To pronounce it, say, very quickly and slightly muffled, SuhNOma-VRO, accenting the second and last syllables. This is close enough so you can ask for it without embarrassment.
What is it? Xinomavro is a Greek grape that produces bright, dry, acidic red wines that go with almost anything--lamb, pork belly, pizza, shepherd's pie, burgers and so on. The price is anywhere from $10 to around $35.
To make sure we know about it, a Greek wine team blitzed the country last week. Los Angeles tastings included one for the LA Wine Writers at Hotel Angeleno and another the following day at République.
The wine writers tasted 14 examples of Xinomavro, presented by winemakers from Naoussa (say Now-suh) in Macedonia, which specializes in this grape. Naoussa is a small region, 25 to 30 miles in length, encompassing terroirs that range from low elevation to high. Its 20 wineries are mostly small and family owned, except for the cooperative Vaeni Naoussa. Twenty per cent of them are organic.
Naoussa was made a PDO region (Protected Designation of Origin) in 1971, and this led to a revival of the vineyards there, which had been decimated by phylloxera decades earlier. All the Xinomavros in the tastings were PDO wines, which is the highest designation in Greece.
Six to look for (and this is not a "best of" list) are:
1. Vaeni Naoussa 2010. This is a super affordable, young-tasting wine for $10 or less, the least expensive of the group tasted. For a higher level wine, try Vaeni's Grand Reserve.
2. Diamantakos Naoussa 2008. Pleasant, balanced, low in alcohol (13.4%). That's George Diamantakos at the top, pouring at the République tasting.
3. Thymiopoulos Uranos 2011. Soft and fruity, from old vines. Lovely to drink, this wine spent 18 months in barrels. The price is about $29.
5. Kokkinos Xinomavro 2011. From a small family-owned winery, this Xinomavro spent a year in oak. It's only the third vintage from this winery.
6. Elinos 2007. Richly fruity with peaty overtones, the wine is fine to try now, but Christos Taralas of Elinos says it can age at least seven years longer.
Xinomavro is one of Greece's 330 indigenous grapes, only 78 of which have been recorded. About 40 of these have been imported to the United States, according to Michael Pavlidis vice president of sales of Old World Vines, who accompanied the touring winemakers.
A winery from another region also took part in the République tasting, pouring wines made from two of Greece's oldest indigenous varietals. This was Domaine Porto Carras, located in the PDO Slopes of Meliton.
Its historic white is Assyrtiko, said to be the oldest white wine varietal on the planet. It's shown with other Porto Carras white wines including Athiri, an indigenous grape that produces a fruity wine perfect for light foods and summer quaffing.
An even more ancient grape variety is Limnio, reputed to be at least 6,500 years old and a favorite of Plato, Aristophanes and other eminent Greeks. The Porto Carras Limnio is a dry red that you can get for under $20.
Porto Carras also produces a Bordeaux style wine, Chateau Porto Carras, blended from Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Limnio and Merlot. The 2005 poured at the tasting sells for $35 to $37. It's an elegant, serious red that will age well, "a French style wine with a Greek character," said Pavlidis.
The winery also produces a Limnio-Cabernet Sauvignon blend, a Merlot, a Syrah and a Syrah and Cabernet Sauvignon blend called Magnus Baccata.
Greek wines may not have been on your radar, but start looking for them. If the touring winemakers were persuasive enough, more should become available.