Greek Mish Mash of Wines; Can Xinomavro Survive in North America?

“Mish Mash” means we have a little bit of that and a little bit of this.
We can start off with a red Domaine Karydas 2012 Naoussa. I am very reticent about this as it is a young Xinomavro which my palate has struggled with over the years. My experience is that you need a Xinomavro that has aged for at least 10-15 years to mute out the grape’s astringency. Consider Xinomavro a Greek Barolo.
It really has a great nose of ripe red cherry, licorice and red cherry Jello. It is giving vibes of a very approachable red wine. On the palate terribly dry, astringent, tannic and scratchy. Again and again I scratch my head why Greek wineries are releasing Xinomavro that is far too young and in essence scaring off possible newbies to Greek wine? I keep banging my head over this as do the Greek winemakers really think young Xinomavros have an attraction to the general public but speaking from my experience Gen X’s and Millennials as wine drinkers steadfastly reject such immature wines. This is the future of Greek wine makers and the young’uns are not impressed favouring more immediately accessible wines than the Boomers.
Young Xinomavro is bad press for Greek red wines and if they insist upon continuing this suicidal behaviour of releasing too young Xinomavros as they are setting back Greek wines. I for one am I great fan of Greek wines but as far as Xinomavro don’t open a bottle for me unless it has been ageing 15 years minimum. Mark Squires of Robert Parker gives this a 90-rating hinting it really needs more years in the bottle. I am not considering the future to give this a rating. My ratings are based in what is in my glass now not what might be in my glass years from now.
(Domaine Karydas 2012 PDO Naoussa, K. & P. Karydas, Naoussa, Greece, 13.5%, 750 mL, LCBO # 272013, $ 25.95, Square Media Group Rating 86 /100). Now I might suggest decanting this wine for a good three hours before serving if you want to smooth it out. If you want to take a bet I’d suggest letting this sit until 2022.
Another red grape in Greece making a name for itself is Agiorgitiko. Dark ruby coloured and transparent will it deliver a lighter and fruitier taste than the Xinomavro? Nose of dark red cherries, coffee, tar and a twiddle of plum. This is not light on the palate. True it has a weak-kneed finish but initial impressions on the palate are sour cherry, mocha and an unfortunate sense of slight bitterness. The label says fruity and smooth. Fruity yes but sharp and tart as opposed to smooth.
Sadly another Greek red that fails to impress. I have a challenging time handling my guilt with Xinomavro so do I burden myself further with Agiorgitiko?
(Celini, Agiorgitiko 2009, PDO Nemea, Cavino, Greece, $18.95. 13.5%, 750 mL, LCBO# 487318, Square Media Group Rating 85/100).
Drink now if you want to drink it at all. Aged 12 months in oak and 12 months in bottle.
Talk about a mish mash. We have an Xinomavro blended with a Cabernet Sauvignon and a Syrah. I have high hopes due to the blending which I hope will take out the Xinomavro as the lead. Transparent red plum in colour. Loads of blueberry dominates the nose. Some blackberry and ripe black cherry as well. Lots of similarity to a Napa Cabernet Sauvignon!
On the palate, big blueberry and black cherry. It is as if the Xinomavro is taken out of the equation. I am guessing the Cabernet Sauvignon is about 60 % of this blend. But I am wrong it is 35% and the Syrah is at 30%. I suppose the Xinomavro contributes to the dryness of the wine but does not overtake it. A simple secret here……blend down Xinomavro when it is young and rescue your wine from overwhelmingly dry and astringent Xinomavro.
Not a bad sipping wine but better with stuffed veggies and rabbit stew stifado Best to drink before year end.
(Askitikos Xinomavro, 2013 Cabernet Sauvignon, Xinomavro and Syrah, PGI Thessaly, Tsililis, Trikala. Greece, 13%, 750 mL. LCBO # 485938, $19.95, Square Media Group Rating 88/100).
I was once a bit puritanical about indigenous grapes being blended with the well-established international grapes but lately I have warmed up to the results I have seen in Portugal and Greece. In certain instances, creativity leads to excellence! The wine was aged in oak casks. Not terribly complex but leads to a rather instantaneous satisfaction. Personally, to remove the dryness from this wine I would be tempted to reduce Xinomavro from 35% to 10% and throw in 25% Merlot to soften and lush up the wine.
Let’s move on to an Assyrtiko which is “the” Greek white these days from Santorini. Medium gold with a hint of green in colour. Loads of lemon and lime assail the olfactory system. Lime and lemon win the palate war. Noticeable acidity and a short finish. A simple wine ideal for grilled white ocean fish with a lemon, oregano and olive oil sauce.
(Domaine Sigalas 2015, DOP Santorini, Domaine Sigla, Santorini, Greece, 750 mL, 13%, $23.80, LCBO # 319094, Square Media Group Rating 86/100).
75% Assyrtiko and 25% Athiri.
A good solid pink colour with loads of tiny sophisticated bubbles. Attractive combination of strawberry, raspberry and watermelon on the nose. Nice crisp acidity keeps the fruit on the palate on a disciplined march. And the finish is sharp and precise. Not only did I like this wine but the entire family did. That is a good vote of confidence.
I am delighted that Xinomavro finally seems to have found a happy home. I have been dissing it a bit of late so opening this bottle was its revenge. It fairly exploded like a cannon. Had my noggin been in the path of the cork I don’t think you’d be reading this now. Boy you critics out there be careful. Be nasty and the grape may take its revenge.
Case worthy particularly considering Christmas is creeping up. Great sipper but enough acidity to be a good wine for a summer Greek Salad prepared with local ingredients.
(Akakies 2015 Sparkling Xinomavro, Kir-Yianni, Greece, 750mL, 11.5% $18.95, LCBO # 482646, Square Media Group Rating 91/100).

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About the Author

Robert Stephen (CSW)
Robert K Stephen writes about food and drink, travel, and lifestyle issues. He is one of the few non-national writers to be certified as a wine specialist by the Society of Wine Educators, in Washington, DC. Robert was the first associate member of the Wine Writers’ Circle of Canada. He also holds a Mindfulness Certification from the University of Leiden. Be it Spanish cured meat, dried fruit, BBQ, or recycled bamboo place mats, Robert endeavours to escape the mundane, which is why he loves The Square. His motto is, "Have Story, Will Write." Email Robert Stephen