, some of these will get better in another year of two, and if you happen let that happen; fine. Most of the world’s wines (at least 90%) are meant to be consumed young.

White wines are not generally cellared for long periods of time – although there are exceptions such as the very best Graves and Sauternes for instance.

Red wines can be and are cellared for longer periods of time. Some of the very finest reds can be cellared for several decades. A lot depends on the type of grape and the vintage.

As a general rule of thumb, the most age worthy wines are based on one of three grapes: Cabernet Sauvignon, Syrah, or Nebbiolo. Perfect examples of these three are red Bordeaux, Hermitage, and Barolo, respectively.

Allow yourself to be steered to wines that people in the know refer to as “tannic.” Tannin is the compound in wine, deriving principally from the skin of the grape, that allows wine to age well. Tannin makes the wine “dry” in your mouth, meaning that wines that possess a lot of it cause the roof of your mouth to lose its moisture, and may even cause a puckering as well. It is because of this quality that people sometimes say tannin in young wine can be “searing.” Wines that are tannic are often unapproachable when young, but over time, the tannins soften and give the wine a structure that allows it to age both gracefully and, it is hoped, elegantly.

Wine is a "living organism". Studies have shown that wine should not "listen" nor "see" during maturation, condition that allows it to evolve and reach its full potential undisturbed. Therefore, both, vibrations disturbing the wine's serenity and light that causes colour alteration, should be avoided.

Moreover, temperature and relevant humidity in the wine-stores are of vital importance. The temperature should be kept steadily at 15°C, whereas relevant humidity should be 70-75% thus preventing the corks from getting dry and the labels from fading.

You will need a cool, dark or dimly lighted area that is somewhat humid to store your wine. The temperature should be right around 50 to 55 degrees F. and should remain fairly constant throughout the storage period.

Wine that is stored in conditions warmer than these tend to age faster. A wine you would normally consider keeping for 6 to 10 years might only be kept for 3 to 5 years before it “goes over the top”. Bright lighting can also have a deleterious effect on wine so you’ll want your cellar to remain dark or dimly lighted at best.

Bottling the wine

This process is applied after filtering and racking the wine from lees. It is a crucial stage that requires great care. For this reason, sterilization of the bottling line has to be secured so as to prevent possible wine defilement. After filling the bottles, the cork is inserted. There are various types of cork for bottle ageing. However, the best one is the original natural cork.

Types of white wine grapes

GEWÜRZTRAMINER

A very aromatic variety.

Food-wine pairing: ideal for sipping and with Asian food, pork and grilled sausages.

Districts: best-known in Alsace, Germany, the USA West Coast, and New York.

Typical taste in varietal wine: fruity flavours with aromas of rose petal, peach, lychee, and allspice. A Gewürztraminer often appears not as refreshing as other kinds of dry whites.

RIESLING CHARDONNAY

Chardonnay was the most popular white grape through the 1990’s. It can be made sparkling or still.

Food-wine pairing: it is a good choice for fish and chicken dishes.

  •  chardonnay makes the principle white wine of Burgundy (France), where it originated. Chardonnay is grown with success in most vinicultural areas under a variety of climatic conditions.

Typical taste in varietal wine: often wider-bodied (and velvetier) than other types of dry whites, with rich citrus (lemon, grapefruit) flavours. Fermenting in new oak barrels adds a buttery tone (vanilla, toast, coconut, toffee). Tasting a USD 15 Californian Chardonnay should give citrus fruit flavours, hints of melon, vanilla, some toasty character and some creaminess. 

SAUVIGNON BLANC

Food-wine pairing: a versatile food wine for seafood, poultry, and salads.

  •  New Zealand produces some excellent Sauvignon Blancs. Some Australian Sauvignon Blancs, grown in warmer areas, tends to be flat and lack fruit qualities. Of French origin, sauvignon blanc is grown in the Bordeaux district where it is blended with Semillon. It is also grown extensively in the upper Loire valley where it is made as a varietal wine.

Typical taste in varietal wine: generally lighter than Chardonnay — Sauvignon blanc normally shows a herbal character suggesting bell pepper or freshly mown grass. The dominating flavours range from sour green fruits of apple, pear and gooseberry through to tropical fruits of melon, mango and blackcurrant. Quality unoaked Sauvignon Blancs will display Smokey qualities; they require bright aromas and a strong acid finish; they are best grown in cool climates.

Types of red wine grapes

SYRAH

Shiraz or syrah are two names for the same variety. Europe vine growers and winemakers only use the name syrah.

Food-wine pairing: meat (steak, beef, wild game, stews, etc.)

 Districts: syrah excels in France’s Rhône Valley, California and Australia.

Typical taste in varietal wine: aromas and flavours of wild black-fruit (such as blackcurrant), with overtones of black pepper spice and roasting meat. The abundance of fruit sensations is often complemented by warm alcohol and gripping tannins.

Toffee notes if present come not from the fruit but from the wine having rested in oak barrels.

The shiraz variety gives hearty, spicy reds. While shiraz is used to produce many average wines, it can produce some of the world’s finest, deepest, and darkest reds with intense flavours and excellent longevity.

Generally, the wines of this variety dominate the spicy, the peppery aroma that impresses consumers.

It gives bright red wines with rich aromas that become much more complex after aging.

MERLOT

Easy to drink. Its softness has made it an "introducing" wine for new red-wine drinkers.

Food-wine pairing: any will do.

Districts: a key player in the Bordeaux blend, merlot is now also grown on the US West Coast, Australia, and other countries.

Typical taste in varietal wine: black-cherry and herbal flavours are typical. The texture is round but a middle palate gap is common.

It gives wines with a bright red color, rich, with velvety taste and lasting aftertaste. As an improved variety, it improves the color and aroma of other varieties and accelerates the aging time.

CABERNET SAUVIGNON

Widely accepted as one of the world’s best varieties. Cabernet sauvignon is often blended with cabernet franc and merlot. It usually undergoes oak treatment.

Food-wine pairing: best with simply prepared red meat.

Districts: cabernet sauvignon is planted wherever red wine grapes grow except in the Northern fringes such as Germany. It is part of the great red Médoc wines of France, and among the finest reds in Australia, California and Chile.

Typical taste in varietal wine: full-bodied, but firm and gripping when young. With age, rich currant qualities change to that of pencil boxBell pepper notes remain.

Vanilla notes if present come not from the fruit but from the oak treatment. They increase review ratings but may overwhelm the varietal taste.

It gives wines with a very good balance between alcohol and acidity, strongly red, with a shallow structure and typical aftertaste. It is susceptible to long-term aging. .

PINOT NOIR

One of the noblest red wine grapes — difficult to grow, rarely blended, with no roughness.

Food-wine pairing: excellent with grilled salmon, chicken, lamb and Japanese dishes.

Districts: makes the great reds of Burgundy in France, and good wines from Austria, California, Oregon, and New Zealand.

Typical taste in varietal wine: very unlike Cabernet Sauvignon. The structure is delicate and fresh. The tannins are very soft; this is related to the low level of polyphenols. The aromatics are very fruity (cherry, strawberry, plum), often with notes of tea-leaf, damp earth, or worn leather.

Yet pinot noir is very transparent to the place where it is grown. The staggering range of wines produced makes it pointless to define which personality is the best expression of the variety.

Types of Greek wine grapes

Apart from Greece’s world-renowned and distinguished gems—Assyrtiko Santorini, Moschofilero Mantinia, Nemea Agiorgitiko, and Xinomavro Naoussa / Amynteo—there are several new, up-and-coming grape varieties which, depending on the type and style of wine they yield, show impressive potential and seem to be but a step away from having themselves acclaimed and established in worldwide wine affairs.

Among these up-and-coming grape varieties are some of established status which are now being approached from new angles. Mavrodaphne is an example of such a variety. Although well-known and long-established as Greece’s native variety for the production of sweet wines, its vinification for the production of dry red wines is a relatively uncharted yet quite promising territory which firmly re-classifies Mavrodaphne as being among the up-and-coming grape varieties.

White

Assyrtiko is one of Greece’s finest multi-purpose white grape varieties. It was first cultivated on the island of Santorini, where it has developed a unique character producing excellent AOC wines. Assyrtiko has the ability to maintain its acidity as it ripens. It yields a bone-dry wine that has citrus aromas mixed with an earthy, mineral aftertaste due to the volcanic soil of Santorini. In the last 25 years Assyrtiko has been planted throughout Greece including Macedonia and Attica where it expresses a milder and more fruity character. Assyrtiko can also be used together with the aromatic Aidani and Athiri grapes for the production of the unique, naturally sweet wines called VINSANTO (wine from Santorini), well known since Byzantine times.Assyrtiko-Santorini wines are rare and distinctive. These wines are born from the indigenous Assyrtiko grape, cultivated in some of the world’s oldest vineyards, dating back 3.500 years, on the volcanic island of Santorini, where nothing is ordinary! Assyrtiko-Santorini world class still dry whites can be drunk young or aged, as they are precious, truly age worthy wines; the ideal complement to haute cuisine, fish, seafood and, surprisingly, even meat dishes. These terroirs driven wines of distinct character are structured on exciting minerality and savorous density. They both reflect the unique volcanic and anhydrous soil of Santorini, which is an internationally acclaimed “pedigree”.

 Assyrtiko-Santorini is one of Greece’s most fascinating and unique indigenous grape varieties. When tasted blind, dry wines from Assyrtiko-Santorini (PDO Santorini) are almost always said to come from a northerly climate. Yet its birthplace and favorite haunt is Santorini, a unique island of breathtaking beauty in the middle of the Aegean Sea.

Assyrtiko-Santorini does not at all have the usual profile of other hot climate varieties. It produces a dry white wine of distinctive character and great minerality, pleasant to drink young, but also very age worthy. Most wines are unoaked, though some very good examples of oaked Assyrtiko are made and boast the same great ageing potential.

Very old vines, along with poor soils, hydric stress and strong winds, explain the extremely low yields of Assyrtiko-Santorini as well as the dense structure and the opulence of its wines. Harvest is one of the two –hardly three– earliest in the country and usually starts at the beginning or in the middle of August.

This rare, ancient grape, Assyrtiko-Santorini produces a world class wine that invites you to discover the unique volcanic terroir of Santorini.

Moschofilero 
A distinct aromatic grape from within the AOC region of Mantinia, in the Peloponnese, Moschofilero grapes have a gray colored skin and therefore produce a wine that is a blanc de gris. Its crisp character and beautiful floral aroma of roses and violets with hints of spices can be drunk as an aperitif or with food.

Moschofilero-Mantinia still dry white wines unleash the senses with a surprising freshness and aromas creating unexpected pleasures on the nose and palate. The exotic Moschofilero grape, with its wild floral intensity, is yet to be discovered except by the most dedicated wine lovers. This aromatic variety has existed for centuries in Greece and ideally belongs to the high plateau of Mantinia in the north-central Peloponnese. The exhilarating Moschofilero-Mantinia wines are the perfect aperitif or complement to a sumptuous array of elegant dishes, Middle and Far East cuisine, sushi and seafood, offering singular moments of pure enjoyment.

Though Moschofilero-Mantinia is one of Greece’s greatest grapes, and despite that Greece has the oldest wine industry in the world, the distinctive Moschofilero-Mantinia white wines (PDO Mantinia) remain undiscovered by all but the most dedicated wine enthusiasts.

Moschofilero-Mantinia won’t remain undiscovered for long. Grapes like Albariño and Pinot Grigio are hot properties today; a decade ago, few had even heard of them. And no longer ago, Riesling was a grape that most snobs would argue was only for beginners! Yet, in specific markets today, Riesling is the fastest growing grape variety, and it’s not just the beginners who are drinking it. Consumers want new flavors, and what seems to link these varieties is that, like (Moschofilero-Mantinia, they are lighter, crispier and more refreshing than the white wine styles that held sway up till now.

It’s not just that consumers are looking for something novel and different; Moschofilero-Mantinia is both to many wine drinkers. Consumers have had love affairs with certain grapes based upon those grapes’ distinctive character, whether the smooth and buttery notes of Chardonnay, the rich complexity of Pinot Noir, or now the expansive flavor profile of Riesling. Moschofilero-Mantinia is distinguished in this same manner; the grape’s wild and exotic floral intensity, along with its tangy crispness, offers a unique character and profile that explains why wine lovers are embracing this grape with lust.

 Athiri 
Athiri is one of the most ancient of Greek grape varieties. The name of the grape indicates its origin from the Island of Santorini, also known as Thira, where it is used together with Assyrtiko and Aidani for the production of AOC Santorini wines. Athiri is found in other regions in Greece including Macedonia, Attica and Rhodes where it produces AOC Rhodes wines. Athiri grapes have a thin skin and give sweet and fruity juice. It produces wines slightly aromatic, having medium alcoholic content with low acidity.

 Malagousia 
Malagousia originated in the region of Nafpaktos in western Greece. The winemaker Gerovassiliou, was the first to begin experimenting with the nearly extinct Malagousia grape, realizing its vast potential for producing high quality wines. It is found mainly in Macedonia and is now cultivated in some vineyards in Attica and the Peloponnese. It is an especially aromatic grape leading to elegant full-bodied wines, with medium acidity and exciting aromas of exotic fruits, citrus, jasmine and mint.

Robola 
Grown most notably in the mountainous vineyards of Cephalonia, the noble Robola grapes yield distinguished wines with citrus and peach aromas mixed with smoky, mineral hints and a long lemony aftertaste. Robola’s fine character assisted in its qualification as the AOC Robola of Cephalonia.

 Roditis
As the name implies, Roditis is a rosé colored grape that is very popular in Attica, Macedonia, Thessaly and Peloponnese where it is cultivated for the production of AOC Patra wines. It produces the best results when cultivated with low yields on mountainous slopes. Roditis produces elegant, light white wines with citrus flavors and a pleasant aftertaste.

Savatiano
Savatiano is the predominant grape in the region of Attica where is displays excellent resistance to the dry summer weather there. It leads to the production of elegant, well balanced white wines with an aroma of citrus fruits and flowers.

 Aidani 
Aidani is another ancient Greek grape variety and is mainly found in the Cyclades Islands. It produces wines pleasantly aromatic with medium alcoholic content and acidity. It can be successfully mixed with grapes having a high alcoholic content and acidity such as Assyrtiko.

 Lagorthi
A very promising grape originating in Kalavrita in the Peloponnese. Since its revival, the Lagorthi grape is cultivated mainly on the slopes of Aegialia at an altitude of 850m by the Oenoforos Winery. The Lagorthi grapes produce wines with medium levels of alcohol that have a pronounced acidity derived primarily from the malic acid content of the grape. Its elegant aroma combines hints of peach, melon and basil together with citrus and mineral flavors.

 Tsaoussi 
A very interesting Mediterranean grape producing pleasant light wines with fruit and honey aromas. This grape is now found mainly on the island of Cephalonia where it usually blends well with the local Robola giving well-structured wines.

 

White Muscat
An aromatic grape which leads to the production of excellent dessert wines and interesting dry whites. Fresh or aged, natural or fortified the dessert Muscat wines are ready to please even the most difficult wine enthuthiast. It is cultivated in many regions of Greece but is known to produce the best results and AOC wines in Samos, Patra and Rio of Patra. It also yields a small production of AOC Rhodes and Cephalonia wines.

 Red 

Agiorghitiko  
One of the most noble of the Greek red grapes, Agiorghitiko (meaning St. George’s) is grown mainly in the AOC region Nemea in the Peloponnese. It produces wines that stand out for their deep red color and remarkable aromatic complexity. Agiorghitiko’s soft tannins, in combination with its balanced acidity lead to the production of many different styles of wine, ranging from fresh aromatic reds to extraordinary aged reds. It also produces pleasant aromatic rosé wines.

Nemea-Agiorgitiko, captivating red wines, are integrated into the myth and history of the region of Nemea, Peloponnese, as well as its local culture and legends of Hercules. Traditionally, a deep, dark ruby color, with concentrated aromas of red fruits and aromatic complexity, Nemea-Agiorgitiko wines offer an experience of unprompted euphoria to almost any wine lover. The range of wine styles include rich, complex, age worthy reds for the cellar, as well as light, easy drinking wines with the fresh aromas of red fruits. Nemea-Agiorgitiko still dry red wines are exceptionally food-friendly and match with a wide range of cuisines and occasions.

Nemea-Agiorgitiko is colored in myth. There is an ancient legend that the rich, dark, soft and mysterious Nemea-Agiorgitiko wines from the region of Nemea, in the Peloponnese, Greece, taste that way because the very vines on which the Agiorgitiko grapes grow, were stained by the blood of the lion that Hercules slew, in a time long past. Truth or not, this is the stuff that mythology is made of, and this place, and the wines from this place, Nemea-Agiorgitiko, are as ancient as any in the world, perhaps, more so, and yes... this is indeed the land of Hercules.

The incredibly beautiful and captivating region of Nemea is actually the namesake of its main grape, Agiorgitiko, which, literally, means the grape of St. George (Agios Georgios) and originates from the city of Nemea, formerly called Agios Georgios – St. George.

Among the oldest of Greece’s hundreds of indigenous grapes, the Nemea- Agiorgitiko variety loves its home, and thrives in it. It is the only grape allowed to use the Nemea Appellation (PDO Nemea) and it takes on many incarnations within this variable landscape in the hands of gifted winemakers. In Nemea, we can find 100-year-old vines and older. Some are planted on native rootstocks and there are new plantings expressing the most modern techniques of viticulture. The variety of soils and the diversity of the terroir help to create many different styles of wine from the Nemea-Agiorgitiko grape.

 Xinomavro
The predominant grape variety in Macedonia is a native red called Xinomavro, (meaning "acid-black"). The wines made from Xinomavro are known for their superb aging potential and their rich tannic character. Their complex aromas combine such red fruits as gooseberry with hints of olives, spices and dried tomatoes.

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 its 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.

 Mandelaria
The Mandelaria grape, rich in color, is also known as Amorgiano. It is mainly cultivated on the islands of Rhodes and Crete. Mandelaria participates in various Appellations of Origin usually with other grapes such as Monemvassia in Paros, Kotsifali in Crete or as a single variety on the island of Rhodes, producing distinctive red wines.

 Mavrodaphne 
Mavrodaphne, meaning black laurel, is mainly found in the Peloponnesean regions of Achaia and Ilia as well as the Ionian Islands. It is blended with the Korinthiaki grape to produce a delicious fortified dessert wine known as Mavrodaphne. It also yields very good results when blended with Refosco, Agiorghitico and Cabernet Sauvignon grapes. 

Matching wine with food

How to combine wines with food? Here below are some basics. If you have a specific varietal wine and you wonder which food would match, you will find suggestions in my primer on types of wines.

Avoid

The following food damages wine tasting: spice, garlic, vinegar (to be replaced by white wine), raw fruits.

You should also:

Avoid red meat with white wines or sweet wines.

Avoid fish, raw vegetables, and goat cheese, with red wines that dry the palate - but think of trying a cool Gamay or a fruity Pinot.

Avoid desserts, Foie Gras, and very strong cheeses (Munster, blue cheese), with Loire Cabernet, pink wine, or crisp white (such as dry Loire, Champagne, or Vinho Verde).

Food-wine pairing explained

Wine rouses pleasure with various food. Almost any dish can be matched with many types of wines. People have different palates and inclinations: everyone will make their own combinations.

Still life

For example, you can try cheese with a young white (any cheese with Chardonnay, light cheeses with Sauvignon Blanc).

Some rules can guide your matching experiments though:

A simple course leaves room for the wine to shine.

Old wines are delicate to serve and match. The dish should be discreet.

In theory, a slightly sweetened or bitter course accentuates the dryness (acidity, tannins) of a wine. You should thus avoid hard wines with sweet food.

On the contrary, the more a dish is salty or acidic, the sweeter the wine will taste. This is an opportunity for you to try wines from fresher climates.

Serving Greek wine

The wines of Greece can win over new and seasoned oenophiles with their quality, as well as distinct and unique character. However, by serving Greek wine in the proper way –which is true for all the great wines of the world– its performance lifts off and along with it the joy of the ones tasting or consuming it. Furthermore, the special climate conditions of Greece and the wealth of local varieties are factors that must be taken seriously into account so that when serving Greek wine, not a peg of the pleasure of the unique aromas and tastes bounteously offered by the multi-dimensional Greek vineyard will be lost.