I asked a number of winemakers a set of 4 questions that allows them to give background on their winery, share their views on Xinomavro, expand on the business, and also share some more personal thoughts. Kostis Dalamara from the family run Dalamara winery is a remarkable young man who has already built up an enormous knowledge. He is also extremely thoughtful and full of passion about his region and its heritage. His replies were translated from Greek into English, and I kept additional editing at a minimum in order to preserve his original reactions to the questions. The post will be in two parts. Kostis is sharing some very insightful views that I believe are well worth reflecting on.
1. When did you start making wine?
Based on preserved records, the Dalamara family has been involved in viticulture and winemaking at least since 1840. The company in its present form was created in 1990. I finished my studies in Burgundy in the summer of 2008. I have been working in the family business since 2010, but I was participating in the winemaking process even when I was abroad, either by helping during the short periods when I was back in Greece, or by discussing via phone with my parents about the decisions that needed to be taken. Apart from Naoussa and Burgundy, I have made wine in Alsace, in Roussillon, and Catalonia, working with several different grape varieties.
2. From your viewpoint, what makes the Xinomavro variety special?
The main reasons are its erratic character; its complexity and its capacity to reflect in the best possible way the terroir where it is grown.
Its erratic character makes it special, because it is a variety that is difficult to grow, it shows an aversion to oenological interventions. The prejudice that the Xinomavro variety produces tough, harsh wines has resulted from the application of the wrong viticultural practices. Inappropriate soil types, large yields, extensive irrigation are only a few of the mistakes often made in the past and still seen today. The production of Xinomavro requires a great deal of work. From the preparation of the vineyard to the time of the harvest, the slightest detail can make a notable difference.
Its complexity makes it special, because apart from the production of dry red wines, Xinomavro is able to give very good rosé, sparkling and sweet wines, but also because during its lifetime, its bouquet changes constantly. From the fruity, lively aromas of its youth to the earthy and spicy ones acquired with ageing.
Last but not least, the relationship between Xinomavro and its terroir makes it special. No other Greek red wine variety reflects its terroir better in the final product. The vintage, the producer, the vineyard, the wine growing method all play an important role. Whenever any of these factors changes, the character of the wine as a whole is affected. These changes always revolve around a core set of features: the aromatic finesse, the refreshing acidity and the extraordinary tannic structure. I very much enjoy explaining to our visitors the special characteristics of each year, or the methods of viticulture that we have applied and their impacts on the final product.
For Merlot, for example, such a variation in viticulture would be meaningless. Xinomavro is the one Greek grape variety that best exemplifies the concept of terroir. More specifically, the Xinomavro of Naoussa, with its large number of small producers and the remarkable vineyards, such as Paliokalias or Gastra, can offer so much to the wine and terroir lover! It gives the opportunity to get to know a grape variety through a considerable number of different expressions.
The second part will follow shortly. In it, Kostis shares how Dalamara is promoting its wines and he also talks very frankly about his fears and hopes for the current year.