Recently, I’ve found myself in conversations about control. I’m a control freak. Try as I might to be chill and let things roll, I like to control every aspect of everything. I’ve learned to limit this to independent projects and plans. But it can be a struggle. I’m lucky to have — and I appreciate having — a partner who loves the fact that I am a planner. From how we’ll spend the weekend, to three week jaunts around Europe, if you want me to disappear just tell me to plan an itinerary. I’ll see you when it’s done.
If I were to lay on the metaphorical couch the therapist in my brain and I would agree that this came from having zero choice as a child. I grew up in the strictest of households and the second I was on my own there was no way, no how, anyone was deciding anything for me. Despite being out of the house for more than 18 years I’m still making up for lost time.
This pathological need limits me. When I am not policing myself, I’m incredibly impatient. I struggle with being present because I’m always leveraging my next step – and watching out for those who want to make it for me. Needless to say, I have something to learn from the wisdom of Greek winemakers and my education started Monday night at an event exploring Naoussa Xinomavro.
Naoussa lies in Western Macedonia on the eastern foothills of Mount Vermion. The area is rich in history. The School of Mieza was located where the center of the vine-growing area is now. Aristotle taught here. It’s no surprise really. The father of Western Philosophy said, “Pleasure in the job puts perfection in the work,” and this is obvious in the culture of wine so richly embedded into the people of Naoussa.
With plenty of water, a cooler climate and marl, the darling black grape of the region, Xinomavro, grows beautifully.
Wine Tasting Event: Naoussa Xinomavro at GRECA
Monday evening’s event at GRECA featured nearly two decades worth of Xinomavro, a grape I had only first tasted the week prior. Rather than dive in, I spent time photographing the space and taking it in. Something in the air resonated a strong message of approaching the wines holistically.
The space was the perfect setting; reflective of the Greek way. GRECA is a bakery, feta bar and lounge that, despite being in TriBeCa, feels incredibly organic with its wood hewn features, countless terrariums, and rustic loaves of bread.
I spent time speaking with Eirini Zafeiropoulou of Novacert. Since 2014, Zafeiropoulou has been a Consultant in the Department of Agricultural Products Promotion in the European market and in third countries. She introduced me to Greek wine insider, Markus Stolz prior to tasting. It was they who educated me on how little interference one will find in the vineyard and beyond. In fact, most Greek wine producers are using organic and biodynamic practices. My host alerted me to this beforehand, getting me excited. It’s difficult here in the hinterlands to find wines made these ways and I was greatly looking forward to experiencing them.
Eirini spoke of the Greeks’ preference for doing things the natural way – even at the airport you will find them going through the pat down line rather than get scanned. Markus explained that much of the wine is made using natural fermentation. These one-on-one and small group conversations broadened my knowledge and allowed me to properly introduce my palate to the wines, which were exceptional.
The wine paired with simple, incredible food. Freshly baked bread, olives, cheeses and cured meats, incredible tomatoes with capers. The clean, wholesome food was perfect for pairing and these are definitely food wines.
Meet Xinomavro: Your New Favorite Grape
As soon as you can, go get an older bottle of a wine bearing the designation PDP Naoussa Xinomavro and drink it with a charcuterie with feta, tomatos, and cured Greek meats. Go heavy on the olives and peppers. Also pick up a younger vintage and hide it – these big wines age beautifully. That was the takeaway from the night. Let them be. Aged Xinomavro rewards the patient. And they are brilliant young, but believe me: Xinomavro is best enjoyed when left to age.
We can all learn something from a tasting of multiple vintages of Xinomavro. The older vintages had substantial bricking and a beautiful complexity. There is a theme to these wines: black cherry and raspberry aromas mingle with smoke, olives, and other aspects of the bouquet. They are bone dry, medium plus in acidity and have incredible tannins. They are BIG. And yet they are perfectly balanced. They send a clear message: patience is a virtue that pays off huge dividends. The 2000 was like a fine whiskey with such rich flavors I’m still processing my note. I can’t wait to enjoy more of these.
When you find yourself rushing and strategizing, forgetting to take in the way the moonlight is filtering through the nighttime clouds… Or when you realize you’ve taken no time to ponder your path for a few days… When you’re micromanaging every aspect of your life without simply giving into the moment and seeing what the Universe wishes you to see. If you notice these things, take time to pour a glass of Naoussa Xinomavro Greek wine and remember that slowing down, trusting the moon and Mother Earth, and relinquishing control will bring you to the best version of yourself.
Greek Wine Tasting Notes
I used Facebook Live during the night – I’m always trying new ways to engage – so this post has video tasting notes. Enjoy!
Biodynamic! I swear this tastes how nature intended. Biodynamic wines rely on the position of the moon and natural items to farm in a way that has very little impact.
On the nose: Tart cherry, raspberry, cedar/wood, sweet cherry – like ripened really nicely, black cherry, cola.
Palate: Bone dry, nice acidity, great balance, good tannins. “That is a big. boy.” Eucapyptus, maybe. I was pretty much overwhelmed with the joy this wine brought to my mouth… I couldn’t provide a good note!
I loved all of the wine I tasted on Monday but this one might get to wear the crown of “favorite.” The couple who make Kelesidi Domaine wines are hugely into organic and their local community. They grow all sorts of organic produce like strawberries, tomatoes and peppers and sell them at local markets.
On the nose: Rich red fruit, cherry and black cherry. Raspberry and current, raisiny. Something along the lines of leather that wasn’t leather (I was drawing an utter blank!). Not as much wood as the first.
On the palate: Another that was perfectly balanced with good structure. Medium+ finish. Perfect for an outdoor barbecue – perfect with grilled meats, like lamb.
Naoussa Xinomavro births bottles that are an absolute delight on their own and even better with food. For the 2014 I started experimenting with the available charcuterie. Whether paired with fresh tomatoes and capers or the salt of feta, the wines absolutely sing.
Pure ruby on this one – whereas many had bricking. The color was seriously gorgeous, with hints of warmth at the rim.
On the nose: Licorice, smoke, red fruit (raspberry) – really nice bouquet from aging.
On the palate: bone dry with high acidity that didn’t overpower. The tannins were softer on this but still high. Another that was perfectly balanced and I perceived the body as slightly heavier than the others. The salt in the feta made the fruit absolutely pop. Jammy, syrupy cherry when paired and the licorice also came out more with the food. Raspberry and even strawberry (think strawberries in preserves, or even pie but not overly sweet). Not hugely smoky but a nice amount.
2000: The Millennial Wine
At the end of the bar, with the older vintages, sat a delicious looking wine in a decanter. As I joked on Facebook, I had a feeling I would enjoy the 2000 Naoussa Xinomavro more than I did anything else that happened in 2000 (a rough year!). And I was right. This was a crazy example of what happens to wine with age! Reminded me of drinking a good whiskey – seriously had those flavors. If you can find a bottle, I highly recommend doing a tasting of 2000, 2009, 2014 – or something similar. Also, feel free to invite me.
The color on this one was a perfect example of age – nice ruby/garnet cross. When swirling you could see the garnet and almost tawny notes.
On the nose: Cigar box, chocolate syrup (but not too sweet), kalamata olive and dried herbs, earthy notes. Smoke and some crazy dark fruit. Licorice – this wine smelled amazing.
On the palate: Licorice, smoke – definitely over some sun-ripened black fruit. Less dry, but could be the secondary flavors that were changing my perception. A little tart – alcohol was less than I expected. Again: perfectly balanced with a great body.
2011 Grande Reserve Naoussa Boutari
Incredible color – that’s scribbled into my notebook a few times. I also put that on my live caption. At this point in the night I started turning my camera around – do enjoy my tasting face. And pardon my dirty glass. I always hold the bowl to warm and open the wine but it’s not super friendly for photographs and video.
On the nose: Black cherry, tart plum (kind of on the earthy side), raisins soaked in wine, window-ripened cherries. Baking spice like vanilla and some of the licorice I’m coming to associate with these wines.
On the palate: I’m starting to sound like a broken record. Perfectly balanced – high acidity, big tannins but not as grippy as others. A little more alcoholic than some of the others but not hot – just in balance. Really good balance. Earthy, plummy, herbal but not a vegetal strike – basily/oregany nice herbal note.
2013 – Final Wine of the Night
What a brilliant night of tasting – all of these wines show such beautiful character, have great structure and are perfectly balanced.
All of these could age more but I think this one, especially, is going to be exceptional in 3-4 years. It’s already perfect. But I would love some smoke/leather in it.
The wine was a gorgeous ruby, turning garnet.
On the nose: Cherry, cranberry, raspberry. Earth/soil. Dried rosemary, even a little lavender. Vanilla, cedar, cigar box. My mothers’ house – which means very little to most people reading this. Kind of a cedar chest type smell – think of the smell of the chest in John John’s room (for my childhood friends)!
On the palate: Intense tannins (which I LOVE!). Acid was medium plus with high tannins – structure was incredible. Good high alcohol keeping it in balance nicely. Raspberry and cherry. Complex and balanced. In conclusion, this is a food wine. And when I say food I mean gyro off a nyc food truck – like grab a bottle, grab a gyro, and find a nice spot in the park to enjoy while watching the sunset.
I’m #GeekedOnGreek Wine!
Huge thank you to Artemis Kohas of The Kohas Agency for inviting me to three Greek wine events in two weeks. Also to GRECA, Novacert, Cava Oinos, Wine Art Estate and everyone else involved in making these nights amazing. I had to miss the Dougos event because of the never ending snow but can’t wait to get back to NYC in late March to pick up some bottles from my new friend, Jason, at Cava Oinos!
I’m so excited learn about these incredible, low intervention wines. Cheers!