I have kept the image of my uncle, Kostakis Nitsiotas, on my mind. I used to watch him when I was young, working on the wines and tasting the content of a vaeni, as we used to call the large oak barrels. Back then, we did not use small containers, but 2, 3 and 5-ton barrels. The idea of ageing the wine in large barrels belongs to another time. What we are working on now is not only the age and the quality of the oak, but also the size of the barrel.
At every tasting he would say “we should leave this for later, it’s still young”, or “this one is ready now”. I remember that all of his comments were about whether the wine was mature enough or not. Years later, when I had all the necessary scientific knowledge, I tried to interpret my uncle’s behavior based on scientific evidence. Estimating the degree of maturity and the various ageing times can open new horizons about the life cycle of a wine.
A young wine can be highly reminiscent of the vines, and of the flavors and the aromas of the grapes. It brings to mind the morning dew, the countryside, the breeze of the mountain or of the sea, happy voices, and the beauty of youth.
Later on, the wine gains beautiful wrinkles and gives flavors and aromas reminding of dark vaults, slow procedures, treated leather and soft fabric, sunset light, or talking about memories and not about expectations. These are the qualities of the old vintages. We try to make old vintages a part of our life. This is what our vines ask for, and this is what the maturity of our people foster.
This beautiful account is from Yiannis Boutaris, one of the most influential figures in the Greek wine world (and currently also the mayor of Greece’s second largest city, Thessaloniki).
Vintages do matter in Greece. While the overall climate is typically Mediterranean, the remarkable topography guarantees plenty of deviations from this norm. Macedonia, where nearly all of the countries Xinomavro vines grow (dominated in acreage by Naoussa), exhibits much cooler climate conditions than many other Greek wine producing regions.
In Naoussa, the harvest of Xinomavro often begins towards the end of September, and its completion typically takes 3 weeks. October is very prone to heavy rainfall, which can be problematic.
The Kir Yianni Estate has kept records of vintage conditions and quality assessments of the resulting wines in the Naoussa region since 1994. I am happy to announce that all of these have now been translated into English for the first time ever as part of the Xinomavro project. In order to fairly represent the region rather than the particular estate, I have further edited the material. This valuable information will be published shortly.