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Nemea | Our very own Tuscany

Hills, small valleys and slopes, all covered with vineyards. The wineries scattered within walking distance of one another affirm the significance of the region, which has been producing some of the most famous and best Greek wines since antiquity. Nemea is situated an hour and a half from Athens and half an hour from Corinth, Loutraki and Nafplio, at the centre of the most organised and unified vineyards in Greece and the Balkans. Built amphitheatrically on the slopes of Mt. Profitis Ilias at an altitude of 370 metres, Nemea took its name from the nymph Nemea, daughter of the river Asopos, which still crosses and irrigates the valley and its vineyards. The 19,000,000 square metres of vineyards, including Ancient Kleones, Ancient Nemea, Koutsi, Petri, Aidonia, Galata, Leontio, Dafni and Kastraki, comprise the nerve centre and main production source of the “Agiorgitiko” grape, used to make the acclaimed NEMEA wines (V.Q.P.R.D.). Nemea has a mythological association with the first labour of Hercules, The Nemean Lion. Nemean wine was the “phlyasios wine” (royal wine) of the ancient Greeks, a wine linked to Hercules, who was widely worshipped in the region. The locals had even built a temple to his honour here. Hence, local legend refers to Nemean wine as “the blood of Hercules”. The wine presses of Ancient Nemea were found on the periphery, before the ascent to the village. Black Nemean wine is produced in exactly the same manner as it was then, in fermentation tanks with the crushed stems. The stone tanks are sealed with “kourasani” (a mixture of crushed tile and lime). It was initially stored in earthenware jars and barrels made of wild oak, chestnut, cypress and even mulberry trees. These barrels were maintained until after World War II and were very large (up to 3,000 “botses”, where one “botsa” is equivalent to 7,680 litres).

The arid microclimate of Nemea and the clay-sand soil that doesn’t retain moisture is the ideal environment for the Agiorgitiko, one of the noblest varieties of grape, indigenous to Greece. Sir William Gell, describes Agios Georgios as a large village that produces “excellent red wine” in his book of his travels published in London in 1817. The church of Agios Georgios is situated at the entrance of the town of Nemea, on the Stymfalias side. The Byzantine style stone church is believed to have been built in the 14th or 15th century. It has a polygonal dome with battlements in the interior, remnants of the turbulent years of the Ottoman rule, when the church was a haven for thieves. The floor of the church and the icon stand in the temple are made of stone. The church of Agios Georgios belonged to the homonymous monastery of Feneo, which took its name from the original settlement that developed around it: “Ai Giorgis of Nemea”, as did the Agiorgitiko grape. The Agiorgitiko (or black Nemea) is a favourite variety for both consumers and winemakers alike, thanks to its great flexibility. Depending on its origin (flat land, slopes, mountain), the Agiorgitiko grape can be used to produce a wide variety of wines, from fragrant rosés to dark reds. The region, however, is best known for its relatively light, fruity and easy to drink red wines, robust reds that require many years of aging in barrels and bottles before consumption. It is one of the best and richest Greek wines, dark red in colour with fruity aromas like cherry and plums, spices such as cinnamon, cloves and nutmeg, and balsamic aromas such as rosemary, making them the perfect accompaniment to almost all cooked dishes in classical Greek cuisine. Nemean wines excel in international competitions, and together with the xinomavro of Macedonia, constitute one of the two strategic red indigenous varieties that allow Greece to enter international markets. The 29 winemakers in the region who highly recommend Agiorgitiko wine are: Zacharias Vineyards, Papaioannou Vineyards, Nemean Wines Cooperative, Gaia Wines, Zafeiri Wines, Gofas Wines, Katogi and Strofilia, Driopi Estate, Lantidi Estate, Mitravela Estate, Bizios Estate, Nemeion Nemea Estate, Palyvou Estate, Rapti Estate, Repani Estate, Skoura Estate, Spyropoulos Estate, Harlaftis Estate, Konstantinos Liakos, Lafkiotis Winery, Aivalis Winery, Koroniotis Winery, Koutsodimos Winery, Lafazanis Winery, Nikolaos Winery, Papantonis Winery, Peppa Winery, Semeli Wines