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.
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.
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 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
Finally, there are the upper, cooler parts of the appellation, reaching up to 900 meters (2,700 feet).
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.