by Markus Stolz

Thimiopoulos #1

byMarkus Stolz
February 24, 2011, 8 Comments

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.

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  1. laurens hartmanFebruary 25, 2011, 3:04 pm

    Mr Thymiopoulos says: ”Xinomavro wines made in the area of Naoussa: they are undoubtedly the best red wines that can be produced”, and “To date, no remarkable Xinomavro wines have been produced outside Naoussa” …….
    Modesty is my favourite character in a man. And I feel sorry for persons who think of their own small world as the entire world. There is a whole lot more outside Naoussa. And certainly more Xinomavro. Too bad this ‘interview’ gives a totally different point of view. Please do not forget Goumenissa and Rapsani. And of course Amyntaio, the mother terroir of Xinomavro. In Amyntaio one can find xinomavro vineyards from 30, 50, 70 and even over 100 years. The oldest vineyards in Naoussa are surely not over 20 years, please can someone correct me if I am wrong. Mr Thymiopoulos is mixing up terroir with talented winemakers. Naoussa has good terroir and lots of winemakers, of whom only a few (among them mr thymiopoulos) are really talented. The so-called young generation. They sometimes make really great xinomavro wines. So far I agree with mr Thymiopoulos.
    But the same applies for Amyntaio, which – like Naoussa – has undergone a revolutionary change.
    Too bad mr thymiopoulops is so pleased with Naoussa, that he forgets to look further. He lacks curiosity. And curiosity is – in my view – the second best character in a man. Especially when it concerns a winemaking man.
    Amyntaio has very few professional winemakers, only 7. But some very valuable ancient Xinomavro vineyards. Amyntaio has extremely good terroir characteristics for Xinomavro: The altitude of 600 – 700 m above sealevel, the 4 lakes, the sandy lime and sandy clay soil with excellent drainage capacities, semi-continental weather conditions, the snow and rain in winter, tho cool nights in summer.
    The new xinomavro ‘reds’ from Amyntaio are not only very interesting, some of them are even striking. Especially the wines from old vines. Might I add that from the 7 winemakers in Amyntaio, only 1 is not exporting.
    Enough, back to pruning our 100 year old xinomavro vineyard, in freezing cold snowy conditions,
    Best regards,
    Laurens Hartman
    Domaine Karanika

  2. Kostis DalamarasFebruary 26, 2011, 4:19 pm

    Mr Hartman,
    Curiosity is – in your view – the second best character in a man. So why you are not a little bit curious?
    If you were curious, you would have noticed that two weeks before -during the Xinomavro tasting with the Swiss professionals- the man who was tasting wines in all the stands around the tasting room was Mr Thimiopoulos. At the same time, you were the last to come and the first to leave the tasting room without even tasting one wine from some other producer.
    If you were curious, you would have stayed with the other winemakers from Amyntaio to lunch with us after the Xinomavro tasting and taste some great Xinomavro wines from older vintages made by winemakers from Naoussa that do not belong to the young generation – in which I belong – but we stay respectful to our fathers’ and grand fathers’ great job on Xinomavro.
    If you were curious, you would have found this blog: where Mr Thimiopoulos is one of the four who taste wines from all over the world in a regular basis. What is more, he tastes hundreds of wines every month in his wine store in Panorama. If that doesn’t make him curious then what does?
    If you were curious you would have come to my stand to taste the cuvee “Vignes Franches” made by 100 years old non-crafted Xinomavro.
    If you were curious you would have walked to Naoussa’s vineyards to see by yourself if they are older than 20y.o. or not.
    If you were curious, you would have known that the other name of Xinomavro is Naoussa’s Black and Naoussa exports Xinomavro since 1810 according to the existent documents. So let me know what exactly are you talking about when you say “Amyntaio, the mother terroir of Xinomavro”
    If you were curious you would have read a book or a research on Xinomavro to check if sandy-lime or sandy-clay soils are good for Xinomavro before being proud of that.
    And now, I won’t go to prune my Xinomavro because only a librarian will prune in freezing and humid conditions. A real viticulturer knows that it is no good to prune under these conditions. I will go to relax next to my fireplace and enjoy an old great Naoussa Xinomavro from 1997, 1994 or maybe 1987…
    Sorry about being ironic but I wanted to answer at the same way that you did.
    Best regards,
    Kostis Dalamaras
    Dalamara winery

  3. laurens hartmanFebruary 26, 2011, 6:41 pm

    Thank you for being corrected on the age of the Naoussa grapes. That is exactly what I asked in my comment. So Naoussa has old vines as well. Good.
    I reproduced the Amyntaio side of things. Which is as vague as the Naoussa side of the matter. Only to show there needs to be done a lot of research as to the origins and the clonal diversity of Xinomavro. Because everyone claims to be the home of this wonderful variety. (Is it one variety?) We all call our grapes xinomavro, but are they? I really don’t know. Do you?
    I have no opinion on the ‘best’ terroir for Xinomavro. There are many different terroirs. Which make completely different wines. All from Xinomavro. It’s a matter of taste. And of the creativity of the winemakers, to implement all terroir elements in the wines in a proper way. No other variety gives a winemaker such opportunities.
    I just reacted to the strange view opted by mr Thymiopoulos that outside Naoussa, no remarkable XInomavro wines were produced and that Xinomavro wines made in the area of Naoussa are undoubtedly the best red wines that can be produced. I still think this is subject to discussion. To put it mildly.
    I would prefer not to talk about Amyndaio or Naoussa wines, but just focus on XInomavro in all its varieties, and talk about the various very talented winemakers, both in N and A.
    But hey, I didn’t start this discussion by stating that Naoussa made the ‘best’ wine.
    Laurens Hartman

  4. Alexis DifeonidisFebruary 20, 2012, 8:12 am

    Why such hostility amongst winemakers from the same region? I produce wine in Goumenissa Mt. Paiko, the more great Greek producers the better I see it.

  5. Kostis DalamarasFebruary 21, 2012, 12:29 pm

    No hostility at all!
    We just make some thinks clear.
    We are talking about two different regions…

  6. […] years he has managed to produce wines that have won international acclaim. As he told Markus in this interview, Apostolos strongly believes that Naoussa, the small, highly reputed region in Macedonia, Northern […]

  1. […] years he has managed to produce wines that have won international acclaim. As he told Markus in this interview, Apostolos strongly believes that Naoussa, the small, highly reputed region in Macedonia, Northern […]