Macedonia is a vast region in northern Greece bordered by Bulgaria, the Republic of North Macedonia, Albania and Macedonia to the north and the Aegean Sea toward the south.
History of Macedonia Wines
Grapes have grown in this region for thousands of years, substantiated by ancient grape pips in eastern Macedonia.
Ceramics and coins from the 5th century BC show winemaking, and Macedonian containers, called amphorae, have turned up across Europe, meaning that ancient Greeks exported wines around the Mediterranean.
The production of the wines of Macedonia endured into the Byzantine era, especially along the Halkidiki Peninsula. Here, Mount Athos monks cultivated huge vineyards.
During Ottoman rule, regional wine production slowed significantly. Production of wine picked up once more in the late 19th century after a phylloxera plague nearly wiped out almost all the vineyards in Macedonia.
With the two World Wars, Macedonia slowed wine production again. The region expanded again in the 1970s, forged by the Boutari and Tsantali wine producers.
Since then, Macedonia has grown into one into a highly regarded and most extensive wine region in Greece.
Terroir and Climate
The landscape is marginally more Balkan than the Mediterranean, though the climate has continental and Mediterranean influences. In the cold months and hot summers, the former shows up.
The mountainous terrain amplifies the environment where the vineyards grow, concentrating in the western part of the region that borders Epirus.
Here, you find appellations: Goumenissa, Naoussa, and Amyndaio grow some of the most famous reds from Greece, with Xynomavro. Going further south along the Halkidiki Peninsula, wines holding the Playes Melitona appellation involve Cabernet Franc, Cabernet Sauvignon and Limnio.
Thanks to Macedonia being an extensive region, there is a wide range of soil types throughout the landscape. The vines thrive on the rocky mountain soils, with low fertility and excellent drainage, allowing for a dynamic environment for vegetation.
Yet, some areas within the area have alluvial soils with low, rolling terrains. These landscapes are more vigorous and fertile, especially in the eastern province of Greek Macedonia.
Grapes of Macedonia
The vineyards comprise small parcels scattered across the slopes of the mountainous region. Thus, grapes such as Xynomavro, Roditis, Limnio, and Cabernet Sauvignon grow at high altitudes.
As a dark-skinned grape, Xynomavro (or Xinomavro) is one of the finest red wine grapes in the country. The red wines of Macedonia have firm tannins with flavorful palates.
In Greek, Xynomavro means acid and black or black and sour, showing its flavor and texture.
Roditis is an abundant white wine grape produced as a varietal or in many blends. It’s suited for the Mediterranean climate because Roditis ripens late in the season.
Limnio has played an important role in Greece’s grape varieties for over 2000 years. The red grape is full-bodied with high alcohol, including a noticeable taste of bay leaves.
Winemakers add this grape to red blends, including Cabernet Sauvignon and Cabernet Franc.
Several Protected Geographical Indication (PGI-Level) regional appellations and Protected Designations of Origin (PDO) titles guarantee the wines come from these areas.
The titles include Kavala, Drama, Mount Athos, Sithonia, and Thessaloniki. A wide range of international and native grape varieties come from these appellations.
The Top Wines of Macedonia, Greece
- Alpha Estate “SMX” Syrah, Xynomavro, Merlot – Rare Red Blend
- Ktima Biblia Chora Ovilos White – Rare White Blend
- Alpha Estate “Ecosystem” Vieilles Vignes Single Block Reserve – Xynomavro
- Ktima Gerovassiliou Late Harvest – Malagousia
- Dalamara Paliokalias Xynomavro – Xynomavro
- Alpha Estate “Ecosystem” Tannat – Tannat
- Kir-Yianni Estate “Diaporos” – Xynomavro
- Chatzivaritis “Goumenissa” Red – Rare Red Blend
Makis Mavridis founded Alpha Estate in 1997 to develop his own wine after working in several locations in Greece. The vineyard’s SMX has 60 percent Syrah, 20 percent Xynomavro and 20 percent Merlot grown at an altitude of 620 to 710 meters (2034 to 2319 feet).
Experience a deep ruby colour with purple hues, with a powerful aroma of pungent sweet cherry, toasty vanilla oak and candied plum.
It’s a full-bodied wine with deep, dark fruit flavours and peppery, strong spicy accents. It definitely has solid tannins that build through the end, with plenty of fruit and a bright acid lift, adding energy.
The rare red blend has won many awards, from The Global Masters Gold to The TEXSOM International Wine Awards Gold and Mundus Vini Gold.
The SMX pairs well with barbecued or spicy venison, juicy red meats and meat pies. Some like it with aromatic-piquant cheeses as another suggestion.
The brainchild of winemakers Vassilis Tsaktsarlis and Vangelis Gerovassiliou, Ktima Biblia Chora, became a promising vineyard in 1998.
On the hills of the Pangeon Mountain range in Kokkinochori, Kavala, an organic vineyard extends over 65 hectares (over 160 acres).
The Biblia Chora White combines Sauvignon Blanc and the exuberant Greek Assyrtiko with a nose fragrant with nettle and tropical fruits with pink grapefruit and lemon. Your palate is full-flavoured with an impressive body, acidity and excellent length.
As a dry white wine, it has a clean greenish-gold colour. It’s best to drink it in the first two years of the vintage—the white wine pairs nicely with fish, seafood and many white kinds of cheese and salads.
Amazingly, this Greek white wine has won several awards, from Concours Mondial Du Sauvignon Blanc 2022 Gold Medal to Challenge International Du Vin 2022 Gold Medal and Thessaloniki International Wine & Spirits Competition 2022 Gold Medal to Les Citadelles Du Vin 2021 Special Prize Greece.
Alpha Estate starts with destemming, light crushing and a cold soak. Alcohol fermentation comes with flora isolated from a single block, and temperatures gradually increase.
After twenty-four months of stirring and in French oak casks, the wine remains in bottles for 12 months before the release.
The reserve is bright, dark and ruby-coloured, giving a complex nose with a bouquet of sundried tomatoes, licorice, spices, smoky dark fruit, dark cherry and strawberries.
It has a full body with deep rich fruit, including plums, blackberries, oak and light herbaceous on the back. Solid, soft tannins and long aftertaste with long aromas.
The Reserve goes well with roasted lamb, red barbecued meats, spicy sausages, rabbit stew and slightly spiced full-body cheeses.
Barba Yannis has won the Mundu Vini Gold and the Selection Gold Medal.
Along the slopes of Epanomi, near the city of Thessaloniki, Ktima Gerovassiliou vineyard and winery have prevailed since 1981.
Vangelis Gerovassiliou saved the Malagousia from extinction. Today, the winery produces the Greek grape as a varietal.
Vinification happens in stainless steel tanks, though some are in French Oak barrels. The white wine remains in its lees for several months, gaining texture and body.
It has a luminous straw colour with greenish hues and a nose of matured mango, pear and citrus. On the palate, enjoy the rich flavours of lemon peel, uplifting the appealing mouth, continuing with a fabulous balanced finish.
The Malagousia has received many awards over the years, such as the Decanter World Wine Awards Gold Medal, Wine & Spirits Magazine Top 100 Wines of 2018 and Berliner Wein Trophy Gold Medal.
The white wine goes well with light pasta dishes, poultry, seafood, salads, and Asian and Mediterranean cuisine.
5. Dalamara Paliokalias Xynomavro – Xynomavro
Dalamara Winery has a legacy of making excellent varietal and Xynomavro wines from their organic estate vineyards.
Their Xynomavro is a fine example of their craft, with light red colour and aromas of fresh red fruit, ripe tomato, plum paste and sage. It’s spicy, medium-bodied with tannins present and durable. The finish is juicy and peppery.
The red wine comes from the Naoussa region and has matured in French oak barrels for 12 months, while some age the wine for years.
According to the Wine Enthusiast, the wine has an appealing nose of cedar, cinnamon and allspice, following a masculine leather and tobacco left, spice and cherry. Allow time in the glass as a vibrant red.
Make a fortunate combination with burgers, barbeque and meatballs, game birds, duck and goose, beef in red or wine sauce, cold cuts and aged yellow cheese.
Alpha Estate delivers Ecosystem with 100 percent Tannat with a fermentation process lasting 30 months before bottling, where it rests for 18 more months. No treatment or filtration occurs before bottling.
Tannat is a red grape wine from Basque, bordering Spain and France. Such a terroir allows for dry, deep, rustic and dark wines.
With the Ecosystem wine, behold an opaque ruby colour with delicate, intense black fruits, cassis, cocoa, leather and spices. This is a full-bodied red wine that’s creamy with tasty tannins. It’s well-balanced with an excellent palate and a long finish.
It goes well with juicy red meats and spicy barbecue with the suggestion of meats cooked with chestnuts and plums. You can even try the wine with duck, goose and game birds.
The 2010 vintage received the International Wine & Spirit Competition Bronze Medal, while the 2009 vintage received the Selections Mondiales des Vins Canada Argent Medal.
Yiannis Boutaris, a prominent figure in the Greek wine industry, founded Kir-Yianni in 1997 after he left the Boutari Wine Group that his grandfather established in 1879.
The winery brings you Diaporos in deep red colour with purple shades. The nose is complex with aromas in successive layers of chocolate and vanilla, from oak aging and strawberry aromas.
This Xynomavro uplifts with floral hints, like violet. The 13 percent Syrah adds a spicy quality, creating a lengthy finish. It comes with an intense acidity that zings with a rich and concentrated body, with an enthusiastic and robust texture.
The fermentation process includes 22 months in oak casks and six months of aging in the bottles, suggesting the wine aged ten to 15 years.
Diaporos has won many awards for different vintages, such as Balkan International Wine Competition Gold Medal, Hong Kong International Wine & Spirits Gold Medal and Thessaloniki International Wine Competition Gold Medal.
The recommendation is to pair the wine with foods with intense flavours or game birds, duck and goose.
Chatzivaritis Estate comprises 20 hectares (nearly 50 acres), focusing on the quality of the grapes and protecting the fertile land with organic and natural farming.
The Goumenissa Red is a fine example of the estate’s philosophy organically cultivated in Fyliria. After alcohol fermentation, the wine stays in contact with the lees for eight months, then transferred to French Oak barrels.
Here the 70 percent Xynomavro and 30 percent Negoska continue to age for another 12 months. After bottling, the red blend ages six months in the bottle.
The blend has a rich garnet colour with a complex nose of red berries like cherry and raspberry with blackberry. Hints of spice include olives, vanilla and tomatoes. It’s a full-bodied red with rich tannins, ending with a complex finish.
The Goumenissa won several awards, including the Thessaloniki International Wine Competition Gold Medal and Berliner Wein Trophy Gold Medal.
This red blend goes well with red or white meats, pasta and yellow cheese.