Viniculturist Dr Haroula Spinthiropoulou is very well known within the Greek wine industry. Together with her husband Panagiotis Georgiadis she created the small but fine Argatia estate in Rodochori, Naoussa. Whenever I taste their Xinomavro wines, I am deeply impressed by the sheer concentration and depth they offer. They are meant for long term-ageing, and I wish I could time travel 10 years ahead to take a sneak preview of their evolvement.
Haroula has an in-depth knowledge of the Xinomavro grape variety, and has participated in many important research projects. I recommend you take a look at her very impressive CV here.
1. When did you start making wine?
Before we started our own winery, Panagiotis and I were already involved in the wine industry for more than 10 years. I started my career as an agronomist in the first interprofessional organization of Greece, the Interprofessional Association of QWPSR Wines “Naoussa”. This was a long time before the creation of the National Interprofessional Organization of Wine and Vine, where Panagiotis was the Director.
After I completed my postgraduate studies in France, I worked for Vitro Hellas as a researcher on vine-related topics, with focus on the clonal selection of Greek varieties. This research eventually led to the writing of my book “Wine Producing Grape Varieties of the Greek Vineyards”. In 2006 I commenced providing freelance consulting services in the wine sector. Panagiotis was director of the Wine Roads of Northern Greece program until 2008 and is now Director of Argatia.
We planted our first Xinomavro vineyard in 1999, at a time when this variety was still highly disregarded by all wine journalists, who supposedly were specialists in their field. They believed Xinomavro only produced wines of an outdated character, empty, with no fruit etc.
But I had faith in this variety. I could see its negative traits, but believed that these could be corrected by clonal selection, meaning the cultivation of clones showing the best quality. I also deemed the application of the right agricultural techniques, which would ensure the production of healthy, balanced plants as highly important.
The biggest enemy of Xinomavro is its own vigorous nature. When this is moderated, we can produce wines that range from average to extraordinary quality, depending on the soil or the weather conditions of each year. These wines are never of poor quality, but always show a unique character, because uniqueness is one of the main features of Xinomavro.
This is somewhat how we started.
2. From your viewpoint, what makes the Xinomavro variety special?
The fickle character of Xinomavro is a challenge for the winemaker to tame. The wine has the capacity to age for many years and develops a complex character and unique aromas over the years. It is aggressive in its youth, but softens beautifully with maturity. It is a variety that leaves its mark, like people with an intense personality do.