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Thymiopoulos Naoussa Jeunes Vignes 2013

Red Wine from Greece
Apostolos Thymiopoulos’ modern approach to the xynomavro grape native to northern Greece is based on his beautifully tended, organically cultivated vines. In the cellar he brings out the natural fragrance of the grape, with its hints of pinot noir and nebbiolo, and a silky-textured palate. A great summer red, as it’s at its best served cellar cool.
is no longer available
Code: GR771

Wine characteristics

  • Red Wine
  • Xinomavro
  • 13% Alcohol
  • Oak used but not v. noticeable
  • Cork, natural

Greece

The extremely ancient and proud history of winemaking in Greece goes back 6,500 years and the central part it has played, and does play, in Greek culture ought to have assured it of a place in the hearts and minds of modern wine drinkers. The fact that it has not yet done so is due to a complicated set of factors that involve history, language, geography and climate, not to mention economic woes, political upheaval and a lack of investment.

The prosperous years, in winemaking terms, of the Byzantine Empire was followed by the rapacious regulation of trading Venetians and then the dead hand of the Ottoman Turks who, though they did not prevent the making of wine, taxed the end product heavily. Communication difficulties exacerbated the problems and wine production became a very fragmented and localised business. An international reputation, or even a national one, based on produce from well organised, demarcated and business-like regions with a reputation for fine wines never got off...
The extremely ancient and proud history of winemaking in Greece goes back 6,500 years and the central part it has played, and does play, in Greek culture ought to have assured it of a place in the hearts and minds of modern wine drinkers. The fact that it has not yet done so is due to a complicated set of factors that involve history, language, geography and climate, not to mention economic woes, political upheaval and a lack of investment.

The prosperous years, in winemaking terms, of the Byzantine Empire was followed by the rapacious regulation of trading Venetians and then the dead hand of the Ottoman Turks who, though they did not prevent the making of wine, taxed the end product heavily. Communication difficulties exacerbated the problems and wine production became a very fragmented and localised business. An international reputation, or even a national one, based on produce from well organised, demarcated and business-like regions with a reputation for fine wines never got off the ground in Greece as they did in, for example, Bordeaux or the Douro. Even though independence was won from the Ottomans in the 1820s, the ripples of the occupation were still felt into the 20th century.

The Greek wine renaissance began in the 1970 by the Greek Shipowner Capt. John Carras, who set up his Estate in Chalkidiki, then the largest Estate in Europe. He employed Professor Emile Peynaud from Bordeaux University to advise and supervise the viticulture. The grapes originally planted were predominantly international grape varieties and his Chateau Carras (a Bordeaux blend) soon became famous and was listed at Harrods. The Hatzimichalis family followed swiftly with a very large Estate in Central Greece; again focusing on International grape varieties.

In their wake many smaller producers started making good quality wines. In the 1990's French trained George Skouras continued the renaissance and made 'Megas Oinos' a red wine that focused on the indigenous agiorgitiko variety; this became an iconic wine in Greece.

As the 'new breed' winemakers travelled and studied abroad they realised that Greece's 'treasure trove' of indigenous varieties are perfectly suited to the climate and terroir. By the beginning of the millenium there was a host of young, talented winemakers making wine from Greek grape varieties e.g. Leonidas Nasiakos with his moschofilero, Haridimos Hatzidakis with his Santorini assyrtiko and Apostolos Thymiopoulos with his 'New Age' xinomavro. More recently the second and third generation of Cretan winemakers such as Nikos Karavitakis and Maria Tamiolaki (Rhous Winery) have followed suit and are pioneering the Cretan indigenous grape varieties such as vidiano, vilana and kotsifali. The winemaking industry in Greece has become dynamic, adventurous and exciting and many smaller and niche winemakers have become very popular both in the domestic market and in the international scene.
The climate of Greece is categorised as Mediterranean, and is one of the hotter European areas for wine production. The mountainous interior provides many opportunities to plant at altitude and therefore to ameliorate the effects of heat, but the effects of drought are harder to overcome in an EU region where irrigation is forbidden without a Brussels derogation. Ripeness is therefore rarely a problem except in certain, exceptional circumstances and sites, and the problem is more likely to be a lack of acidity. Harvests in July are not unknown.

Soils are generally limestone based and impoverished except in areas close to the coast or certain valleys where more lucrative crops are planted on the fertile soils. On the islands, in particular the Cyclades, the soils are often volcanic. Santorini is a prime example, and these volcanic soils play a significant role in the character of the wines there. There is, of course, a mosaic of soils types in the entirety of Greece, from schist to sand, but limestone and volcanic soils tend to proliferate.

As with most EU countries, Greece has developed an appellation system, based on the French model, to the extent of borrowing the terminology of Appellation d’Origine Contrôlée on the label. Quality wines, as defined by the EU, are designated either OPE (Controlled Appellation of Origin) if sweet, or if dry as OPAP (Appellation of Superior Quality. If the words Réserve or Grand Réserve are used on a label they have the legal meaning of being aged for an extended period. The equivalent of a Vine de Pays system also operates under which a wider range of grape varieties may be used to make wine.

Wine is made all over Greece, from the high country of Macedonia on the border with what was once Yugoslavia, to the arid island of Crete in the Mediterranean, a location that is closer to Libya and Egypt than to Macedonia. Native varieties are being planted and replanted despite the encroachment of several international varieties.

Sweet wines like the famous muscats of Samos and Mavrodaphne of Patras have a long heritage and when made well are wonderful. And we must mention the famous, and sadly misunderstood, Retsina. Though it has a somewhat debased reputation there is a modern breed of winemakers like Tetramythos determined to make a more refined and delicate version that may yet convert any doubters.
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Apostolos Thymiopoulos

Apostolos Thymiopoulos, the current head of operations at the family winery, is described by many as the young star of Greek wine. The family has been growing grapes for generations, but it was Apostolos’ father that first began to do so commercially: he grew grapes to sell to local wineries, and took the task of cultivating good-quality grapes very seriously indeed.

His passion obviously rubbed off onto his son, who went on to study oenology in Athens. It was during his studies that he and the family began seriously experimenting with the xinomavro grape. They had been growing it for some years, but now they wanted to bring this indigenous northern Greek variety to the rest of the world in a new, modern, high-quality form. Apostolos released his first wine – the 2003 vintage – in 2005. Named Ghi Kai Uranos (‘earth and sky’), it possessed qualities similar to that of modern Barolo, with powerful, concentrated ripe fruit, excellent acidity and good ageing potential.

Xinomavro actually means ‘sour black’ (it has also been translated as ‘black of Naoussa’) and this gives a good description of its key characteristics: a dark colour and high acidity. Its healthy tannins means it is likely we will enjoy watching some of the earlier wines evolve for many years to come. Another of xinomavro’s key characteristics is a remarkable ability to reflect the land in which it is grown, so the vineyards are of course key to its character. It isn’t grown with any particular success anywhere...
Apostolos Thymiopoulos, the current head of operations at the family winery, is described by many as the young star of Greek wine. The family has been growing grapes for generations, but it was Apostolos’ father that first began to do so commercially: he grew grapes to sell to local wineries, and took the task of cultivating good-quality grapes very seriously indeed.

His passion obviously rubbed off onto his son, who went on to study oenology in Athens. It was during his studies that he and the family began seriously experimenting with the xinomavro grape. They had been growing it for some years, but now they wanted to bring this indigenous northern Greek variety to the rest of the world in a new, modern, high-quality form. Apostolos released his first wine – the 2003 vintage – in 2005. Named Ghi Kai Uranos (‘earth and sky’), it possessed qualities similar to that of modern Barolo, with powerful, concentrated ripe fruit, excellent acidity and good ageing potential.

Xinomavro actually means ‘sour black’ (it has also been translated as ‘black of Naoussa’) and this gives a good description of its key characteristics: a dark colour and high acidity. Its healthy tannins means it is likely we will enjoy watching some of the earlier wines evolve for many years to come. Another of xinomavro’s key characteristics is a remarkable ability to reflect the land in which it is grown, so the vineyards are of course key to its character. It isn’t grown with any particular success anywhere outside of Naoussa, which is possibly why Apostolos and his family now dedicate their production to this one variety in an attempt to champion this underrated region.

Over the years, they have converted to biodynamic viticulture, and Apostolos lets the vineyards’ character shine through by not interfering with nature too much. For instance, he does not prune the vines so they can find their own balance, and he is careful not to over-irrigate as it can lead to unpleasantly dominant tannins. Various pests are an issue – in particular, wild boar from the surrounding woods have a very sweet tooth – but Apostolos uses nature to counteract them. For instance, to counteract a plague of locusts in 2012, he released fifty guinea fowl into the vineyards who quickly devoured the problem!

The vineyards’ stony, chalky, green slate and red marble soils come in a beautiful mosaic of different colours, and Thymiopoulos’ vineyards have the added bonus of being up to 50 years old, with established root systems and excellent drainage.

In his small winery in Trilofos, the winemaking process is very gentle so as to retain the wines’ fruit character. Apostolos is also beginning to make white wine using the magalousia grape at a friend’s winery in central Greece.
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2013 vintage reviews

BBC Good Food Magazine

To match James Martin's steak with fries and béarnaisesauce; 'Steak is all about a good red Bordeaux. However Bearnaise sauce,with its tarragon and vinegar, demands a lighter wine. So for...
To match James Martin's steak with fries and béarnaisesauce; 'Steak is all about a good red Bordeaux. However Bearnaise sauce,with its tarragon and vinegar, demands a lighter wine. So for somethingdifferent, pick [this wine]. From Northern Greece, this is a delicate red withdeep plum notes.'
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- Sarah Jane Evans

The Observer

… adds a bit of driedherb, spice and grit to the succulent mix.

- David Williams

The Mail on Sunday

…a serious andstructured red that will evolve beautifully over the next five to seven years.

- Olly Smith

JancisRobinson.com

I included this winein my variety tasting at the London Greek Wine Festival - not because it isreally classic Náoussa as it is lighter and juicier than most classic wines butbecause it is deliciously ...
I included this winein my variety tasting at the London Greek Wine Festival - not because it isreally classic Náoussa as it is lighter and juicier than most classic wines butbecause it is deliciously aromatic and shows a more playful side of the Xinomavrovariety - scented with red fruits - and lively. Refreshing and easy to drinkalready, but not at all one-dimensional.
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16.5/20 Jancis Robinson

The Independent

Pinot noir-like withberry-scented fragrance, while a robust texture and damsony acidity cry out tobe washed down with game and roasted root vegetables.

- Anthony Rose

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