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Xynomavro is a red grape variety and - the rule rather than the exception in Greece - autochthonous. It translates as "black and sour", which does not necessarily sound inviting, especially in an era of ironed, soft wines. And apart from that? Perhaps it would be a good idea to look at the technical side, so to speak, for the time being. The main distribution of Xynomavro is in the north of Greece, in Macedonia. The main areas of cultivation with protected designation of origin are Naoussa, Amyntaio (Amynteon), Goumenissa and Rapsani.

Old Xynomavro vines in Naoussa% ©www-herbertlehmann.com

As for the variety, it is not entirely uniform, at least in appearance. Sure, the shape of the leaves remains the same, but there are several variations in the grapes, from rather large-berried and elongated to stocky and small-berried. There are also certain differences in taste. The very pithy, acidic clones, which are noticeably tannic when tasted as berries, are no longer common; they have had to make way for the somewhat fruitier and gentler varieties.

The basic characteristics of the grape, namely a certain acidity and solid tannin, already indicate that this is a rather storable variety. Red berries, some plum and cherries characterise the taste of the young wine. When matured, tones of plums, tomatoes and olives appear. Unfortunately, these characteristics have become a bit of a hindrance nowadays, the whole trend tends towards wines that are ready to be consumed earlier and already flattering when young. To achieve this, Xynomavro is often blended with Merlot. The statement of a well-known oenologist from Naoussa is significant: "Xynomavro is the skeleton, Merlot is the meat". There is undoubtedly some truth in this, but it is also impressive as a single-varietal wine if it is cultivated in the vineyard and kept in check in terms of quantity, carefully vinified and, above all, then stored for a longer period of time. In the case of Xynomavro, the latest findings on micro-oxidation are also of great importance. Those who appreciate puristically vinified Nebbiolo, Sangiovese Grosso, Malbec, Tannat and the like, will certainly get their money's worth with the Xynomavro.

What could be better if you want to get an idea of a variety than to see it for yourself on the spot? Especially when you can easily fly from Germany to the centre of cultivation, Thessaloniki, in two hours. It is a real stroke of luck that since 1993 there has been an association, the "Wine Routes of Northern Greece", which takes quality very seriously. Not only with regard to the wine and the wineries, but also with regard to the restaurants and hotels. The establishments are carefully controlled and only accepted after a thorough examination. Of course, there are still a number of interesting producers and businesses that are not included, but as a guide, for basic and even quite comprehensive orientation, the Wine Routes of Northern Greece can be described as almost optimal.

Let's start our little tour of Xynomavro in Amynteon. This small area is situated relatively high, around 550 - 750 metres above sea level. Four lakes and undulating, but already quite high mountains, as well as a harsher climate, already indicate that more aromatic, quasi "northern" wines are to be expected here. Less than 30 kilometres further on, there is a popular skiing area, so the climate is already quite intense. The winegrowing area has a variety of soils, from sandy to rather loamy and somewhat gravelly. The pure sandy soils near the lake, which are considered to be the oldest sites in the region, prove to be a small treasure trove for different clones and here and there there are still almost 100-year-old vineyards, partly planted with ungrafted vines. The total area planted with Xynomavro is 635 ha. The best information about this can certainly be given by Yiannis Hatzis, a true philosopher, as complex as his wines, and a truly authochtonous connoisseur of his region.