Macedonia (Makedonia) is today regarded as one of the most important and finest wine-making regions in Greece. It encompasses the appellations of Naoussa, Goumenissa, Amyntaio, Giannitsa, where the indigenous Xynomavro grape (likened to Nebbiolo in terms of tannins, acidity and ageing capacity) reigns supreme.
It is also includes the regions of Thessaloniki, Halkidiki Peninsula (to the South) and Drama and Kavala (to the East), all of which are breeding grounds for innovation and experimentation with non-Greek grape varieties. The success of these ventures has done the outmost to challenge perceptions abroad about Greece's capabilities with international varieties.
Macedonia has produced wine since ancient times. Ancient records trace the cultivation of vines near Drama (in Eastern Macedonia) some 5000 years ago. The local wine industry suffered significant setbacks and destruction in the early and the mid 20th century during the time when the region sought its independence from the Ottoman Turks, as wells as during the Second World War. The wars resulted in loss of life, emigration and desertion or destruction of large parts of the vineyard area.
The local Wine Industry in Modern Times
In the early 1980s local producers launched the search for quality. Wineries were re-equipped, technology at every level was updated, trained oenologists took over. Producers took to the road, seeking information from established high-end producing zones of the world, notably Bordeaux and California. They brought back international grapes such as Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Syrah, Sauvignon Blanc, Chardonnay, Viogner. These were cultivated alongside the distinct local varietals, such as Malagousia, which was saved from obscurity by Evangelos Gerovassiliou, former Emile Peynaud student and Domaine Porto Carras enologist, to become one of Greece's most characterful dry whites.
Since the late 1990s the local industry has been at the forefront of quality and innovation in Greece. The challenge remains to expand their market abroad, yet politics continues to hinder attempts to organise a strong national or regional promotional campaign. The government establishment in Athens holds the purse-strings and most of the time this purse for promotions is empty.
Of course, not all is gloom and doom.The good news is that the region does have a fantastic terroir and indigenous varieties to conjure with. The region is indeed blessed with a variety of microclimates and geological composition giving its wines with a continental rather than Mediterranean character. Despite its proximity to the northern Aegean, the topography and the climate is more Balkan, with mountainous western Macedonia having a distinct alpine feel in various places.