Xinomavro is the consummate grape of Naussa, Greece. It gets its name from the Greek words “xino” (sour) and “mavro” (black), so translated literally Xinomavro is the “sour-black” grape. While its name describes its flavor profile to a degree, “black” and “sour” don’t even come close to encapsulating the grape’s deep character. Xinomavro is best known for its dry and full-bodied flavor, but “vin de garde” reds, luscious rosés, and sparkling and sweet wines are squeezed from this versatile grape. Unlike other workhorse varieties, Xinomavro maintains its standing as a contender to world-class collector wines. Wine enthusiasts frequently compare Xinomavro with Nebbiolo, giving it the sobriquet of “Greek Nebbiolo.” It is also often compared to the famous Barolo wines of Italy.
Xinomavro is heavily planted in central and northern Greece.
Well-known Xinomavro wine regions (generally distinguished in the name of each brand’s label):
- Hossin sauce
- Dried tomatoes
Xinomavro wines tend towards the dry side with a medium-full body. Their aggressive tannins, acidity, and high alcohol content (usually around 13%-15%) make them an adaptable and sophisticated wine. Yet hidden in the “black and sour” grape we find notes traditionally associated with lighter wines. Sippers will be delighted to find light floral notes swimming sanguinely with bold tannins and acidity.
How should I serve Xinomavro?
Xinomavro is a perfect companion wine with cheesy pastas, pork and roast chicken, mushroom dishes, and dry-aged meats (Xinomavro’s high tannin levels help to clear the palate). It’s complex, smooth flavor compliments veal and lamb wonderfully. Looking for something to sip with your mom’s meatloaf? There’s a wine for that (namely, Xinomavro!).
Good Xinomavros won’t break the bank, either, as a good bottle will only run about 20 USD.
Wines made with Xinomavro
- Red varietals (Naoussa and Amynteo): Barrel aging tames flavor to create a famously velvety wine. These wines range from dark reds with punchy tannins and dark fruit flavors to light rosés. These wines are required to be 100% Xinomavro grapes labeled Protected Designation of Origin (PDO).
- Blends (Rapsani, Goumenissa): Xinomavro blended with domestic or imported wines to create a more appealing young wine.
I want to try Xinomavro wine. Where should I begin?
Xinomavros are an extremely diverse wine but all contain similar characteristics. That being said, their cost ranges from dorm-room affordability to being at home in a diplomat’s office. Here are some affordable wines that don’t betray the classic Xinomavro profile. Enjoy!
- Kir-Yianni Estate Ramnista ($29). Aromas of strawberry, rose, and cherry with notes of vanilla from aging in oak. It’s delicate floral flavors are guarded by an intriguing amalgam of intense tannin and impressive acidity. This is a youthful wine designed to be enjoyed young with family and friends. But if you forget about it in the cellar for five years, rejoice and be glad! It will grow better with age. Decant for an hour before serving.
- Kir-Yianni Xinomavro Rose “Akakies” ($15). This delectable wine is a notable diversion from the typically dark, full-bodied character of Xinomavro wines. Light and fruity, this rosé is 100% Xinomavro. It parts ways from its darker cousins thanks to the saigne process, which involves bleeding off the juice after limited contact with the grape skin.
- Boutari Naoussa ($20). Typical Naussa Xinomavro wine. And by typical, we mean absolutely delightful in keeping with thousands of years of Greek wine making tradition. A bold, red, intense persona with a soft tannin finish. It punches a rich bouquet of red fruits, hossin sauce, blackberry, and even dried tomatoes. It’s barrel aged, which pulls out the wine’s delicate notes of cinnamon and other spice.