From: Nemea, Greece
Varietal: 100% Agiorgitiko
Taste: Agiorgitiko, a.k.a. Saint George, is a versatile grape that grows well in many of Greece’s climates, but it truly excels in Nemea’s high-altitude vineyards. Ripe fruits with lasting tannins transport you to the Eastern Mediterranean, with deep morello cherry fruits, violets, ripe raspberries and strawberries, and aniseed spices like clove and cinnamon. Mixed berries, light leather, a hint of vanilla, sweet cigar, and pepper show the rustic side of the grape. The ripe tannins provide a framework for a long finish—a textbook example of the grape’s qualities.
“Clove, thyme and dried fennel aromas complement fruity black-cherry notes on the nose of this Agiorgitiko from Skouras, a 1986 winery in the Nemea region of Greece's Peloponnese. The light-bodied palate has ripe red and black fruits plus faint cinnamon flavors, indicative of the winemaking process: This wine is fermented in stainless steel and aged in old French barriques for a year. It then sits six more months in the bottle before release. The results are easy drinking and enjoyable, with balanced fruit and acid followed by velvety tannins on the long finish.” — Emily Saladino
Pairing: My mouth is watering just thinking about pairing Agiorgitiko with Kreatopita – Greek meat pies wrapped in buttered phyllo dough that gets crispy when baked. Ground beef, pork, and a bechamel sauce spiced with cinnamon and nutmeg make up the filling of kreatopita. Yum! The spice notes in the kreatopita and the wine will complement each other perfectly. Agiorgitiko is also a wonderful match for spanakopita, chicken biryani, tandoori chicken, Mediterranean-style wine-braised lamb shanks, or other dishes with earthy flavors and warm spices.
Today, we’re sharing an easy, slightly adjusted recipe for Kreatopita by Kenton Kostsiris of Spruce Eats. Since we’re going non-traditional here, substituting mushrooms or legumes for the beef (or using Beyond Meat) would make an excellent vegetarian option.
The winery. Argolida Valley in Peloponnesos is a blessed land full of nature's gifts: world-famous for its citrus fruits (oranges, lemons, tangerines), olive oil, and olives; it is now fast becoming synonymous with our wines also. George Skouras, proprietor, oenologist, and wine-maker at Domaine Skouras, studied enology at the University of Dijon. He went to work for several wineries in France, Italy, and Greece before setting up his own in Pyrgela in Argolida Valley in 1987.
The Grape. Nemea is home to the Agiorgitiko (aye-or-GHEE-tee-ko) grape, and just as Naoussa in the north is synonymous with Xinomavro, Nemea is closely associated with the powerful Agiorgitiko grape.
The origins of the Agiorgitiko variety are mysterious. It is generally believed to come from this area, but the genetics are uncertain. Fittingly, there is just as much Greek legend as a fact associated with the origins of this storied wine. The myth goes that the region was terrorized by the Nemean Lion, a beast that no mortal could slay. Hercules, a demi-God born of Zeus and a mortal mother, was traveling in the area and took up the challenge to kill the lion. Ultimately, he strangled the beast when he found that weapons would not harm it. To round out the legend (since wine often played a role in Greek myths), Hercules was reportedly drinking the local wine either before his battle with the lion or after.
The wine has been nicknamed the “Blood of Hercules.” In literal terms, the name translates to Saint George, so Christian lore also plays a role. In any event, it is a wine with a deep history and is believed to have been King Agamemnon's favorite during the Trojan War.
As a winemaking grape, Agiorgitiko is a poly-dynamic varietal, meaning it can produce a full range of wine styles. You’ll find generous and fruity Agiorgitiko wines with light tannins, sometimes made using carbonic maceration. This style often expresses red and black fruit notes like raspberry, strawberry, blackberry, cassis, and mulberry.
Alternately, Agiorgitiko produces heavier, dense, more extracted red wines with riper red and black fruit flavors. While the former can be consumed young, the latter is ideal after some aging. Oaked and unoaked styles are both available. You’ll also find refreshing rosés of Agiorgitiko and sweet dessert wines.
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