Wine

Aigeira - Wine - Agiorgitiko

Achaea belongs to the few regions of the world where wine has been successfully cultivated and produced for thousands of years.

In his “Description of Greece”, the ancient geographer Pausanias (c. AD 110 – c. 180) writes about the ancient town of Phelloe, near the modern village Selliana at the municipal unit of Aigeira:

There is a straight road from the sanctuary of Zeus at Aegeira, passing through the mountains and steep. It is forty stades long, and leads to Phelloe, an obscure town, which was not always inhabited even when the Ionians still occupied the land. The district round Phelloe is well suited for the growth of the vine; the rocky parts are covered with oaks, the home of deer and wild boars.

Pausanias, Description of Greece (English), 7.26.10

Parts of the following text is adapted from the book “The Wines Of Greece” by Konstantinos Lazarakis MW.

Brief overview of wine in the Peloponnese

Production in the Peloponnese, including Achaia, reached its peak in the Middle Ages when Malvasia wine was exported to the entire then-known world from the port of Monemvasia. The next big step came after World War II when the main viticultural zones were developed, namely in the central and northern regions of the Peloponnese, such as Patras, Mantinia, Nemea, and on the Corinthian coast. Over half the Peloponnesian vineyards are located in Achaia and Corinth.

Protected Designation Of Origin (PDO)

The Peloponnese is the southern-most tip of the Balkan Peninsula. It is a predominantly mountainous region with very few areas of low altitude — mainly the plains in the north. Its climate is Mediterranean with mild winters and long, hot summers. Rainfall is high in the western section in relation to the rest of the peninsula. Factors such as altitude, mountain slopes, aspect and the proximity to the sea create many different mesoclimates.

The Peloponnese has seven Designations of origin, four of which are in the Achaia prefecture: PDO Mavrodaphne of Patras, PDO Muscat of Patras, PDO Muscat of Rio Patras and PDO Patras. The other three are PDO Mantinia from Arcadia, PDO Nemea from Corinth and Argolida and PDO Monemvasia-Malvasia from Laconia. Except for the Moschofilero wines, which have the elegance of wines produced in cool climates, most Peloponnesian wines are characterized by the aromas of ripe fruit, herbs and spices, broadness, warmth on the palate and a noticeable acidity

PDO Mantinia
The wine zone PDO Mantinia stretched over the Arcadia plateau at an altitude of over 650 meters, where grapes mature slowly and late on the slopes of the plateau. The name of this PDO wine comes from Ancient Mantinia.

Grape Varieties: Moschofilero (at least 85%), Asproudes
Wine Type: Dry white

PDO Mavrodaphne of Patras
The zone for the sweet wines (vin de liqueur) PDO Mavrodaphne of Patras, which are the most popular in Greece, stretches in the central-north of Achaia. These wines mature for at least one year in oak barrels with a capacity of up to 1000 liters. After two years of maturation they can be labeled as Reserve, and after at least three years in barrels and seven years in barrels and bottles in total, they are labeled as Grand Reserve.

Grape Varieties: Mavrodaphne, Black Corinth
Wine Type: Sweet red

PDO Muscat of Patras
The wine zone PDO Muscat of Patras is in Achaia. It is only related to sweet wines and is smaller than PDO Patras. These wines can be sweet (vin naturellement doux) and natural sweet (vin doux naturel-vin de liqueur). The Grand cru indication on the label shows that grapes are exclusively from privately-owned vineyards of a lower yield.

Grape Variety: Muscat White 100%
Wine Type: Sweet white

PDO Monemvassia-Malvasia
PDO Monemvassia-Malvasia zone is in the southeast of Laconia (peninsula Epidaurus Limiras and Cape Maleas) and revives the most popular wine of the middle Ages, Malvasia wine. It matures in barrels to oxidize for at least two years, or for four years or any number which is a multiple of four.

Grape Varieties: Monemvassia (at least 51%), Assyrtiko, Asproudes, Kydonitsa
Wine type: Sweet white, from sun-dried grapes (sun-dried, vin liastos/vin de raisin passerile), liqueur wine from sun-dried grapes (liastos, vin de liqueur de raisin passerile).

PDO Nemea
PDO Nemea zone is the only one in Greece that extends into two regional parts: mainly in the south-central part of Corinthia and the northwestern part of Argolis. This wine is known as the “Fliasios oenos” of the Ancient Greek and is linked to the myth of Hercules who was worshipped in the area and had his own sanctuary; traditionally PDO Nemea means “Hercules’s blood”. Agiorgitiko, a variety of PDO Nemea wine may have been named by Nemea’s old name, Agios Georgios.

Grape Variety: Agiorgitiko 100%
Wine types: Dry, semi-sweet and sweet red

PDO Patras
The wine producing zone of PDO Patras (the largest PDO Greek wine zone) is situated on semi-mountainous and mountainous areas of northeastern and central Achaia. The Aigialia highlands is probably the most beautiful and beneficial area for viticulture, where the variety Rhoditis thrives.

Grape Variety: Rhoditis 100%
Wine Types: Dry, semi-dry and semi-sweet white

PDO Muscat of Rio Patras
The small wine zone of PDO Muscat of Rio Patras is situated east of Patras and Rio, in Achaia and produces some of the best sweet wines in Greece, many of which are world-class. These wines are sweet (vin naturellement doux and vin doux naturel-vin de liqueur). The indication Grand cru on the label shows that grapes come exclusively from privately-owned vineyards of a lower yield.

Grape Variety: White Muscat 100%
Wine Type: Sweet white


Wine in Achaia

Achaia is one of the largest viticultural zones of Greece in terms of volume. The largest part of Achaia is mountainous with steep slopes; the Aigialia vineyards, for example, extend from an altitude of 250m to 1,050m (820-3,450 ft.), which places them amongst the highest in Greece and Europe. The proximity to the sea, the cool northern winds and the northerly aspect of the vineyards are some of the factors that affect the region’s climate and, hence, the ripening of the dominating roditis variety (also spelled rhoditis) .

Aigeira - Roditis (Rhoditis) staple grape variety of the Peloponnese from the Greek wine region of Achaia.
Roditis (Rhoditis), staple grape variety of the Peloponnese from the Greek wine region of Achaia, PDO Patras. Photo during harvest, from vineyards in the village of Oasi, Aigeira.

The most important parcel of PDO Patras zone is located in the mountainous region of Aigialia and produces elegant wines with high aromatic intensity, perhaps the best expression of the roditis variety. A good PDO Patras wine is rich, lemony, and intense in aroma, with a deep and broad fruity mouthfeel. Its aromas are reminiscent of ripe, honeyed fruit. However, differences are observed in the quality of the production as a whole within the PDO zone. Some mountain locations tend to offer better results in comparison to the lowlands.

The other appellation zones are dedicated to the production of sweet wines. The most significant of these is PDO Mavrodaphne of Patras, the most popular fortified, sweet Greek red wine of the Mavrodaphne variety. The others are the PDO Muscat of Patras and the PDO Muscat of rio, which produce dessert, fortified or not wines, exclusively from white Muscat. Apart from the varieties in the PDO zones, Achaia also produces a plethora of both local and international varieties.

Variatals

The most common whites are Roditis ( or Rhoditis), the local Lagorthi, as well as Malagousia, chardonnay and sauvignon Blanc; reds include the local Mavro Kalavritino, Agiorgitiko, cabernet sauvignon, Merlot and syrah.

Greek native grape varieties of PDO Patras prominent in the vineyards around Aigeira.

Red wines

Agiorgitiko
Agiorgitiko is one of the two emblematic red grape varieties in Greece and the most important in Peloponnese boasting the most dynamic presence for Greece in international wine markets. Agiorgitiko promises a mythical wine journey starting from the past with the myth of Hercules and his Labors – it is said that Hercules drank Agiorgitiko wine – to our days and has a bright future with many great surprises to come.

What?
Agiorgitiko is multi-dimensional as it produces rosé wines, red tank wines (fresh), short or long-aging red wines, some aged in barrels, semi-sweet and sweet wines.

Where?
The wine-producing zone of Nemea in Corinth is the kingdom Agiorgitiko, which is also planted elsewhere in Peloponnese, in Greece and worldwide. Nemea, with the PDO Nemea wine, is the largest designation of origin zone of red wine in Greece.

Why?
Because Agiorgitiko captivates the senses. It is no wonder why many consider it to be the Sangiovese of Greece, because of its velvet tannins, the freshness and aromas which are evident both in the nose and mouth.

For whom?
Agiorgitiko is ideal for a wide range of wine-lovers and not only, as it produces easily consumed wines, yet evokes prestige and seriousness.

How?
The fresh tank wines from Agiorgitiko are relatively dark red and have an intense aroma of red fruits. Its mouth has medium acidity and its tannins are soft. Those aged in barrels are usually more dark-colored and more complex in terms of aromas, with a quite complex nose. Its rich taste is accompanied by relatively soft tannins, usually of very good quality, while its aging capacity varies from some years to more than ten.

When?
Because of their varietal profile, wines made of Agiorgitiko are great for many occasions, ensuring beautiful social moments and an intimate atmosphere. The fresh red tank Agiorgitikos but also the rosé ones are ideal for everyday meals, even in fast food restaurants or for picnics. Red wines aged in barrels are good for any type of meal, from casual to formal and the sweet wines from Agiorgitiko can be enjoyed at the end of a meal or on their own, instead of a liqueur.

With what?
The variety of foods that can be accompanied by Agiorgitiko wines is very wide. Fresh, red, tank wines and rosé ones are ideal with salads, various meat or poultry-based appetizers, or with even cooked vegetables. Aged red wines are ideal match for white and red meat, as well as game.

Mavrodaphne
It was around the mid-19th century when the German Gustav Clauss vinified the first Mavrodaphne just outside Patras. Nobody knows if he believed that someday its wines would be among the most emblematic of Greece and the most well-known dessert wines (Port type) with a potential for excellent quality. He definitely couldn’t have imagined the potential of this red varietal for dry wines that turned Mavrodaphne one of the most promising cases for red winemaking in Greece.

What?
Mavrodaphne is a red grape variety with a long history in the production of sweet wines and a promising future in red dry wine production.

Where?
Peloponnese and especially its northwestern part feature the largest percentage of Mavrodaphne vineyards. Mavrodaphne is the main varietal producing the wine that bears the same name, i.e. PDO Mavrodaphne of Patras.

For whom?
Those who love Port type wines, also adore PDO Mavrodaphne of Patras. This wine is also ideal for those who want to taste a Greek variety which is currently being widely explored and is going to stand out in the production of dry red wines of high standards.

Why?
Because the sweet red wines PDO Mavrodaphne of Patras are well-known and have the potential to be among the best of this type in Greece – which is famous for its sweet wines. Compared to other Port-type wines, they usually have a tremendously better value for money. Moreover, because red dry wines from Mavrodaphne – although few for the time being – show the great potential of this varietal.

How?
Dark red, almost black, sweet red wines from Mavrodaphne have concentrated the aromas of currants, black berries and prunes. These warm wines have a mouth high in alcohol and probably of average acidity. The sweet sensation of the alcohol and sugars is balanced by the Mavrodaphne’s tannins. Mavrodaphne dry red wines are somewhat similar to the Italian Amarone, which misses the sweet element of Mavrodaphne.

When?
Sweet wine PDO Mavrodaphne of Patras is a perfect match for many moments and occasions. It can be enjoyed as a liqueur, as a dessert wine after a meal, in cocktails, for cooking and patisserie purposes, etc.

With what?
PDO Mavrodaphne of Patras wines, depending on their style, match perfectly with chocolate desserts, desserts with nuts, such as walnut, and with aged cheeses with intense flavor. A nice glass of Mavrodapnhe can also accompany a good cigar.

Mavro Kalavrytino
Black Kalavrytino
Little is known about the variety Mavro (Black) Kalavrytino, except its origin, which refers to the historic and beautiful Kalavryta of Achaia.

Although randomly planted in Peloponnese and unused for many years, today it is among the very promising red grape native varieties.

White wines

Roditis
Possibly the most widespread Greek white wine variety in Greece in terms of planting and production, Roditis (Rhoditis) produces wines of various levels of quality. Under certain conditions (proper cultivation, without high yields), it produces very good wines, with a good value for money.

However, Roditis still remains greatly undiscovered and thrives in mountain vineyards like those at the Aigialia highlands.

What?
A reddish grape variety – possibly the most widely planted in Greece and definitely in Peloponnese – which produces white wines.

Where?
Roditis is cultivated throughout the Greek mainland, and thrives in Peloponnese and especially Achaia. It yields white dry wines like PDO Patras.

Why?
Because it is worth discovering white wines standing out for their very own aromatic and tasteful character, and are affordable too.

For whom?
Wines made from or with Roditis are perfect for restless wine-lovers who enjoy discovering good wines that can also be pleasantly consumed every day.

How?
Roditis when cultivated and vinified with advanced techniques leads to very high quality wines with clear nose, which evoke lemon, lemon flowers and white-fleshed fruits. They have a medium mouth and a refreshing acidity. However, there are some less satisfying samples, due to the high yields the variety offers, so go for good producers and good taste is guaranteed.

When?
Roditis produces dry white wines for daily consumption that are quite affordable.

With what?
Wines made of Roditis can be easily matched. They are great with averagely intense appetizers, salads, and light dishes based on vegetables, pasta, rice, lean fish, white meat, etc.

Lagorthi
Greek Lagorthi is an elegant white variety that doesn’t really reflect the character of its Southern European siblings. It is one of the very few, if not the only, Greek white grape varieties that defies the Mediterranean sun and yields fresh, dry white wines with a crystal clear and refined character which evokes those of cooler climates.

What?
Lagorthi produces elegant and fine white wines, with sharp acidity.

Where?
Native of Achaia, Lagorthi is planted mainly in northern Peloponnese.

Why?
Because white wines from Lagorthi are unique in the Mediterranean and they confirm the versatile and unpredictable Greek vineyard as well as the authenticity of Peloponnesian terroirs.

For whom?
Lagorthi wines will satisfy the devotees of North European-style white wines (thin, fine, with high acidity and low alcohol content).

How?
Lagorthi produces wines with a very soft yellow-silver color and a rather discrete nose focusing on elegance, minerality and florality. Their fine mouth is clear, with intense acidity and low alcohol, sometimes even lower than 12%. Lagorthi wines can age in bottles for two-three years to acquire complexity and an even more mineral character.

When?
When you require a fine and elegant flavour, a white wine made of Lagorthi or with Lagorthi in its blend, will greatly satisfy you.

With what?
It can be perfectly paired with shellfish, and in general with elegant, acidic dishes that match the fineness of Lagorthi wines with their sharp acidity.

Malagouzia
Although it disappeared in the 1970s, Malagouzia revived in the 21st century, showing the dynamics reflected by particular Greek varieties. As a popular white aromatic variety, it was widely planted in Peloponnese too.

It produces dry and a few sweet wines, usually with an explosive fruity and herbal nose, with aromatic taste and a moderate to refreshing acidity which fascinates lovers of style.

Open to visitors wineries near Aigeira.

Within an 1 hr drive from Aigeira about 10 wineries are open to visitors in both Achaea and Corinthia. Head over to The Wine Grower Association of the Peloponnese (ENOAP) for the full list and a short presentation of each one.

Below are the three nearest and are highly recommended visiting.

Interesting Fact

Aigeira was the hometown of France based businessman Andreas (André) Mentzelopoulos (1915 Patras -1980) who in 1977 purchased the prestigious wine estate of Bordeaux, Château Margaux. The estate still belongs to the family and is now run by his daughter Corinne Mentzelopoulos.

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