For the second time this year I had the opportunity to catch up with Apostolos Thymiopoulos, who is one of my favourite wine producers and quickly becoming a good friend in wine. On this market visit he was accompanied by his lovely wife Eleftheria, her first visit to the Toronto. The couple are the driving force behind the wines of Thymiopoulos Vineyards of Naoussa, Greece. They are the producers of amazing biodynamic wines based on the noble red grape called Xinomavro [sour -dark]. Why is Xinomavro fabulous and worthy of your attention? Well if you are a lover of Pinot Noir, an admirer of Nebbiolo then you will absolutely die for Xinomavro. The wines are bright fresh, savoury with red cherry fruit to sometimes olive sun dried tomato all wrapped up in firm tannin and a good dose of acidity. Sounds delicious doesn't it. The appellation of Naoussa is located in the northern part of Greece sitting a the foot of the Vermio Mountains. Naoussa is one of 4 appellations for the production of high quality Xinomavro, the others being Rapsani, Amynteo and Goumenissa. The landscape here is of rolling and lush hills that remind you of the Langhe - Barolo and Barbaresco regions of Piemonte, Italy. In all truth and honesty my first visit to Greece in 2012 with New Wines of Greece was just after I had spent 6 days in Piemonte tasting Nebbiolo. When I encountered the Xinomavro of Thymiopoulos, I felt like I was tasting an original version of Nebbiolo! The experience was amazing. As soon as I returned to Toronto I contacted the 'brand new' agency of Victory Wine and Spirits owned/managed by Nicole Artopolous and I had exclaimed that I had to have these wines. I could say with confidence that I was one of the first to pour these wines in Toronto and I've been an 'unofficial' ambassador for the brand and the wines ever since. But I digress. The climate here is a combination of Continental and Mediterranean and many vineyards are situated at 300 to 500 metres above sea level. The grape of Xinomavro is one of Greeces vinous crown jewels and certainly impresses with it's charm.
Thymiopoulos wines are farmed on 28 hectares of Biodynamic vineyards in the two prime villages of Trifolos and Fytia. There are no subregions yet defined in Naoussa but they are moving closer to single vineyard designations. What I did learn is that within Naoussa there are 7 villages that are home to the best vineyards for Xinomavro production. The soils at these 7 villages are primarily a combination of schist, granite, red granite and quartz.
Starting in 2003 released their first vintage and have been running since, receiving critical acclaim and plaudits with every vintage. Apostolos truly believes in biodymanics in that it would be strange to have vines 'lined up like soldiers in the field' he prefers to have wild flower and grasses in between the vines, not only does this 'life in the vineyard' add complexity and aroma to the wines, there is a natural barrier and protection that the vines are afforded against the high temperatures here that can rise to 38degrees celsius in the heat of summer.
First off we tasted the wines of his ATMA project. A white wine blend that is composed of primarily Malagouzia, then followed by variable amounts ofs Assryrtiko, Aidani and Roditis. The vines for this wine are average age of 4years old from rocky schist and granitic soils. As 2014 was a rather cool year, the components of the blend will change based on vintage. We had the 2014 ATMA blend which had a very reduced amount of Malagouzia, a semi-aromatic varietal. Instead of ripe luscious fruit, there is lean and clean floral aroma to peach and pear and slight green apple. There was some flesh to the wine underlining the wines subtle and pleasant nature. The wine had been previously called 'The Boarding Pass' which I had purchased in 2011. The wine stylistically has come along way and will only get better with time.
We then jumped into the main feature of the visit and that is the Xinomavro wines of Young Vine and Earth and Sky. I know that with every guest that I present this wine to they have been awestruck and amazed at it's quality and character. I gently remind them that Xinomavro and the terroir from which this grape comes from is some of the oldest wine growing regions in the world and that much of what we know about wine today originates here and before that in the Middle East. Amazing! I know.
The 2013 Young Vines Xinomavro is composed of vines aged 7-9 years. Much of the fruit is coming from several villages in the area. Harvested in the end of September, the wine goes into maceration for 12-14 days and sometimes this is done in whole cluster to give depth and texture. I must say that this vintage was quite exceptional. A combined and stunning rich fruity and floral aroma with savoury earthiness to balance. To taste this wine is to taste silky red and black cherry, with sweet sundried tomato and tomato leaf with a lift that is like a fresh breeze in the northern hills of Greece. Apostolos has had a hard time keeping this wine in stock. So much so that he most recently bottled directly from the stainless steel vats! Believe me the wine is this good!
Now to the big brother, 2013 Earth and Sky sourced from 9-11 vineyards with average age of 42 year old vines, natural fermentation and no controlled malolactic, 4 month on lees and continual ageing in large barrel for 18 months. Now words can't really describe the lovely rich and heady aroma of this wine, earthy pine needles with a creamed cherry tartness that lashes out images of Nebbiolo, then pushes fine and velvety tannin of Sangiovese then back flips back to the old world with a charm that is only Xinomavro!
Last but not least was the 2014 Rosé. The vines are on average 4 years old, harvested in November after the grapes for the reds are collected. A 10 hour overnight extractions results in a gorgeous candy cherry and raspberry delight. This is a wine with presence and me not being a 'massive' fan of rosé could not help but fall in love with this wine.
If you haven't yet tried the wines of Thymiopoulos, I really do believe you might be missing out on a very exciting and engaging family of wines from Naoussa in Northern Greece. There are many great wine of the world and I think even fewer that provide sheer and pure drinking pleasure.
Drink More Xinomavro