Agiorgitiko is one of my favorite Greek varieties and by far the most fun to pronounce. The name translates to “ Saint George,” so if you can’t manage to pronounce Agiorgitiko, then just remember – Saint George’s grape. More often than not, Agiorgitiko wines sold in international markets will also have Saint George on the label anyway. Though if you’re going to drink this wine, why not learn how to say her name. Greece has grown this native variety since antiquity. At one point, the variety was nicknamed “the blood of Hercules” because the legendary hero worshipped where Agiorgitiko originated in Nemea.
The Variety: Agiorgitiko
Agiorgitiko is an aromatic red variety grown throughout Greece. This is also one of Greece’s most widely distributed wines. So, of all the varieties I have covered thus far for my rare varieties series, you should have no problem finding this one.
Agiorgitiko is a poly-dynamic grape, meaning the variety 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 will often express red and black fruit notes like raspberry, strawberry, blackberry, cassis, and mulberry. Agiorgitiko also 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 as well as sweet dessert wines.
As a thin-skinned variety, Agiorgitiko tends to produce more round and inviting wines without aggressive tannins. The late-budding and late-ripening variety has grown accustomed to the hot, dry climate of Greece with very little rainfall. Unfortunately, Agiorgitiko is susceptible to fungal diseases like downy and powdery mildew in the vineyard. Though this is a variety that generally produces good yields.
Traditionally, Nemea was the only zone where Agiorgitiko grew. Once producers discovered the enormous potential of the variety, plantings of Agiorgitiko spread to other regions. Today, Attica and Macedonia also produce notable expressions.
In 1971, Greece established the PDO Nemea in western Peloponnese. Most of the PDO zone lies in Korinthia and namely Nemea. By law, all PDO Nemea wines are 100% Agiorgitiko. This designation encompasses dry red and medium sweet red wines, in addition to sweet red wines made from sun-dried grapes and fortified sweet red wines.
Notably, PDO Nemea sits just over 600m above sea level. There are different climates and terrains throughout the zone. Informally, three sub-zones divide PDO Nemea. These unofficial sub-zones are based on how different elevations, coupled with the grapes’ maturation process, impact the final wine.
George Skouras was born in Argos, a town with 3,000 years of wine culture and history. In 1980, seemingly by destiny, George Skouras went on to study at the University of Dijon in Burgundy. For years, he worked in wineries throughout France, Italy and Greece, gaining experience to eventually establish Domaine Skouras in 1986.
Domaine Skouras is located in Peloponnese, specifically situated in the Nemea zone in Argolida. The winery manages several estate vineyards in PDO Nemea, PDO Mantinia, and the surrounding zones. Megas Oenos, a wine made from an innovative blend of Agiorgitiko and Cabernet Sauvignon, elevated Domain Skouras to the world stage, becoming an emblematic label for the winery.
Skouras Agiorgitiko, PDO Nemea 2017
- Stunning cherry red color with violet reflections and medium intensity
- Medium pronounced aromas of strawberry, mulberry, cassis, warm spices like clove and anise, plus a hint of carnations
- The bouquet offers a great balance between intermingling spice and fruit aromas.
- Medium bodied with an elegant structure, gentle and round on the palate with medium acidity and delicate, ripe tannins
- The palate has some red fruit flavors, like strawberry and raspberry, but predominantly offers warm, sweet spice flavors that linger long after each sip.
GAI’A 4-6H Agiorgitiko Rosé
An irresistible grapefruit or bubblegum pink color in the glass, bursting with vivacious aromas of candied strawberry, ruby red grapefruit, orange spritz. Medium bodied, dry with high acidity yet a nice supple texture on the palate.
One of the pioneers of the modern Greek wine revolution, Gai’a Wines (pronounced Yay-ya) was established in 1994 by Leon Karatsalos and winemaker Yiannis Paraskevopoulos (PhD, University of Bordeaux II). Their mission was to capture the best that Greece’s indigenous grapes have to offer by merging traditional viticultural and production methods with innovative techniques. The estate is named after “Mother Earth,” in honor of the unique terroir that gives birth to these world-class wines.
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.