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A tasting of wines from Naoussa, Greece

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Recently we attended an tasting equally pleasant and instructive of wines from Naoussa in Northern Greece, held at the Stewords Riverboat, anchored in Singapore’s Marina South Pier.

While wine has been made in Greece for thousands of years, close in fact to where historical evidence tells us wine was born a few millennia ago, today’s vinous production sees little exposure in Singapore and indeed Asia. Of the many Greek appellation (the country introduced a controlled appellations system closely modelled on the French/EU one), Naoussa is one of the most traditional and interesting. Close to the Northern border to Macedonia, the region enjoys a mediterranean climate tempered by altitude, with vineyards planted on the south-eastern slopes of the Vermio mountains at 200-500m. Xinomavro is the only permitted grape: wines can be white, red or rose, but it is overwhelmingly the  red hue that is produced and distributed outside the country.

The rather light color of red Naoussa is deceptive, as these tend to be quite characterful wines, evoking Mediterranean fragrances of herbs, olives, and sun-drenched tomatoes. They often have an earthy edge and almost always punchy tannins, which resolve after a few years in bottle. Ageing is definitely worthwhile, and not only softens the wines, but adds complex, subtle notes of leather, mushrooms, wet leaves. Repeatedly during our tasting we pointed out how this is a similar combination of power and haunting perfumes as we find in Nebbiolo.

The wines tasted in Singapore provided a good overview of the current state of the production in the appellation. All of them displayed the typical, expressive flavor profile sustained by a  robust tannic backbone. Even just a couple of years of aging made a difference, showing better integration of tannins and a deepening of flavors. The stylistic range went from traditional to more modern, which in this case meant mainly an attempt at softening the structure and injection of some extraneous oak notes – both not necessarily becoming to a wine that is an original, unique expressions of grape, terroir and history. Naoussa wines (and Greek wines) deserve to be better known and we hope to see soon more of them on Singapore’s shop shelves and restaurant tables.

These are the wines we tasted:

Foundi Estate Naoussea 2011

Foundi Estate Foundi    2011

Kir-Yanni Ramnista 2015

Kokkinos Xinomavro 2014

Lousis    Naoussa 2014

Argatia    Naoussa 2013

Boutari Naoussa 2016

Boutari    Naoussa Gran Reserve 2011

Melitzani Naoussa 2016

Chrisohoou Naoussa 2016

Chrisohoou Ktima Chrisohoou 2012

Markovitis Naoussa 2013

Elinos Mavro Naoussa 2015

Elinos Taralas Naoussa 2013

Kelesidis Merhalis 2009

Vaeni Naoussa 2015

Vaeni Grand Reserve 2012

Vaeni Damascenos 2015

Tsantali Naoussa Reserve 2014

Diamantakos Naoussa 2015

Thymiopoulos Naoussa Alta 2015

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