First things first, I expect most readers are wondering how on earth you pronounce it? It is actually quite easy…phonetically it is pronounced as “See-no-mav-ro”. Second main point: Xinomavro is a grape not a wine.
About the grape – Synonymous with Greece, in particular the northerly Naoussa region, this black grape is widely considered the finest of the Greek varieties.
Literally translated as ‘sour black’ – not a hugely appealing translation on the face of it I admit! ….and slightly ironic given the berries have more of a dark blue hue! Xinomavro produces deeply coloured, aromatic wines with oodles of acidity and plenty of tannin which ensures the wines have structure and a capacity for extended ageing.
Did you know? Xinomavro has three to four pips per berry compared to most grapes which have a paltry one or two. This may explain why the grape often has such grippy tannins.
This is another from the ‘not shy’ stable of grapes I sometimes refer to. There have been stylistic comparisons made with Piemonte’s most famous grape: Nebbiolo (of Barolo fame) – probably something to do with the tannin, acidity and aromatic profile which is not dissimilar.
Styles of Xinomavro – Surprisingly versatile, the grape produces a vast array of wines, most commonly found as a dry red wine, the grape is also used to produce rosé, sweet wines, and even sparkling (blanc de noir). In Naoussa it must be 100% Xinomavro, but elsewhere in Greece the grape is often used as part of a blend (look for wines from the appellations of Rapsani and Goumenissa).
Because of the high tannins, this is a grape that needs time, the red wines are often aged for two years (in a combination of barrel and bottle) before release and the best have the ability to age for many years. Oak helps to tame the tannins, but producers sometimes use neutral wood such as walnut so as not to impart any flavour/aromas on the wine.
What does it taste like? With a predominantly red fruit profile – think red plum, cherry and raspberry, there are dried fruits (prune), floral (violets) and savoury notes (of olive tapenade and tomato) with a distinct hint of sweet spice and tobacco.
Food and wine match – this wine (and I’m referring to its original iteration as a dry red wine) cries out for meaty stews, a classic would obviously be lamb kleftiko, but any type of stew would work. It would be great with steak but would work equally well with mushroom pasta dishes too.
Even though they may be hard to pronounce, I think Greek wines are well worth exploring. While I may not be a big fan of its most recognised export (Retsina), Greece offers a vast array of indigenous grapes producing highly individual, characterful wines, and Xinomavro is one such grape. Give it a go if you get a chance and let me know what you think.
Next up “Y” is for Yeast