Return of an old Greek red

A visit to Markovitis Winery (AKA Chateau Pegasus) leaves an impression. The place is not easy to find. After a while spent driving up and down various country roads and through run-down towns, somebody is eventually despatched to guide us down the final section, an unpaved road leading to a huge, barn-like winery in a large Xinomavro vineyard.

Inside is a striking, modern-industrial looking woodburner that would grace any Shoreditch taproom. This turns out to have been made by Marcos Markovitis himself, who, when he's not turning out benchmark Xinomavro, likes to get the welding googles out and indulge in a spot of metalwork.

Markovitis is one of the best producers of Naoussa, which is both Greece's finest red wine and the name of the northern Greek town it comes from. The wines are Nebbiolo-like, with fine tannins and legendary ageing potential. But despite this, it's frustratingly difficult to find old vintages. Except here. The Markovitis cellar is vast, with several levels accessed via a large metal staircase. Each floor is a sea of barrels, and out on the shore stretching around the walls, endless racks of old bottles.

They only make one wine here, and they've been doing it for nearly fifty years. Marcos pulls out six or seven bottles and we're treated to a tasting going back decades. There are several standouts, and one is the 1999.

Now mature at age 19, this is savoury and quite elegant, with an earthy, spicy quality and some cherry and raspberry fruit, as well as a bit of tomato savouriness. It has some waxy, nutty old wine characters and a supple, refined sort of character. This is fully mature and quite delicious, and still has some structure. Nice to be able to find mature Xinomavro like this.


Jamie Goode,

There will be some who would prefer even more bottle age on it, some less. But at 20 years it seems to me that it is about perfect. Harmonious, elegant and delicious, it still has its fruit and enough structure to make it thoroughly satisfying.

We've had this wine before, in small quantities, and thought that was that. There can't be much more left, but Marcos has found some. Until he's persuaded to release another old vintage, this could be the last we see of this beautiful, rare old wine.