The return of Agiorgitiko
By Yiannis Karakasis MW
I have often expressed the opinion that there are no better or lesser grape varieties. The two crucial factors that promote the expression of a variety are: how a viticulturist has chosen to manage his vines in the vineyard and how a producer subsequently decides to handle the grapes/must/wine in the winery. It is all about expressing the terroir. Bearing these determining points in mind, one would wonder whether Agiorgitiko has been dealt with appropriately. A variety with fantastic potential that has been often buried under the mediocre image of the tons of Agiorgitiko bulk wine.
As I see it, Agiorgitiko has not received the justice it deserves. Not from a single person across the whole wine industry. We have praised the virtues of Xinomavro and proclaimed it our best red variety- definitely a variety of great character and authenticity- but we have not exhausted all that Agiorgitiko has to offer. One of the few existing varieties that features a lovely balance of all its elements: alcohol, fruit, tannins, acidity and colour.
Its quality potential can be substantiated quite practically. When I started writing this article, I looked at the 50 Great Greek Wines list out of curiosity. Xinomavro features eight wines on the 50GGW list (blends included) and...surprise, surprise...Agiorgitiko features seven (blends included). Hmm... Quite close, considering that the number of wines entered from each of these varieties was roughly the same.
But, one might ask, how can we assist it in shining? Some may even think that achieving this is futile, an impasse. Allow me to make a few suggestions.
Firstly, the different terroirs of Nemea have not yet been explored. Nevertheless, the diversity of the soils and microclimate of the area is perhaps even more significant than that found in Naoussa. It is simply unexplored. Of course, it would help if firstly the producers believe in this themselves.
Secondly, clonal selection needs to be carried out. For the time being, only one healthy clone of Agiorgitiko has been released (viruses largely infect the variety). It is the result of the collaborative research of VNB nursery with IFV. The clone Entav Inra 1252 is currently commercially available and certified by the French Ministry of Agriculture (don't ask me why it is not authorised by the Greek ministry). Its main feature is free from diseases and matures earlier (about two weeks). In addition, it is still productive but with a 50% higher content of anthocyanins and juicy tannins. I had the opportunity of tasting an experimental vinification a couple of years ago, and it almost tasted like a different variety than the Agiorgitiko I am familiar with.
Thirdly with a more creative wine-growing approach and careful management of the variety in the winery, I am convinced that we will try “Agiorgitikos from another galaxy”, as my friend Mark Andrew would have said.
Fourthly there are plenty of quality producers, and besides the old guard of producers, a newer one has emerged with enthusiasm and energy. New Agiorgitikos are more refined and combine maturity with finesse, juicy strawberry and distinctive red cherry with earthy notes, and these are expressed with rational or imperceptible barrel use. This, of course, is a matter of style, but my view is that it is in the right direction.
And lastly, Nemea has an ace up her sleeve to combat climate change, and that is Mountainous Nemea, with altitudes that no one would expect. Also, Agiorgitiko has spread to areas outside the delimited zone, which boast great
wines, especially Northern Greece.
In conclusion, I have the feeling that we have not yet seen all the episodes in the series “Agiorgitiko: Nemea and further away”. So, before we start talking about Mavrodaphne, Mavrotragano, Limniona and Liatiko, we owe Agiorgitiko a chance. Let’s not forget that it has the critical mass and character to conquer the wine world.
New style Agiorgitikos to try (updated Aug 2022)
Athanasiou Thronos Nemea
Mitravelas Ktima Nemea
Strofilia Mavros Konos Nemea
Spyropoulos Nemea unoaked
Classic Nemeas to try
Palyvos Terra Leone
Ieropoulos Daimon (Not PDO)
Skouras Nemea and Grand Cuvee
Dryopi Nemea Classic
Papaioannou Nemea and Microklima
Semeli Nemea Reserve
Beyond Nemea Agiorgitikos to try
Biblia Chora Areti
Pavlidis Emphasis Agiorgitiko