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The tradition of wine-making in the Macedonia region of Greece dates back thousands of years. Evidence of ancient grape seeds have been found during excavations, along with storing and drinking vessels. Throughout early history, during the Greek and Roman empires, Macedonian wines have been carried and sometimes traded throughout Europe. There was much “worshipping” of the wine gods Dionysus in the Greek era and Bacchus during the Roman empire. Although such things were forbidden in the Christian age of Byzantium, sacramental and table wines were still important to Greek culture. Crusaders brought back Macedonian wines to their respective countries, and brought Greek vines to plant at home, which is why so many varietals throughout Europe have Greek origins. The culture survived throughout the Ottoman empire, finding places where wine was still enjoyed despite Muslim restrictions. But the Phylloxera blight in the late 1800s was a terrible blow to the Macedonian wine industry, along with wars and general unrest. The vines were slowly replanted, but the quality of the wine suffered largely until the late 20th century.
Macedonia has its own unique topography and microclimates than most of the rest of Greece. The west coast is softer, its mountains more Alpine-like and less rugged than in the south and Aegean islands, with gentle slopes and flatter expanses further inland in the central and northern sections.
Naoussa is perhaps the most globally successful of Macedonia’s subregions. The specialty is red wines made from the Xinomavro grape. Many local wine-makers have been swept up in the modern trend to work with international varietals such as Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot, sometimes blending with local grapes such as Roditis for regional flare.
Other regions of Macedonia are Goumenissa, Giannitsa, Amyntaio-Velventos, Halkidiki, Drama and Kavala. These specialize in the Greek grapes Xinomavro, Roditis, Asyrtiko, Zoumiatiko and international varietals Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Cabernet Franc, Chardonnay and Sauvignon Blanc. These are produced as varietal releases, red and white blends, rosés and sparkling wines.
The large city of Thessaloniki is not known for table wines, aside from a few head offices of the wineries. However several distilleries are located near the city for the production of brandy, Ouzo, and other spirits. ~Amanda Schuster
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