Home History Wine, Religion & Culture Wine Today Wine & Food Classification Traditional Varieties

Wine today

Macedonia is different in many ways from the other wine regions of Greece. Despite its proximity to the northern Aegean, a distinct set of microclimates and geological environments give the land – and its wines – an unparalleled continental flavor. The topography, though widely varied, is more Balkan than Aegean. Even along the coast, the sandy softness of the land is in contrast to the rugged coastlines of southern Greece and most of the islands.

Scenes of vine cultivation

Mountainous western Macedonia has a distinct alpine feel in various places. Rolling hills and flat plains in the north and central areas are a soothing respite from the drama of southern Greece. Although winemaking was never dealt a death-blow, phylloxera in the early 1900s, the Balkan wars of 1912-13 and the Second World War took a further toll on wine production in Naoussa and other parts of Macedonia.


Naoussa

Naoussa is one of Greece’s best-known regions among foreigners. The Boutari firm is widely credited with reversing the decline of viticulture in Naoussa. Ioannis Boutaris was the first to bottle wine in the area beginning in 1879. Boutaris was instrumental in the widescale replanting of Xynomavro in Naoussan vineyards following the catastrophic outbreak of Phylloxera in the years before World War I. The establishment of the Naoussa appellation in 1971 spurred a slew of new producers intent on fulfilling the promise of Xynomavro. Much to the benefit of serious enofiles, Naoussa provides a case study in coherence: one region, one predominant (and characterful) cultivar and a host of producers expressing individual interpretations therefrom. Except xynomavro many Naoussa winemakers now cultivate more familiar ‘cosmopolitan’ varieties, especially the innovative and experimental Kir-Yianni estate of Yiannis Boutaris. When they do, however, the focus is not on style but on quality. The divergant paths to quality are what make Naoussa such a rich tapestry of wines.

The Boutari Winery in Naoussa has been in operation since 1977. It was the first facility to be established by the Boutari company and remains its most important site in terms of production. It has an annual production capacity of 14.000.000 litres, two bottling lines and 2.200 m2 of underground cellars where Boutari wines mature in 3.000 oak barrels.

The winery plays an important role in the viticultural, socio-economic and cultural development of the region. The company’s expertise, in combination with the experience, hard work and enthusiasm of the local vine-growers with whom Boutari company has strong long-lasting relationships, has yielded unparalleled results, promoting the old, established Greek variety of Xinomavro and experimenting successfully with the planting of new foreign and Greek varieties.

The Boutari Winery in Naoussa is open to the public. Visitors are offered:

Since 1840, the Dalamaras family has been involved in wine making and distillation. Over a century and a half later it continues to produce these same quality wines. The vineyards are located on the eastern foot hills of Mount Vermion near Naoussa in a traditional vineyard area called Paliokalias at an altitude of 350 m. The climate of this area features warm and dry summers and mild winters. The wines are cultivated with the methods of biological cultivation.

The Dalamaras winery is located in the outskirts of Naoussa (1st km Naoussa-Veria) and is open to all visitors to come and sample their wines and learn the history of Naoussean wine making through our forefathers traditional facilities. Also, one may witness the making of Tsipouro in our old distillery.

Kyr Yanni winery is situated in the area of Ramnista in Giannakohori, near Naoussa. The Property’s vineyard extends to a total of 500 acres of land and during the Turkish domination it was part of a big estate. The vineyard is situated 280-330 metres above sea level and the varietals which are cultivated are sourblack (70%), syrah (10%), merlot (10%) and the rest different experimental varietals. In the centre of the vineyard there is an artificial lake which in older times was used as water storage place, but nowadays it has been developed into a wildlife sanctuary.

The Property’s wine factory is placed in the middle of the vineyard and all its places can be visited. The winery is a small-scale, but fully equipped facility to perform standard processing for premium wines. Stainless steel fermentors (120 and 180 HL) and tanks (50 and 60 HL) are operated under temperature control to receive annually a total of 350 tons of grapes. All wines undergo malolactic fermentation in the cellar without inoculation. Over 400 oak barrels (225 and 500 L) are used for the maturing and aging of wines, which lasts for a minimum of 12 months. They are mostly made from Limousin wood and are fully replaced every four years. The wines are minimally filtered, bottled, and stored for another 12 months in a temperature controlled warehouse before being shipped.

Among the most traditionalist Naoussa producers are the Melitzanis brothers, whose Gastra vineyards produce some of the region’s best fruit. The Naoussa appellation stipulates that the wine spend a minimum of one year in barrel. The Melitzanis brothers believe, however, that almost any oak contact imparts qualities that harm varietal integrity. Aging of the naturally tannic and acidic Xynomavro, they believe, requires no assistance from oak whatsoever. According to Antonis Melitzanis, if he had his druthers he would revert to walnut, the traditional wood used in barrels in Naoussa until recently. For now, the older the oak, the better. His wines, the stuff of dreams for real enofiles, are hip, not because they are ‘retro’, but because they display no methodologies too closely associated with ephemeral market trends.

Keimis Chrisohoou, who, like the Melitzanis brothers, comes from good Naoussa wine stock, has adopted a different philosophy. After following a traditional course for years, Chrisohoou had to confront the fact that his white wines (especially his Prekniariko from the rare Priknadi), were competing more successfully for attention than his reds. Experimenting with Merlot and Cabernet, he created various Xynomavro blends, employing carbonic maceration to highlight fruit and soften tannins. For his appellation reds, however, he stays loyal to tradition until the end of fermentation, when malolactic fermentation is used to crop the more angular extremities of flavor. Like those of many other winemakers in the region, Chrisohoou’s improved reds have benefitted by vineyard micromanagement and the isolation of superior parcels for reserve wines.

The Fountis family comes originally from the village of Strantza in Eastern Thrace, which is fled during the upheavals of the Second Balkan War. George Fountis and his son Theodore took up viticulture and they planted the first of their own vineyards in 1930, with Xynomavro. Theodore’s son, Nicolas, enlarged the family’s vineyard holdings during the 1970’s. During the 1980’s and following contacts with various members of the international wine community, he became committed to domaine-bottling. This led him to found Domaine Fountis in 1992 and to invite his nephew, Dimitris Ziannis (on completion of his oenology studies in France), to join the domaine as winemaker, in 1996. Domaine Fountis’ small modern winery sits within the entrancing scenery of New Strantza and, being a member of the Wine Roads of Macedonia, it is open to all oenophiles who wish to learn about the captivating world of Xynomavro.

One of Greece’s most advanced wineries is the “Vaeni Naoussa Wine Producers Cooperative”. It represents nearly 70% of the wine production in the Naoussa region, which is renowned for its fine red wines. A full appreciation for quality and the expertise and dedication of its member vine producers, coupled with the most advanced technology, quarantee excellence in every bottle of the “Vaeni- Naoussa”, which is produced exclusively by the special Nothern Greek Xynomavro variety. The winery is staffed by skilled experts and is operated according to European stadards. It is located within the boundaries of the viticultural region of Naoussa, a fact which insures quality right from the start. Know-how and attention to detail mark the consistently outstanding vintages of the “Vaeni- Naoussa”. The wines produced and bottled by “Vaeni- Naoussa” are exported to England, France, Denmark, Netherlands, the United States, Germany and Belgium. The distinctive taste and superior quality are recognized with the first glass.

Two km from Naoussa at Mademi, in the heart of the Apellation of origin Naoussa you will find the Diamantakos Estate. It is a 3 hectar vineyard where the Diamantakos family cultivates the noblest variety of North Greece, Xynomavro, as well as Roditis. The regional climate has a dry summer with a soft wind all through the year and the altitude is 350 m. The vinification takes place at the Diamantakos estate with modern equipment and the maturation is done in oak barrels.The Diamantakos Estate winery is surrounded by its vineyards and in there you can find the tsipouro manufactory, wherethe traditional Tsipouro is produced with the purest and most natural ingredients.

Tsantali, who have their own strong presence in the region have applied their new, modern philosophy there, as they have elsewhere.


Goumenissa

Goumenissa is one of Greece’s most famous regions for its wines. In this town in the Prefecture of Kilkis, capital of Paionia’s province, there is the Zone of Appointed Origin of Superior Quality of Goumenissa. The varieties Xynomavro and Negoska, from which dry red wines are produced, are cultivated in the zone. The zone is situated 70 kilometres away from Thessaloniki and extends to the foot of Paiko.

Christos Aidarinis winery is situated in Goumenissa and is a place that can be visited and, moreover, shows the family’s age-long history in the area of wine. Aidarinis’ family occupation with wine growing and fine wine-making dates back to the 19th century and continuously develops nowadays. The private vineyard lies on the foot of mount Paiko in Central Macedonia and it is characteristized by its Xynomavro and Negoska grapes.The family owns a picturesque old cellar as well as a sophisticated new winery. Both are available for guided visits.

The vineyard implanted in 1978, covers 4 ha and is situated at an altitude of 300 m, at the “Gymni Rachi” location. The annual production is vinified according to classical red vinification processes. Wine is then aged in new French oak barrels for approximately one year and is bottled under the brand name of “Goumenissa A.O.C.”

In 1985 Boutaris built a new winery in Goumenissa. The company’s expertise, in combination with the experience, hard work and enthusiasm of the local vine-growers, has yielded unparalleled results, promoting the old, established varieties of grape and experimenting successfully with the planting of new foreign and Greek varieties.  The Boutari Winery in Goumenissa has also contributed to raising the region’s cultural profile and assisted the region’s socio-economic development. The Boutari Winery in Goumenissa produces the wines Goumenissa and Domaine Filyra. The winery is open to the public. Visitors are offered:


Giannitsa

Between Goumenissa and Naoussa lies prime farmland on which, from ancient times until the early twentieth century, the vine had flourished. One of Greece’s most serious winemakers, French-trained Thomas Ligas has reclaimed a piece of this pleasant, hilly terrain, creating a vineyard and winery that have enabled him to express his appreciation for the land and its history through the vinification of wines that display not only the advantages of soil and climate, but his deft hand in harnessing them. Apart from local wines such as “Alexander” it also produces AOSQ of Goumenissa wines. The vineyard’s grapes of the wine factory, as well as the vine-grower’s or suppliers’ grapes, are all cultivated in a biological way. Visitors can taste the wines in the specially arranged place. At the same place there is sales-room where the visitors can buy the wines in commercial packaging or gift packaging.


Amyntaio-Velventos

The vinicultural zone in Amyntaio is known as the zone of Appointed Origin of Superior Quality (AOSQ) and ranges at the area of Amyntaio’s plateau. The altitude of the zone is 570-750 m and occupies approximately 5500 acres of vineyards. Administratively, the above mentioned zone AOSQ belongs mainly to the Prefecture of Amyntaio, arising from the enforcement of the law N.2539/97 (known as “I. Kapodistrias Project”), though a very small part of the zone belongs to the Prefecture of Filota (this refers to the Public Regions of Maniaki and Antigoni). The zone belongs to the Prefecture of Florina.

The climate is nearly that of the mainland, with low temperatures and significant snowfalls during the winter, however in the summer, there are quite frequently strong winds from the north. The region’s main varietal is Xinomavro and based on this varietal the following types of wine: Dry red wine, Sparkling rose wine, Dry and semi-dry rose wine and Semi-sweet red wine are recognized as AOSQ of Amyntaio wines. The white varietals Roditis, Chardonnay and Sauvignon, as well as the red ones, Merlot and Syrah are also cultivated in the region, but in limited stretches of land.

The winery of Amyntaio Coop is situated in Amyntaio. Xynomavro is the varietal which prevails in the region and UAC in Amyntaio exclusively uses grapes of this varietal to make wine. The winery produces white, rose and red table and AOSQ wines, as well as sparkling wines. The fact which should be stressed is that the solitary sparkling rose wine existing in Greece is produced at the wine factory of UAC in Amyntaio. Having tasted the wines, the visitor may purchase his favourable wines in individual flagons. These come out in commercial packaging and gift packaging.

Vegoritis SA wine factory was founded in 1997 at St. Panteleimonas in Amyntaio and took its name from the lake of the same name. At the main building, a fully equipped facility performs standard processing for premium wines. Stainless steel fermentors (50 and 250 HL) and tanks operate in an adjacent building. In the cellar, oak barrels are used for the maturing and aging of white and red wines. A vineyard of 6 ha surrounds the winery.The church of St. Panteleimon is built at its banks. The lake, along with the nearby massif and the vinicultural zone, compose the magnificent landscape of the region. The winery produces red and rose V.Q.P.R.D., as well as red and white Vin de Pays wines from the Amyntaio viticultural zone of the Florina area. It also custom-crushes for the privately owned Droumo vineyards. Wine-maker Yiannis Boutaris serves as the managing director.

In Velventos Yannis Yoyatzis has replanted his family’s vineyard on the gentle slope above Lake Polyfyto with an intriguing mix of traditional Greek and foreign varieties. Voyatzis, who is the head of enology and product development for the Boutari Group, is widely regarded as the best in his field in Greece. His wines are already achieving success in Greece and America even as work continues on a new winery at his vineyard. Velventos is situated 33 kilometres Southeast of Kozani at the foot of Pieria Mountain and next to Polifitos lake. The settlement has significant Byzantine and Later-byzantine monuments which can be seen by the visitor while admiring the truly breathtaking view of the Pieria and the lake. The visitor can also visit the Castle of the neighbouring town Servia, as well as Kozani which has a museum of great importance, library and market.


Thessaloniki Area

Thessaloniki, Greece’s second largest city, is home to several wine firm head offices, but the exurbs are not home to viniculture on any major scale. There is, however, some wine production in the area.

Babatzim & Co, winery is situated on the slopes of Vertiscos, in Ossa. The wines of the wine factory are produced from grapes which are cultivated in a biological way in the privately owned vineyard. The winery was established in 1875, in Constantinople and owned a vineyard in Deliones, in Silivria. In 1932 the company was relocated to Greece, where it expanded to the production of Ouzo, Brandy and Liquor, and since 1940 it has had its headquarters in Thessaloniki. In 1974 the first experimental vineyard was created, followed by the establishment of a winery and a distillery in Aghialos, in Macedonia, in 1980. In 1988 the distillery was expanded to enable the production of Tsipouro and the Distills of Grapes. Towards the end of the 20th century, the biologically cultivated vineyard at the slopes of mountain Vertiskos, near Ossa, in the wider area of Lagada, is completed, reaching 62 acres. Inside it a new winery and distillery are established for the production of biological products from Anestis Babatzimopoulos Farm.

The current products of the family business are Ouzo, Tsipouro from Macedonia, Distills of Grapes, Various Wines from Anestis Babatzimopoulos Farm, Macedonia Local Wine, Mesimvria Local Wine, Slopes Of Vertiskos Local Wine.

A few km outside Thessaloniki on the hillsides of Epanomi, a privately owned and well taken care of vineyard of 23 ha with distinguished varieties has been thrivimg for many years. The soil of these hillsides derives from alluviums of surrounding aquatic area, while the mild winter and cool summer created an ideal ecosystem for the vineyards cultivation. Therefore this area was given the name Kalamaria (namely good side). Among Merlot, Sauvignon Blanc, Chardonnay, Viogner, Malagouzia and Assyrtico that grow patiently within the sand-argillaceous soil, dominates contemporary family run winery. The magnificent linear vineyard and stony chateau with underground cellars, compose the picture of Domaine Gerovasiliou, which forms the hidden pride of viniculture presentation in the area. From the determination of the harvest season, the grapes process in the stemmer-cruser, the attentive pressure in the pneumatic press, the temperature controlled fermentation until the aging in oak barrels and bottling, Vangelis Gerovasiliou, an Agronomist and Enologist by profession guarantees annually the savoury quality. All wines white and red produced in the Domaine belong to the Regional wines of Epanomi; it is not fortuitous that these wines have been awarded many international prizes and distinctions, due to their high quality and everlasting consequence.

The Kechris firm, whose facilities are in Kalohori, produces wines from grapes sourced in Mesimvria, Thraki.

Mantovani produces white and rose wines from local grapes in Nei Epivates.


Halkidiki

The peninsula of Halkidiki lies ahead with its three branches that fork into the Aegean sea, the peninsulas Cassandra, Sithonia and Athos. The vines are cultivated in the central Halkidiki area (Agios Pavlos - Nea Kallikratia), at the middle branch, Sithonia, and at the eastern one, Mount Athos. At Agios Pavlos the vineyards are spread on low hills. They abut on the sea which counterpoises with its aura the extreme summer temperatures. The varieties cultivated are Roditis, Sauvignon blanc, Xynomavro and Cabernet Sauvignon which produce the Vins de Pays de Halkidiki. A bright, fruity, vivid white wine and a deep colored, rich and round red one.

Sithonia, the middle peninsula of Halkidiki, is filled with picturesque small ports, sand beaches, verdurous landscapes and offshore settlements. The vineyards are located at Porto Carras, on the sunny slopes of Mount Meliton. The region’s dry climate and the beneficial moisture of the sea are in favor of producing selected wines. The red, deep colored, velvety tasting wine SLOPES OF MELITON (Appellation of Origin), which is produced through the combination of the Limnio, a variety known at least since the times of Aristotle and the French varieties Cabernet Sauvignon and Cabernet franc. Also a white wine of a pleasant freshness SLOPES OF MELITON (Appellation of Origin) is produced by combining three Greek grape varieties: Roditis, Assyrtiko and Athiri.

At the eastern most peninsula of Halkidiki lies Mount Athos. There is a long lasting vineyard tradition and wine production in almost all the monasteries of Mount Athos. Today, there is a wide variety of grapes cultivated at the vineyard: Roditis, Athiri, Assyrtiko, Limnio, Xynomavro, Cabernet Sauvignon and Grenache rouge. In this blessed land with the mild climate, the efficient sunlight, the mountainous freshness and sea moisture are produced two Vin de Pays Agioritikos, a pleasant fresh white and a fruity rose.

Tsantali has set up three wineries in Northern Greece located at:Agios Pavlos in Halkidiki, Naoussa in Macedonia and Rapsani in Thessalia, on the foothills of Mount Olympos. Tsantali wineries equipped with state of the art technology produce wines that reflect not only the growers devotion to the land and commitment to quality but also the unique personality of each region’s soil, climate and fruit. Barrel aging is an essential factor for certain wines to achieve world-class character. Tsantali uses oak barrels made from wood from the Allier forest in France, which are considered ideal for the aging of fine, premium wines.

In Agios Pavlos winery Tsantali produces Agioritikos regional white and rose wine (Mount Athos), Makedonikos, white and rose regional wine, Ambelonas, regional white wine, Athiri, Makedonikos white wine, Chauvignon, regional wine of Halkidiki.

Domaine Porto Carras, the biggest privately owned vineyard of Greece and one of the most beautiful vineyards in Europe, lies on the slopes of mount Meliton and is part of Porto Karras, which is an area with a multi-sided developed tourism, wine-making, of cultural and athletic demonstrations. In the region there are AOSQ wines produced, since the area is characterized as a zone of Appointed Origin of Superior Quality of the Slopes of Meliton. Domaine Carras, is the result of the creative vision of one man, John C. Carras. The planning of the vineyard was exemplary. Having bought a large expanse of land from the Monastery of Grigoriou in the region of the village of Neos Marmaras — a region with no tradition of viticulture, J. C. Carras began a series of methodical experiments.

In its present form, the vineland of Domaine Carras has an area of 400 ha. and is one of the largest in Europe. The importance of the vineyard for the production of first class wines is indubitable. It is generally agreed that the Domaine Carras vineyard is qualitatively one of the most outstanding in Greece. All the wines that bear the label Appellation d’ Origine Cotes de Meliton Controlee, are exclusively vinified from grapes of specified varieties, grown on the estate at specific locations. The fact that Domaine Carras controls the entire production process and does not buy grapes from other producers ensures certain essential advantages, e.g. that each variety is harvested at exactly the right moment for vinification.

The winery, when built in 1970, represented, like the vineyard, an extremely important step forward for the Greek wine industry. Its location, in a valley, was chosen so that it would be invisible to the passerby, both from the road and from the sea, thus preserving the beauty of the site. From the point of view of its equipment, it featured elements that have only today became standard in other wineries: cooled fermentation vats, cooled ageing cellars, oak barrels, gravitational flow of must and wine from one stage of production to the next. In 1994 a three year program involving the modernisation of the winery — an investment of over 250 million drachma — was completed. The Domaine Carras range of estate-bottled wines exported to 15 countries, is Greece’s wine ambassador worldwide.


Drama

At the vineyards of Drama a wide variety of white and red, Greek and French grape varieties are cultivated: Zoumiatiko, Roditis, Assyrtiko, Sauvignon blanc, Semillon, Chardonnay, Ugni blanc, Limnio, Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet franc and Merlot. When these varieties have been vinified the Vin de Pays de Drama are produced: a fruity white, a rich rose and a supple, capable of aging red.

The present history of wine in Drama begun in 1980s when Chateau Lazaridi founded in the village of Adriani — ten km off the city of Drama — by brothers Nikos and Kostas Lazaridis, prosperous owners of an international marble firm, the aim was to capitalize on Drama’s continental climate and favorable soil. Planting primarily noble French varieties, the estate began, in a sense, where Domain Carras left off, successfully producing, on Greek soil, the kinds of wines that appeal to the palates of Francofiles. In 1992 Kostas departed to create his own winery, Domaine Constantin Lazaridis on the opposite side of the village.

Nico Lazaridis S.A., founded by its current president Nikos Lazaridis in 1987, is a result of the first wine-making venture in the Drama region. His natural love of wine, combined with the younger ambitions of his son Federico Lazaridis and the oenologist Bakis Tsalkos, have led and continue to lead as the years go by to considerable achievements.

Domaine Constantin Lazaridis is situated in Adriani of Drama and uses the grapes of the privately owned vineyard, which extends to 1500 acres of land, to produce wines. A great part of the vineyard is cultivated in a biological way. The Property’s installations compose a complex of approximately 6.000 m2 and include all the necessary productive and storage places for the function of the wine factory and distillery.

In Adriani near Drama, there is also the winery Domaine Manolesakis.  George Manolesakis guided by his longing and his great love for viticulture and good wine, takes the decision to engage exclusively in wine making.  He has built a beautiful winery, ready to welcome visitors. In 1989 George Manolesakis has started to cultivate in his own vineyards, some of the mast renowned varieties, such as: Sauvignon Blanc, Chardonnay, Semillion, Ugni Blanc, Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Syrah.

The vineyards and winery of the Wine Art Estate are located at Mikrochori, near Drama. The district, enjoying propitious soil and climatic conditions, has a long history of wine-making — a history which is now being revived thanks to the personal initiative and passion of the two winemakers, Yiannis Papadopoulos and Yiannis Kalaitzidis. The wines have been planted over an area covering 6 hectares of sloping land, chosen for its orientation towards the south and for its sandy clay soil. The grape varieties planted include Sauvignon, Chardonnay, Semillon, Assyrtiko, Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Merlot, Syrah and Grenache rouge. The owners are also experimenting with the varieties Sangiovese and Nebbiolo.


Kavala

On the eastern coastline of Macedonia, Kavala is home to the small winery of Athanasios Protopappas, who works with locally-grown Cabernet and has vinified red wines from local grapes of Akti and the Island of Thasos. In Amisiana, the Mavromatis winery vinifies wines exclusively from Cabernet, Merlot, Sauvignon Blanc and Chardonnay.