'Rosé de Xinomavro' 2019
It’s a mystery, really. It’s a mystery that the humble grape left (more or less) to it’s own devices: to sit, to rot, to fester and ferment, can become something as strange and wonderful as wine. It’s a mystery that humans have mastered and science has explained and yet neither can account for why I smell and taste a wine and get crushed flowers and tobacco and you smell and taste the same wine and get strawberry jam and gym sock. It’s a mystery that unravels with every splash and mouthful, every sniff and bottle, a mystery that mysteriously only ever gets more enigmatic. And therein is the beauty of the juice—that no matter how much we understand dirt or yeast or ph levels, no matter our pipettes and our amphorae, no matter our balancing sugars and tannin and acid, no matter our barriques and our field-blends and our clones and our many clevernesses as long as there is a little wine there shall always be a little mystery.
The Rosé de Xinomavro 2019 from famed Greek grape-hustler Apostolos Thymiopoulos is a beverage fit for every purpose and palate. In the glass it’s rust coloured rose-water that touches amber, cough medicine and cured salmon. It promises not the pale and oftentimes pallid touch of Provençal swill but, from sight alone, a richer and more rounded vignette; it promises to kiss the palate in ways you’ll find hard to forget. Like when you see a movie poster and just know you’re going to love the film. Like when you spot a dancing dog and just know it’s going to love a cuddle and quite possibly break your heart with it’s tender eyes. Like when you watch someone in action in a kitchen or over flames and just know that what’s coming your way on a warm plate is gonna be tasty.
On the nose it’s crystalline sweet seawater and the soft jelly of holiday trifle. There’s a hidden perfume at the back end of it cradling tangerine flowers and flat Fanta and all over it the constant push of sun-dried peach, white pepper spice and warm mornings rising late from bed. The mouth throws fresh raspberry and candied melon across the tongue with generous lashings of orange peel and rain on a hot tin roof that settles dry on the teeth and the gums. It tastes like a hard cows cheese. It tastes like Chinese pickles. It tastes like the bottom of a fish tank. It tastes like sun-dried tomato and the mirky water you’d find in a vase after crimson flowers have brightened your nightstand for a week and a half and been forgotten and wilted and slowly died and spat their tinted essence into said mirky vase water—sugared, spiced and all things effortlessly nice. And it lingers. A little smoky. A little sweet. Much savoury. And holding tiny mysteries.
The plantings are young. The cultivation is biodynamic. The vines benefit from a warm continental climate and swinging diurnal range during ripening season with the cooling influence of the winds off Mount Vermio. The juice is fermented in steel for 6 months then matured in 500l second-use oak barrel for 4 months. The wine is 100% Xinomavro, a dark-skinned red varietal from the uplands of Naoussa in northern Greece, mostly used to turn sour-cherry and finely tannic long-aged reds. Here, rendered otherworldly, a savoury delight, a complex and tantalising expression of a noble variety, a high-altitude and un-irrigated outlier from around the village of Fytia. Here, rendered rosé.
The mouthfeel is at once a little oily and gritty and on the tender side of tannic thanks to a 12 hour maceration. It’s savouriness becomes the overwhelming trait when the prettiness of fruit and sweetness of charm takes leave of the palate and the waxiness settles and a very satisfying salinity couples the grip of the wine that seems to oscillate across the tongue and teeth, giving only the ghost of what might have been an old lover passing you by on the street, or the dèjá vu of running across an alleycat caught wrestling a rat, or the the old memory of walking through a garden in bloom; a memory in which the flowers bruise and the grass whimpers; a memory in which you rest your weary head on a striped blanket and there’s more of that baby blue in the sky than there is cloud and your friends have had the foresight to bring an icebox and actual glassware to the park; a memory in which the subtle sun and the clatter of insects in the leaves and the rustle of crisps and the whirr of a frisbee demands you forget your woes and you do. You forget your woes until the rosé passes from your lips. You forget your woes until the saline rush and sherbet and bougainvillea linger and falter and, like a dancer curling out of long routine walking slow and quiet heel to heel taking an exit stage left, fade.
If you don’t like rosé, if you are so cursed with foolishness or bad experiences of candied perfume and pale, dull, mediocre plonk as to not enjoy the other-white-meat of the wine world, so cursed with a drinking companion that turns their head and clenches their teeth when offered a glass of the good (pink) stuff the Thymiopoulos Rosé de Xinomavro may be the rosé for you, and them. It may be the rosé to turn all red-heads, all wine-wankers, all savvy-b-bunnies, all claret-lushes from their staple tipple. It may be the rosé to shake the lager-lads from their reluctance to drink a wine that doesn’t stain their teeth or leave them chewing the air. It may be the rosé to romance the cheap-piss takers (see what I did there?) from their pale imitations that pale in comparison. It may be the rosé to save the oft-ignored middle ground that rosé so oft occupies. Thymiopoulos’ Rosé de Xinomavro may be the rosé and just the right kind of mystery the world needs.
tasted June 2021