Being home to numerous renowned wine regions such as the Barossa Valley, Hunter Valley and Margaret River, it’s no secret that Australia is one of the world’s most exciting markets for wine. Although we locally produce a large variety of premium wines such as Shiraz and Chardonnay, Australians also have a taste for an array of imported wines from the globally acclaimed vineyards of France, Italy and Spain. It would be rare for our first thoughts of foreign wine to be about the small vineyards located in the Naoussa region of northern Greece. However, in partnership with the European Union and Greece, Novacert – an organisation focused on promoting Greek food and agricultural products – have made it their mission to change this.
One of the most beloved Greek wines is produced from Xinomavro; a medium-sized spherical grape variety, characterised by its thick, almost black coloured skin and white flesh, that is native to Naoussa. Grown in the south-eastern slopes of Mount Vermion, the Xinomavro is a strong disease resistant species that produces dry red wine with high acidity, strong tannins and complex aromas, making it a perfect match for rich tomato based dishes featuring beef, chicken, lamb or pork.
In 1971, the region of Naoussa became the first ever legally recognised Protected Designation of Origin (PDO) in Greece. Meaning that the label “Naoussa wine” is exclusively used for wines produced from the Xinomavro grape. Commonly aged in oak barrels, Naoussa wine is tense and very acidic in its youth, but softens with age, taking on a smooth oaky character with hints of clove, cinnamon and allspice.
Recently, representatives from Novacert and 11 different wineries, toured around major Australian cities showcasing a variety of Naoussa wines to the Australian public and major retailers*. On one of their last stops in Australia, the representatives hosted a special lunch at Elyros, a Cretan restaurant located in the quiet Melbourne suburb of Camberwell, pairing traditional Greek dishes with a select range of Naoussa wines.
The oldest Naoussa wine presented at the lunch was the 2007 Kelesidis Merhali, matured in oak barrels for 15-18 months. And just as promised, the aged wine was smooth on the palate and nicely complemented a plate of Greek style cuttlefish with squid ink and trahana.
The youngest Naoussa wine presented, was the 2013 Chrisohoou, which was paired with a dish of slow cooked lamb neck with wild mushroom sauce, served alongside a traditional Greek cabbage salad ‘Lahanosalata’ and thick-cut potatoes. And true to the vine grower’s words, the high acidity of the young Naoussa wine did an excellent job of cutting through the richness of the lamb and the creaminess of the mushroom sauce, refreshing the palate with every sip.
Currently, Naoussa wines are only available on the menus of select Greek restaurants such as ElyrosHowever, with Melbourne being home to the world’s largest Greek community outside of Greece, Novacert along with the help of the European Union and Greece, are working to increase the presence of Naoussa wines in Australia*.
*Information updated 1st July 2016