Saving Siatista's vines

Saving Siatista's vines

If there's one theme that seem to keep cropping up in the Wine & Greene newsletter, it is for forgotten/almost lost/reviving wine regions. A couple of weeks ago it was Portugal's Colares, and a while before that the old Garnacha vineyards in the Gredos Mountains. And lo and behold - this week we have somewhere even more obscure, but making equally fascinating wine.

Siatista is a small mountainside town in northern Greece. If you've been following Greek wine at all, you'll know that the Xinomavro grape is king up here, producing Nebbiolo-like wines, with the best-known examples being from the village of Naoussa. In world terms, even Naoussa is still relatively unknown (that's Greek wine for you - enjoy it while it lasts and prices are low) but Siatista is hardly heard of at all, even in Greece itself.

Visit the place and you'll see it was not always this way. Surrounding the town are very old vineyards - Xinomavro bush wines, many of which date back to the 1930s. In the 19th century, Siatista was famous throughout Europe for the quality of its wines, but decades of neglect mean that many of these old vineyards are now abandoned and dying, mostly owned in small plots by families who have lost interest.

Dimitris Diamantis is on a mission to turn this around, beginning with saving the vines. Wherever he can, he is acquiring these old vineyards, reviving them and making wine again. It is a struggle, and it is early days, but the wines are more than promising.

When I visited, Siatista was the final stop on a Xinomavro tour of the north. What was immediately obvious was that the wine was not only exceptionally good, it had its own character distinct from Naoussa - a sure sign that this is a special site. Tasting the wines side by side, what stuck out was the elegance - Xinomavro from Siatista is uniquely approachable, with silkier tannins and crystal-clear red fruit flavours.

This is definitely not an easy place to make wine. Old, steep vineyards 900m up Mount Siniatsiko are difficult to work, and the obscurity of the region make them difficult to sell. But they are worth the effort. Try the Diamantis Xinomavro today.

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