Sunday, December 6, 2015

Variety and Rootstock choices in the North Greece wine region

The delivery of high-quality fruit to the cellar door is a critical success factor in the production of quality wines. Key to the realization of such fruits is excellence in all aspects of the model depicted in the graphic below. In my ongoing review of the North Greece wine region, I have previously described the elements covered in the component titled Site Selection. In this post I cover the variety and roostock elements of the area circled in red, a component referred to in the figure as Vineyard Establishment but which is interchangeably called the Built Environment. The information provided has been collected during winery visits, as responses to a questionnaire, and through perusal of winery websites.

Estate vineyards in North Greece range from the 4500 ha of Domaine Porto Carras to the 16 ha of Wine Art Estate. These estate vineyards may surround the winery or may be multiple vineyards, some of which are geographically removed. In the case of Kir-Yianni, the Naoussa vineyard (58 ha) focuses on Xinomavro and international red varieties while its Amyndeon counterpart (16.5 ha) focuses on Xinomavro and domestic and international white varieties. The Naoussa vineyard itself is divided into 40 parcels based on soil diversity.

Slopes of Meliton, Domaine Porto Carras
In addition to estate-sourced fruit, some wineries exercise contractual control over additional vineyard hectarage. Kir-Yianni has an additional 30 ha of land under agricultural contract in Amyndeon while Alpha Estates sources fruit from 750 ha of grower-owned vineyards to supplement its 100-ha (80 ha farmed) property. All of the Tsantali-Rapsani fruit is sourced from local growers. It bears pointing out that the wineries exercise significant control over the practices employed in these grower-owned vineyards.

The table below shows the grape varieties planted at the wineries visited on our North Greece Press Trip. The bracketed numbers indicate the number of wineries planting a specific variety (No bracketed number indicates a frequency of one.). While the frequency should not be interpreted as relative importance (we do not have data at this point on the amount of hectares planted by variety), it is interesting to note that the international red varieties Merlot and Syrah are planted in more vineyards than the indigenous red Xinomavro and the indigenous white Assyrtiko. I will pursue additional information re the relative plantings of the leading grape varieties in order to cast greater light on the topic. Suffice it to say that North Greece viticulturists have significant experience (or practice) with (especially) French varieties.

Indigenous White Indigenous Red International White International Red
Assyrtiko (6) Xinomavro (6) Chardonnay (6) Merlot (9)
Malagouzia (5) Limnio (3) Sauvignon Blanc (6) Syrah (8)
Roditis (3) Agiorgitiko (3) Gewurtztraminer (3) Cabernet Sauvignon (5)
Malvasia aromatico Mavroudi Viognier Pinot Noir (2)
Athirii Mavrotragona Semillon Petit Verdot
Preknadi Krassato Traminer Sangiovese
Debina Stavrato



Touriga Nacional


Cabernet Franc






Negro Amaro


According to data provided by the survey respondents, all of the varieties are: allowed by regulation; highly adapted, or med-high adapted, to the climate and soils; and medium disease-resistant. All varieties are reported as having balanced, or low-to-balanced, yield potential (which is good for the production of quality fruit). I was a little confused by this though as there is a lot of Merlot grown in the environment and Merlot is a pretty vigorous cultivar whose tendencies have to be countered by rootstock selection, planting in less fertile soils, and canopy management practices in order to yield the best results.

The rootstocks deployed in the North Greece environment are 1103P, 110R, 41B, 5BB, SO4, and 140RUG, with 1103P, 110R, and 41B the most utilized. The characteristics of these rootstocks can be found here and here. Kir-Yianni employs 110R and 41 B in its Amyndeon vineyard but adds 1103P and 5BB to the mix for Xinomavro in Naoussa and SO4 for Syrah in the same vineyard.

I will cover training systems and cultural practices in a subsequent post.

©Wine -- Mise en abyme

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