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The Agiorgitiko Grape


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About Agiorgitiko

(Synonyms: Aghiorghitico, Aigeorgitiko, Mavro Black, Mavro Dark, Mavro Nemeas, Mavronemeas, Mavrostaphylo Mavraki, Mavroudi Nemeas, Nemeas Mavro, Nemeas Mavroudi)

Background

Map showing the Nemea region of Greece

First off, how to pronounce it: just pronounce the G's as Y's:

ah-yor-YEE-ti-ko

The name means "St. George", and that simpler English form is starting to turn up on bottle labels as more Greek winemakers target the American market.

Agiorgitiko is a red-wine grape originating in the region around Nemea in northeastern Greece (yes, the Nemea of Hercules and the Nemean lion). The grape is today grown principally in the same area, though there are lesser plantings throughout Greece. Any wine labelled "Nemea" must be of 100% Agiorgitiko. It is one of Greece's two "signature" red wines (the other being Xinomavro).

The grapes are grown everywhere from sea level up to high elevations. It is generally felt that the higher-elevation plantings yield better wine, but it is from difficult to impossible for the average consumer to know which wine came from what elevation vineyard. Agiorgitiko is a royal pain in the vineyard, for numerous reasons. Quite recently, new and supposedly rather better clones of Agiorgitiko have been released, and plantings are slowly being converted. Whether that will have any effect on the resultant wines is unknowable but not likely.

Published descriptions of Agiorgitiko tend to be short and vague, in good part because winemaker styles and vineyards of origin have especially huge influences on the final product, which thus varies considerably from brand to brand. Generally, however, Agiorgitiko wines tend to have clear and positive tones of fruit, but are neither high in acid nor heavy in body; and the tannin level can be all over the lot, depending on the winemaker's fancies. The wines are generally described as fruity and spicy; plum is sometimes mentioned as the fruit note. The better specimens, described by Oz Clarke as "burly, rugged" wines, can age well, but if care is not taken to avoid oxidation in the winemaking, or if the acid levels are weak, the wines need to be drunk young. (There is now talk of introducing a sub-classification system for Agiorgitiko, to help consumers sort out which specimens are likely to be worth what dollars.)

Agiorgitiko can be and ocasionally is used in blended reds, but is chiefly bottled as a monovarietal. Besides making red table wine, however, Agiorgitiko lends itself to the making of rosé and dessert wine, as well as lightweight versions made by carbonic maceration; that is the same technique used to make Beaujolais, and the resulting wines are generally similar.

Factoid: The grape name Agiorgitiko, "St. George", is likely from the name of one of the many towns in the region also so named, though it could derive from the chapel of Saint George in Nemea; in fact, Nemea was once known as "Agios Georgios".


Some Descriptions of Agiorgitiko Wines


Some Agiorgitikos to Try

(About this list.)

The samples listed below may, in a few cases, seem to push our self-imposed $20 maximum price, but in every instance there should be at least a good few under that limit (recall that the free version of Wine Searcher returns only a partial list of offerings).

The quotations below are excerpts; we strenuously urge you to click on the green diamond symbol by each quoted review to see the full article.
Mitravelas Estate Agiorgitiko
(not their "Red on Black Estate": just the plain "Estate")

• Retail offers of this wine listed by 1000 Corks
• Retail offers of this wine listed by Wine Searcher
• This wine's CellarTracker review pages.
• This wine's Wine Searcher "Tasting Notes" page.


Some quotations and facts about this wine:

[A] typical, delicious Nemea wine with a very good balance and is produced from the estate's oldest vines (over 35 y.o.), which indeed are not in a linear alignment, but shaped as a cup. While I tasted "Mitravela Estate", I thought that Agiorgitiko is a variety that is hard to dislike. It is fruity, has cherry and sour cherry flavors and aromas of sweet spices and wood... What more can a wine lover ask for...!

Think CDR Village and you are right on the money. A good solid well made wine from an area of Greece known as Little Burgundy. Considering that Greeks have been making wine for as long as civilization has been around we should be drinking more of them.

Deep red-blue rim. Cocoa powder. Fine-grained tannins. Black-cherry freshness. Depth. Finesse on the finish. Balanced. Authentic. A creamy, classy, fruity, terroir-driven Mediterranean red, capturing Nemea's Agiorigitiko core character. Though perhaps a lacklustre vintage, the old bush-vine wisdom shines. A wine with soul. Decant for 45 minutes.

The 2010 Nemea Estate, all Agiorgitiko obviously, was sourced from 35-40 year old vines planted in several different vineyards. It may not win "best wine of the year," but if there is a "Charm" category, it's a serious contender. It was aged in French oak for 12 months (one-third new, one-third 2-3 years of age and one-third 4- to 5-years-old). It comes in at 14.5% alcohol. It may be aging a bit fast, but the beautiful, earthy flavors and complexity on the finish are marvelous. It is a seductive if understated wine, impeccably balanced, harmonious and gentle. 88 points. [eRobertParker.com, Issue # 213, June 2014]



Nasiakos Nemea
(not to be confused with their varietal-named "Agiorgitiko")

• Retail offers of this wine listed by 1000 Corks
• Retail offers of this wine listed by Wine Searcher
• There seem no CellarTracker pages for this wine (do not confuse it with their "Agiorgitiko" bottling).
• This wine's Wine Searcher "Tasting Notes" page.


Some quotations and facts about this wine:

All tension & pretension were left at the door, in their places are just tartness & lovely spices. B+

This wine knows exactly what it wants to be: fresh, fruity and easy to love. With its red cherry, black pepper and cedary spice aromas and flavors, it's a balanced, approachable red with style. It has backbone but also a soft touch. A fun and modern expression of the variety. 89 points.



Tselepos "Driopi Classic" Nemea

• Retail offers of this wine listed by 1000 Corks
• Retail offers of this wine listed by Wine Searcher
• This wine's CellarTracker review pages.
• This wine's Wine Searcher "Tasting Notes" page.


Some quotations and facts about this wine:

Anise, cherry and a floral note on the nose give this wine an elegant start. On the palate, it offers a refined balance of smoke, cherry, kirsch and olive. It's generous and likeable but still clean and fresh, with good tannic structure. Tobacco on the finish adds character. 87 points.

Soft, rounded and fruity on the palate; aromas of blackberries, and forest fruits; medium-bodied.

This wine has received careful oak treatment, it it is a good example just how versatile the Agiorgitiko styles can be. Fuller bodied than the [other Nemea wine tasted].

Blackberry, cherry and cedar start this rich, elegant red from Tselepos. On the palate, rounded flavors of cedar, vanilla, black berry and spice are well integrated and juicy. The wine finishes with touches of wood and smoke. 91 points.

[Google-translated from Portugese] In the glass the wine showed a violet ruby ​​color of medium intensity and good luster. Tears thin, fast, large and slightly colored. In the nose the wine presented aromas of fresh red fruits and vanilla touches. In the mouth the wine showed medium body, good acidity and soft and soft tannins. Retrogosto confirms the smell. End of medium duration. An interesting, tasty wine that goes well for casual chat with friends or with wife, with or without the company of food. Worth knowing.

This wine captures the cool, sunny site in its combination of supple, dark cherry fruit and florals, the texture as soft as rose petals. The flavors expand in the glass, the acidity whisking through them with a cool, herbal brightness, loosing scents of pine trees and bitter spice. The sweetness of the fruit lingers, wanting a piece of aged cheese to accompany. Score 92. (wineandspiritsmagazine.com, August 2015)



Boutari Nemea

• Retail offers of this wine listed by 1000 Corks
• Retail offers of this wine listed by Wine Searcher
• This wine's CellarTracker review pages.
• This wine's Wine Searcher "Tasting Notes" page.


Some quotations and facts about this wine:

Aromas of leather, cherry and plum lead this balanced red from Boutari. Ripe cherry, cedar and cinnamon flavors carry the palate, with soft tannins giving a sultry feel. 89 points.

Fantastic interesting and intense aromas with mint, burlap, leather, meat and spice with bright red cherry fruit. The palate is quite full and soft with medium acidity. There are some developed notes of meat, leather and spice with old wood and black cherry and black berry fruit, almost like Crianza Rioja but with some Greek wildness. Excellent value. 90 points.

It is a very deep red with a very sweet, fruity aroma that actually reminds me of grape crush pop and the inexpensive powder-made u-brew wine I drank while in university. It doesn’t taste like grape crush though. In fact it does not have much flavour at all. It is a very light, inoffensive wine with a slightly bitter finish. Like a pinot noir, you could probably pair this with duck or seafood and it would not over-power the flavour of your food. But why would you want to? It is not a bad wine but it’s not a good wine either. It is a wine seeking a personality. Like oatmeal, maybe you could add fruit and make sangria. I don’t dislike this wine but it bores me. I look forward to trying more wines from this variety but I won’t be uncorking this one again.

True to Agiorgitiko, this is soft and ripe and plumy, and thankfully is as approachable in price as in texture.

Dark ruby color. Pleasant floral aroma, with intriguing, complex overtones of rosewood and cedar. Soft and accessible fruit, juicy and fresh, with light acidity and no obvious tannin. Clean, fresh fruit in a long finish. Reminds me of Italian Dolcetto…

Fun, exuberant, fresh, modern cherry explosion expression. Simple, direct, positive energy and ease of drinkability. Has just enough spice, floral lift and back end bite to afford it three years of service, with any sort of roast meat or salty cheese. Good stuff.



Domaine Vassiliou Nemea

• Retail offers of this wine listed by 1000 Corks
• Retail offers of this wine listed by Wine Searcher
• This wine's CellarTracker review pages.
• This wine's Wine Searcher "Tasting Notes" page.


Some quotations and facts about this wine:

The basic Nemea of Nemeion Estate with grapes from Petri and Asprokampos villages. It had very dense fruit (I guess because of the very low yields of 32 hl / ha) with aromas reminiscent of cherries, plums and sweet spices, specifically clove. Alcohol is a bit underlined although not theoretically high (13%).

[Google-translated from Romanian] A very pleasant surprise, this Greek wine, very pleasant, personally, if not slightly sophisticated… The color is rather low in intensity, but with few wines I have seen as prominent the smell of violets as this wine, so I will not risk too much in the affirmations and say no one. Once tanned violets appear to be lost among other light floral tones and turn into shades somewhat more common, but equally well painted and agreeable. Your mouth is dressed with flavors that bring with ripe plums and cherries in a compote that are lost in the dominant floral and lively postgust.

There's cherry-raspberry fruit on the nose, but the palate doesn't live up to the nose at all. It has a pinotage like rubbery bitterness to it that I find rather unappealing. 78 points.

This is an outstanding red wine possesing a deep colour and exceptional vitality. It is characterized by the aroma of wild flowers of Greek nature, as well as fruits such as plums and cherries.


For a Splurge

Our recommended "splurge" wine is actually only a tad above our $20 cutoff, and indeed can be found for less than that $20 (if sometimes only barely) at some few retailers. That wine is the Gai'a Estate Red (not to be confused with their "Notios" bottling or with an "Estate S" bottling).

• That wine at 1000 Corks
• That wine at Wine Searcher
• Its Wine Searcher "Tasting Notes" page.
• Its CellarTracker pages.

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