Tuesday, 12 June 2012




Nemea is arguably the most exciting viticultural region in Greece and one of the most vibrant in all of Europe. Easy to pronounce, easy to get to, within close proximity of some of the most breathtaking Greek antiquities, blessed with a dynamic local grape varietal, and brimming with history, wine-making traditions, and visionary wine makers, Nemea and its versatile wines hold the key to opening the whole Greek vineyard to foreign markets.

                                              "Hercules & the Nemean Lion"

Nemea is unique for many reasons, none more important, however, than the most basic: the indigenous vitis vinifera grape, Agiorgitiko, or St. George, which is perhaps the most multifaceted grape in the whole of Greece. Agiorgitiko takes its name from an old village right in the heart of the region. The Agiorgitiko grape produces wines with a deep, but never opaque, red-cherry color. The nose is usually intense but never too obvious, full with the aromas of red fruit, sweet, noble spices, and the odd hint of Mediterranean mountain herbs. It also possesses an unquestionable aromatic affinity to high-quality oak, making oak aging an important stylistic element for Nemea wines.
On the mouth, Agiorgitiko is medium to full bodied, broad in the middle palate, while tannins, even when extracted to a high degree, always taste ripe and alluring. Agiorgitiko needs at least 12% alcohol to start being expressive and can reach levels up to 14.5%, although most wines achieve a perfect balance within the range of 12.5% to 13.5%.
The interplay of acidity with the rest of the structure is very interesting.
A chemical analysis of Agiorgitiko wines would reveal relatively high levels of acid, but on the palate the wines rarely register as acidic. The acidity blends in with the wines’ sweeter, softer elements, supporting the whole and adding nerve, rather than drawing all the attention.

                                         ''The temple of Hercules in Nemea"

Greek vintners describe Agiorgitiko as a multi-dynamic grape, because of the large number of wine styles that can be crafted, equally convincingly, from the variety. In every vintage, the first Agiorgitiko wines released are the rosés, which are fresh and light but show some density of fruit. Winemakers in the region have also begun to release young Agiorgitiko, which have not been aged in oak, in an effort to capture the purity of the primary fruit.The classic Nemea, however, is a wine that has matured in the barrel for about a year; it is characterized by complex fruit, intensity and density on the palate but subtle style. The classic style has progressed in the last few decades. In the 1970s, for example, the genre was very soft. Producers increasingly wanted to add firmness, going for longer extractions of the grapes. One of the most modern approaches is what could be called New World Nemea wines, with high alcohol, very high concentration and intensity, marked new oak presence, and a very broad, tannic framework that demands aging.
But the grape’s limits do not stop there: More and more winemakers are experimenting with sweet Agiorgitiko, while the last two decades have seen the rise of Agiorgitiko-Cabernet Sauvignon blends, which are non-appellation wines; Cabernet adds firmness to Agiorgitiko’s characteristic soft texture.

                                                                 "Agiorgitiko grapes"

Regardless of style, all Agiorgitiko wines share common threads—an intense and pure character, charming aromas and flavors, a fresh palate, and graceful texture— which together make every single expression of the variety easy to embrace. Agiorgitiko has the uncanny ability to communicate with equal ease to wine drinkers of every ilk, from neophytes to sophisticated connoisseurs to fierce critics.
The huge diversity of wine styles is not only a reflection of individual vintners’ styles and philosophies but also of the physical diversities within the Nemea appellation itself. Sheer size commands such diversity. Nemea, with almost 2.300 hectares (5,750 acres) under vine, is the largest, most important red wine appellation in Greece.

                                              "Nemean landscape & vineyards"

The area can be divided into three zones. The first and the hottest is the valley floor, which for many vintners is too hot to produce interesting, modern wines; the valley wines tend to be alcoholic and rustic. The second zone is arguably the most desirable. It is
here, among the appellation’s slopes, which lie between 450 to 650 meters (1350 to 1950) in altitude, that Nemea’s most popular wines are produced, both in the traditional and modern styles. The wines produced in these rolling hills are what put Nemea in the forefront of the Greek wine world and what make it arguably one of the most interesting regions in Europe.
Finally, there are the upper, cooler parts of the appellation, reaching up to 900 meters (2,700 feet).

                                                             "Vineyards in Nemea"

Traditionally, these high-altitude spots were thought too cold to make anything apart from rose wines, but more and more of the region’s winemakers are trying to exploit these cool-climate parcels in the attempt to produce elegant, more sophisticated, even if less powerful, Nemeas.
The region’s weather and climate shape the region’s complexities as much, if not more so, than the actual lay of the land. Nemea has a relatively typical Mediterranean climate, with mild winters, short springs, warm to hot summers (with several days topping 40° C/104°F), and long autumns. Yet despite predictable Mediterranean weather, the vintages vary tremendously from year to year, not in terms of variations in quality but as stylistic disparities. In Nemea, grapes usually reach their full maturity; nonetheless the balances of elements (acidity, alcohol, aromas, tannins, color, etc) that constitute ripeness vary from vintage to vintage.

The most difficult year in recent memory was the rain-sodden 2002—the most horrific vintage in Europe in 50 years—where no appellation wine was produced.
The 2003 Nemea vintage was marked by the exotic character of the wines. The wines of 2000 and 2005 were marked by their power, while those from the 2001 and 2004 vintages by their austerity. Nemea vintages are hard to predict for another reason, too. The region’s harvest is unusually long, starting after September 15th and often spanning 40 days, a rare thing for appellations that have only one variety and unique in Greece. It stands to reason that the wines from the lowlands where harvesting begins early are very different from those made with grapes picked in October.


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