Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Is Xinomavro a Blue Cheer Cover Band?

For its name, which translates to "acid black," you'd be forgiven for thinking that xinomavro is a Blue Cheer cover band. It is, rather, a red Greek grape that is said to resemble both pinot noir and nebbiolo. As I drink the one xinomavro I have ever had, the 2005 Xinomavro Naoussa from Katogi & Strofilia, I get the comparison. The sweet tannins, nutmeg-suggestive aromas, and soft earthiness of this pale colored wine remind me of cool-climate Valle d'Aosta from the upper left corner of Italy, but with more stuffing. Its firm, acid-driven structure also made me think of a gentler take on young Langhe nebbiolo.

I'm not your xinomavro go-to guy; I simply lack the background. I can tell you, however, that I want to learn more. I can tell you that this wine comes from the Naoussa region in northwestern Macedonia (Google terrain map here), a Continental climate region that allows xinomavro exclusively. I can tell you that Palate Press published a good Markus Stoltz article last year and that John Szabo's article in All About Greek Wine is particularly fascinating, as Szabo compares xinomavro's anthocyanin and polyphenol counts relative to nebbiolo.

If xinomavro is always (?) put in oak, these articles and my palate both tell me that Katogi might sand down the grape's rougher edges more than they might have to, and that I should find a more complex, terroir-expressive wine in the better bottles. But it's a good introduction to xinomavro and I like the wine's energy.

Fushitsusha is not a Blue Cheer cover band, either, but I suspect that if some godless god threw Blue Cheer into a black hole, they'd be the result. For those who can stand them, this Japanese band produced a fistful of masterpieces in the 80s and 90s; this is but a taste, and their dense, crushing energy is nearly the opposite of what you'll find in the xinomavros of Greece.

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