The grapes are hand picked, 75% de- stemmed and maceration lasts for 18 days. Alcoholic fermentation begins with wild yeast under carefully monitored conditions. Post completion of both alcoholic and malolactic fermentation, the wine is
stored in 500lt oak barrels where it remains for 12 months in order to age. It is then bottled unfiltered.
There is a lot of excitement around Thymiopoulos, who has assembled an enviable collection of vineyards in the Naoussa villages of Trifolos and Fitia, which neighbor one another but are nevertheless quite diverse—Trifolos is said to be one of the warmest subzones of Naoussa while Fitia, with vineyard altitudes climbing to 500+ meters, is one of the coolest. Many of these vineyards were originally farmed by his grandfather (also named Apostolos), but the family had long sold the grapes to others, retaining some for family consumption. It wasn’t until grandson Apostolos graduated the University of Athens’ enology program in 2000 and began making wines with the family name on them. The first commercial releases were in 2003, and the charismatic personality of both the wines and their maker have attracted international attention. Thymiopoulos has also made a point of getting out into the wider wine world—France especially—for inspiration.
The Naoussa appellation—the Greek abbreviation is PDO, for “Protected Designation of Origin”—was the very first in the country to be officially codified, in 1971. It is in Macedonia, in northernmost Greece, and is therefore a cool region by Greek standards. Vineyards are nestled in the southeastern foothills of the Vermio Mountains, far enough from the Aegean Sea to be considered a “continental” climate. Among the requirements of the Naoussa PDO is that the wine must be comprised of 100% Xinomavro, arguably the most important red grape in Greece. Its tannic structure, color, and expressive perfume have prompted many to compare it to Italy’s Nebbiolo, and I wouldn’t disagree, although I don’t find Xinomavro to be quite as tannic (or alcoholic) as Nebbiolo. The soil composition in Naoussa, with its mix of clay, limestone, and some volcanic material, has some kindred qualities to Barolo as well, but today’s 2014 reminded us just as readily to another world-class terroir/grape: Burgundy Pinot Noir. (And it’s not just the typeface on the label that did it!)
Sourced from vines averaging 30 years of age and fermented using only ambient yeasts, Thymiopoulos’ 2014 Naoussa aged 12 months in 500-liter French oak casks before bottling. It is a beautifully perfumed, polished expression of Xinomavro, toggling between Nebbiolo- and Pinot-esque notes on both the nose and palate. In the glass, it’s a reflective ruby red with garnet highlights, leading with sweet scents of black and red cherry, black currant, ripe plum, black tea, sandalwood, and a hint of underbrush. It is medium-bodied, with silky-soft tannins and a long aromatic finish, balanced and elegant and deliciously drinkable now: Decant it 30 minutes before serving in large Burgundy stems at 60-65 degrees and of course pair it with something regionally authentic, like the attached leg of lamb recipe. This wine will impress you. You will remember it, and you’ll want to drink it more than once, so plan accordingly. We’ll be keeping our eyes peeled for more from Naoussa, and Thymiopoulos especially, so stay tuned!