by Markus Stolz

Contraction
of a wine region

byMarkus Stolz
April 26, 2011, 1 Comment

Kostis Dalamara has been dubbed “the future of Naoussa”. He is one of the “young guns”, a small group of young, yet extremely talented Greek winemakers that will shape the Greek wine industry in the years to come. Kostis is very thoughtful, passionate and not afraid to offer his view on controversial issues. At a time where Greece is already badly hit by the financial crises, another threat has become a sad reality:

“The number of wineries in Naoussa has remained the same for quite some years, but the vineyard acreage keeps shrinking. The trend for the demolition of large parts of European vineyards with the blessings of the Common Market Organisation for wine has not left the homeland of Xinomavro unaffected. Like everywhere else in Europe, growers in this region decided it was time to invest in other types of crops.

The difference between the vineyards in other countries and the ones in Naoussa is that abroad, only plots were flattened that did not primarily or not at all concern PDO (Protected Designation of Origin) areas. Sadly, this is not the case in the great area of Naoussa.

The paradox is that Xinomavro is currently the most sought-after Greek red indigenous variety both in Greece and abroad. One would therefore expect the capital of this grape to be on the rise, rather than in decline.

What is the cause for this? Local growers blame the state which did not care enough about the sector. True, but the state hasn’t cared about any agricultural sector for a long time. What did we do to promote what we produce? Not that much!

Naoussa has been called “City of wine and vine” for the past 23 years. Its more than twenty wine producers have not made any move in the past to cooperate with local organizations in order to encourage a wine culture amongst consumers.  Instead, they engaged in a small minded battle among themselves to conquer the local market with very poorly made 187ml bottles, which along with their appalling storage transformed any wine into vinegar! A forgotten museum of wine and vine; some cut open barrel-halves that hold plants in the central streets of town and some sandstone sculptures are the only things reminiscent of a wine culture.

I had to laugh when a visitor asked me to suggest a good wine-bar where he could drink 4-5 Naoussa wines by the glass in order to compare vineyards!

Furthermore Naoussa producers themselves downgraded Xinomavro by engaging in discussions about “blending partners”. Instead of being their own strongest advocates of the grape, they started discussing the possible use of Merlot or Syrah in Naoussa PDO! At a time where everyone was looking for Xinomavro wines they used to respond that “Xinomavro may be quite good but it is just not sufficient without foreign grape varieties”. Imagine Burgundy or Piemont producers promoting Pinot-Merlot or Nebbiolo-Syrah! As if the true potential of the variety has been exhausted and all that can be done to “improve” it is through international varieties!

It is a shame that the area has already lost some great vineyards. Even if at some time in the future things will take an upward turn, it will take a very long time to rebuild what has been destroyed now.

On the other hand it is positive that the Naoussa wine producers finally created the common name “Naoussa Wines” to carry out collective promotional activities. In addition, many businesses have engaged young people who have been educated on the subject and bring along experience from the global wine sector.  Significant improvements may soon become evident.

Naoussa with Xinomavro is one of the four varieties that serve as ambassadors for the Greek vineyard. There is an unlimited potential for wine production, thanks to diverse mosaic subsoil that can lead to the production of extraordinary wines, depending on the specific region. It is ironic to reduce the vineyards at a time when demand for Xinomavro from Naoussa is on the rise.

Let’s hope that everyone who loves and grows Xinomavro will soon implement the necessary steps to reverse the situation. We all should strive to produce wines that will vindicate those who have invested in this area.”

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