This week’s Rare Varieties feature takes us back to Greece to discover an ancient variety first mentioned by Homer. Actually, Homer wasn’t the only famous ancient Greek writer to talk about Limnio. Hesiod, Aristotle, and Polydefkis also mused about the variety. So, it’s safe to say that Limnio has been making a name for itself for over 2000 years.
The island of Lemnos is the birthplace of Limnio. On this Aegean Island, the locals call this variety Kalambaki. However, the variety does not widely grow here today. Instead, you’ll find Limnio planted prominently in northern Greece. The best examples come from Maronia in Thrace and particularly from Halkidiki in Macedonia.
Limnio in the Glass
More often than not, Limnio is included in oak-aged blends with international varieties Cabernet Sauvignon and Cabernet Franc. When produced as a varietal wine, Limnio offers a medium-bodied red wine with moderate color and elegant aromas. You can expect notes of red and black berry fruits and aromatic herbs, along with moderate acidity and silky tannins. Limnio offers a great alternative to heavier red wines with its brightness, intriguing flavor profile, and inviting tannin structure.
PDO Slopes of Meliton
Located in the Sithonian Peninsula in Halkdiki, the PDO Slopes of Meliton is recognized for its top expressions of Limnio. The PDO sits on the western slopes of Mount Meliton, where practically the entire winegrowing region belongs to a single owner. The designation covers dry white wine (Athiri, Assyrtiko, Roditis) and a dry red wine made from Limnio, Cabernet Sauvignon, and Cabernet Franc (minimum 30%). This was the first PDO in Greece to include international varieties. On the slopes of Mount Meliton, the climate is dry and hot. Yet the high temperatures are mitigated by the region’s proximity to the sea and the neighboring pine forest. Here, you’ll mainly find soils that are rich in limestone.
Climate and Soils in Thrace
Thrace is known as the birthplace of Dionysus, the god of fertility and wine. The region was once significantly focused on vineyards and wine production. However, the locals turned to favor other agricultural crops like tobacco after the phylloxera epidemic. In the last couple of decades, emphasis once again returned to viticulture and Limnio is reputably grown here.
This zone has a humid and warm climate with particularly high rainfall during the summer. The nearby northern Aegean sea mitigates low winter temperatures and moderates especially high temperatures in summer. The Rodopi Mountain Range protects Thrace’s vineyards of international and native varieties from the cold northern winds.
The coastal region of Maroneia in Thrace sits just four kilometers from the sea near Mt. Ismaros. Vineyards grow at 350m above sea level and at much cooler temperatures due to the elevation. Expect these wines to have higher acidity and greater color intensity.
The Winery: Vourvoukeli Estate
Nikos and Flora Vourvoukeli founded their namesake winery in 1999 in Avdira. Located in the Province of Xanthi in Thrace, Avdira has a similar climate and topography as Maroneia. Dr. Nikos Vourvoukeli grew up surrounded by vineyards in a winemaking family. His grandparents owned a winery in Smyrna. Nikos planted his first vineyards in Avdira, a land once famous for viticulture, and Vourvoukeli Estate bottled their first wine in 2001. Today, Nikos’ two older sons, Giorgos and Odysseas, manage the winery.
Vourvoukeli Limnio 2016
- Medium minus intensity ruby red color with red hues
- Delicate medium pronounced aromas of juicy strawberry, blueberry, blackberry, just a hint of Mediterranean herbs and cedar
- Medium body, low acidity and low tannin
- A beautiful easy drinking red that would be a great option for summertime because it’s not the most intense
- Flavors of cassis, blueberry, blackberry and a touch of cedar and herbs on the palate
Limnio is the style of red wine that you can enjoy both with fish and meat dishes. An oven roasted branzino stuffed with dill, garlic, lemon, and tomatoes would make a delicious pairing for this wine. Lamb baked with potatoes, garlic, and artichokes in a tomato sauce is another exceptional pairing for Limnio. Also try this wine with eggplant curry or navratan korma. Lasagna or moussaka, the Greek version of lasagna, are also a great match for Limnio.