This grape was nearly forgotten and was only recently rediscovered in a few ancient vineyards. But once, in ancient and Byzantine times, it was one of the most prominent Greek varieties. Its widespread growth was halted between 1460 and 1828, during which time this area of Greece was part of the Ottoman Empire, which forbade the production of wine. This medium sized white grape grows in long, loose bunches. It has notes of citrus fruits, quince and pears.
It isn’t often that a grape comes back from the dead, but that is what happened with the Greek red Limniona. When several old vines were discovered by Christos Zafeirakis in Tyrnavoz, a province of Larisa in Thessalia, eastern Greece, they were taken for several years of testing and microvinification. The results excited Greek winemakers, who were quick to plant the vines themselves, albeit on a more experimental basis to begin with. Limniona is now considered a rising star of Greek red grapes, and its potential was only truly recognised when it was on the cusp of total extinction. These large purple-black grapes have thick skins and ripen late in their already long growing season. They thrive in climates of hot summers and cold winters. The resulting wines have deep colour, medium body and a good fragrance, with spicy, mineral and black fruit notes. The tannins offer structure, but do not overpower, and the relatively high alcohol content is tempered by a strong level of acidity. They also age well, potentially for several decades. Despite recent debates over the ancestry of Limniona, it would appear entirely unrelated to another, more common, Greek red grape called Limnio.
This red grape is native to Macedonia in Greece, and literally means “acid black”, most likely due to its high acidity and tannins. It can be used to make light red or white wines, which can have flavours of red fruits (strawberry and plum for younger wines, ageing into tomato). As of 2008, it was the second most planted dark skinned grape in Greece after Agiorgitiko, seeing 2,389 hectares of growth. Xinomavro can be difficult to cultivate because it demands specific soil types and an adequate supply of water. It also needs careful attention regarding canopy management and control of yields. Despite this, if grown on poor sandy soil in good light, Xinomavro can be used to make excellent wines.