Naoussa, located in the heart of Macedonia on the eastern slopes of Mount Vermion, 92km west of Thessaloniki was one of the first AOC (aka OPAP) regions in Greece and produces well-structured, full-bodied, long-lived red wines made from the native grape Xinomavro.
The vineyards of Naoussa are situated at an altitude of 330m and are exposed to a Mediterranean climate with strong continental influences. Quality estates reduce the vine yields by green-harvesting, to allow the grapes to mature in this cool climate.
Xynomavro, the sole variety permitted under the Naousa appellation and is the mainstay grape of west Macedonia (appellations of Amyntaio, Goumenissa, Giannitsa). It is regarded as one of two potential-laden red varieties (the other being Agiorgitiko) on which Greece's international status as a wine-producing nation can rest.
The name Xynomavro refers to the inherent high acidity (xyno=bitter). It is a versatile grape, producing a variety of styles, from fruity roses and early-drinking red wines (from vineyards in the commune of Trilofos) to long-lived, complex examples from the “cru” communes of Yanakohori, Marina, Naoussa and Polla Nera.
The typical Xynomavro wines of Naoussa are full-bodied, noted for their savoury character (spices, ripe tomatoes, black olives, violets, wild strawberries, overlaid by notes of dark chocolate and leather) as well as the high acidity and tannic structure that allows them to age gracefully. These wines are not for the faint-hearted and won’t be a first choice for those graduating from fruity, easy-drinking New World reds. Yet, they are immensely rewarding with their complexity, individuality and age development, for which they bear many similarities with the great Nebbiolos of Piedmont.
Naousan winemakers are also looking beyond Xynomavro: many now cultivate international varieties, showcasing single-varietal wines from Merlot and Syrah (as regional Vin de Pays d’ Imathia).