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As one of the oldest wine producing countries in the world, Greece has millenia of experience and expertise when it comes to viticulture, and has developed a set of flavors and characteristics which are found nowhere else on earth. The ancient Greeks revered and deified wine, and were the first true innovators in the history of wine, adding everything from seawater to honey and spices in order to find exciting new taste combinations and aromas. Today, Greek wines are just as varied, although far more refined and sophisticated than their ancient counterparts. The practice of enhancing Greek wines with aromatic substances never left the country, though, as can be seen in the popular Retsina wines, which use pine resin to provide their unique taste and aroma combinations. There is far more to Greek wine than merely Retsina, however, and the vast variety on offer is a testament to the expertise of Greek wineries making the most of the wonderful climate, terrain and grape varietals they work with.
The Greek wine region of Macedonia is one with a very long and troubled history, and the beginning of the twenty-first century saw winemaking there almost disappear forever. A combination of political upheaval, war, mass emigration and the devastating phylloxera epidemic devastated this ancient wine culture, but enormous effort over the past one hundred years has seen a truly impressive revival of one of the Old World’s oldest homes of fine wine. This massive investment and the dedication of both local and international winemakers and businesspeople has restored the glamor to Macedonia, and taken it to the world stage with renewed gusto and confidence, on the back of excellent and uniquely Macedonian produce.
The region of Macedonia is split into several sub-regions, but the most famous and widely renowned is that of Naoussa, which is located on the beautiful slopes of Mount Vermion. There, the fine, mineral rich soils, and the cooler climatic conditions result in a delicious set of full-bodied, richly flavored and complex red wines made from the region’s native grape varietal: Xinomavro. This grape can be found all across Macedonia, and the wines it produces range from the strong and densely flavored, to lighter bodies varieties and sparkling wines. Vintners in the region have also found great success with imported French varietals, and Macedonia continues to go from strength to strength.
Xinomavro is the predominant grape varietal of Macedonia, although it is also grown in many parts of Greece where the climatic conditions are suitable for this particular fruit. The names translates as 'acid black', which gives some clue as to the nature of this varietal. The grapes are renowned for their high tannin content, which is a result of the thick and blue-black skins found on the fruit. This particular characteristic results in a superb aging potential in wines made from the Xinomavro varietal, as time spent in barrels softens these strong, astringent tannins and allows the full range of their flavors to come through in the wine. Most commonly, Xinomavro grapes are associated with aromas of red gooseberry, spices, olives and dried fruit, such as dried tomato.