Agiorghitiko and Xinomavro: Two Greek Red Varieties to Fall in Love with
The most prominent Greek red varieties are Agiorghitiko and Xinomavro. Agiorghitiko originates in the Peloponnese, southern Greece and Xinomavro in the north. They are so different, yet so delicious. Let’s take a closer look at them.
Agiorghitiko, which literally means St. George’s grape, is a red grape known for its elegance and finesse. It is usually full-bodied, ruby red coloured with purple highlights, rich and seductive aromatic character and velvety texture.
The homeland of Aghiorgitiko is Nemea, in the Peloponnese where the oldest vines are more than 100 years old. In Greek mythology Nemea is referred as the land of Hercules and the most popular legend is the one of Hercules and the lion. Wines from Nemea Appellation that are 100% Agiorghitiko receive the “PDO Nemea” indication on the label. The variety is also known as “Mavro Nemeas” and “Mavroudi Nemeas”.
The style of the variety is versatile mainly due to the various terroirs. The main flavours that can be found in an Agiorghitiko are red and black cherry, damson plum, rosemary and sweet spices, such as vanilla, cinnamon and clove. It usually has low acidity and rounded tannins. Agiorghitiko can be enjoyed unoaked or after maturation in oak barrels for at least one year and it has a long ageing potential. The variety also makes refreshing and fruity rosé wines and outstanding dessert ones from sun-dried grapes. It can be easily comparable to Cabernet Sauvignon mainly due to the similar dark fruit flavours and for this reason these two varieties are often blended together. Unoaked Agiorghitiko is quite similar to Beaujolais Nouveau but it can also age gracefully for at least 5 years.
Undoubtedly, Agiorghitiko is one of the most popular and widely planted indigenous varieties in Greece. Nemea offers top quality wines, especially in higher altitudes. Agiorghitiko wines coming from lower altitudes tend to be ‘flabby’ and ‘jammy’. It is usually found as a single-varietal or blended with Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Syrah. Interesting and delightful expressions of Agiorghitiko are also coming from Macedonia, Attica and Epirus.
The variety is very food-friendly and perfect for every occasion. It can be enjoyed from a BBQ with friends to a fancy dinner or simply as an aperitif. It is very easy to pair with the traditional and contemporary Greek cuisine as well as with the international cuisine.
Xinomavro literally means “acid-black”. It is one of the finest grapes in Greece and it is often compared to Nebbiolo or even Pinot Noir. It is a full-bodied red wine, translucent, with delicate flavours, rich tannic character and high acidity. It gives wines with complex aromas of blueberry, cherry, plum, dried fruits, tomato, olive, cabbage, dried leaves and spices. It is a high quality grape with an excellent ageing potential. There are 50-year old Xinomavros that are still alive and kicking. Xinomavro is also the most versatile Greek grape. It makes dry red (oaked or unoaked), rosé, blanc de noir and sparkling wines.
It is the most significant grape in North Greece and Macedonia region. There are four PDO regions: Naoussa, Amyntaion, Goumenissa and Rapsani. It is also cultivated in Siatista, Velventos, Ioannina, Kastoria, Chalkidiki and Trikala.
PDO Naoussa: Diverse terroir that gives complex and full-bodied single varietal wines. Naoussa it is definitely not an easy-going wine or a crowd-pleaser but a wine for dedicated oenophiles and explorers. Depending on the producer there are traditional expressions of the variety and more fruit-forward modern ones.
PDO Amyntaion: It gives 100% Xinomavro wines like Naoussa with a great ageing potential but with different characteristics due to the terroir. In Amyntaion are also produced excellent sparkling wines.
PDO Goumenissa: In Goumenissa Xinomavro is traditionally blended with Negkoska (at least 20%) offering wines with a fruity character and high alcohol. The wine matures in oak barrels for at least one year.
PDO Rapsani: Xinomavro is blended with the local varieties Krasato and Stavroto in equal percentages.
Xinomavro pairs well with a variety of dishes such as braised beef (kokkinisto), sausages, roasted lamb and truffle risotto. In Northern Greece it is the wine that always has a special place on the table on a Sunday gathering.