Apostolos Thimiopoulos has been a rising star ever since he introduced the first Ghi kai Uranos wine to the market in 2005. He is also one of the few Greek producers who have succeeded in selling the vast majority of their production to the export markets. Apostolos is very passionate about Xinomavro, and raises a number of very interesting issues in the following Q &A that I will split into 2 parts.
1. When did you start making wine?
My family has been growing vines for several generations. My father Sergios Thimiopoulos was the first one who got involved commercially by selling grapes to local wineries for many years. He was very serious in his approach and participated in research programs of the Vine and Wine Institute.
After I finished school, the idea was born that our family should make its own wine and towards that end I decided to study Oenology at the Technological Educational Institute of Athens. It was during the time of my studies that we started planting new Xinomavro vines in our family vineyards, and did in-depth research on issues related to the growing of this grape variety, such as suitability of rootstocks, planting density, canopy height and a variety of other factors that impact the quality of the grapes.
After I finished my studies in 2003, I made wine for the first time. It was bottled and released on the market in 2005 under the label GHI KAI URANOS, which means Earth and Sky. This was sold exclusively abroad, and primarily in Germany. It therefore became clear from the beginning that our winery would strive for export-oriented sales.
2. From your viewpoint, what makes the Xinomavro variety special?
Xinomavro (means sour black) is intriguing already by its name, at the sound of which wine connoisseurs expect to taste something that will not leave them indifferent whilst the mainstream consumer could be intimidated by it. Already from the moment the wine is uncorked, even before it is served in a glass, the intense aromas are clearly noticeable and eliminate any doubt about its grandeur. This is particularly true for Xinomavro wines made in the area of Naoussa: they are undoubtedly the best red wines that can be produced, of course under the right preconditions.
It is however true that only few wines from the Naoussa region match up to this last statement. But when they do, it is almost impossible to find another Greek red wine comparable in quality. It is no coincidence that one of the synonyms for Xinomavro is “Black of Naoussa”.
The reason I strongly identify Xinomavro with the area of Naoussa is by no means generated out of personal interest or bonds to the location, but because I honestly believe that this variety would never have attained its present recognition without the extraordinary terroir of our region. To date, no remarkable Xinomavro wines have been produced outside Naoussa.
So the conclusion is that the great Naoussa terroir makes Xinomavro special and amazing.
Under the right conditions, Xinomavro can produce wines that will stand up to those coming from renowned vineyards such as Burgundy and Piedmont, which are deemed to produce some of the finest wines in the world. The Xinomavro DNA has the capacity to generate in the wine the qualities (natural acidity, tannin structure, aromatic flavour profile) that are sought after by wine experts and connoisseurs, in order to recognise a wine as “Great”. Other aspects that make Xinomavro so special are that it is difficult to grow and to make wine with. But most importantly, it has the capability to reflect the terroir of its origin and that is distinctive even when comparing wines from neighbouring vineyards. The wine always reveals even the slightest intervention during its production, punishing those winemakers that try to interfere and thereby violate its unruly character.
Part 2 will follow soon.