The Greek wine industry could have done without the nation having a financial crisis, it was hardly having an easy ride as things were. This is a shame, because there is much high quality wine-making on both the mainland and the islands. For those that think Greek wine begins with Retsina and ends with Muscat of Samos, read on.
There are two areas of mainland Greece producing distinct and superior red wines – The northern reaches of Thessaloniki, and the Peloponnese (the lower chunk of Greece which is almost detached by the Corinth canal). In both cases, vines are often deliberately planted at high altitude to combat the brutal summer temperatures. Nemea is a high quality appellation (and the Greeks do use the French terminology) in the North-East of the Peloponnese, with only one permitted grape variety. Agiorgitiko is indigenous to the region, and produces intensely fruity, if sometimes rather light red and rose wines.
The Megapanos 2004 Nemea is a seductively smooth and elegant example. There’s no doubting that this is a hot climate wine, when you smell the ripe cherry, plum and kirsch flavours on the nose. A year in oak has also lent an exotic hint of cinnamon and banana – slightly reminiscent of a lighter Chateau Musar.
The Musar comparison could be extended to the spicy and slightly baked plum and blueberry fruit, but Alexandros Megapanos has created something more mellow here. There are also subtle cedar and vanilla overtones, supported by a medium-bodied, soft-textured structure. It’s rather fine, with a nicely conveyed sense of place.
My only note of caution with this wine was its relatively advanced state of evolution for a 7-year-old – Agiorgitiko can suffer from a slight lack of acidity, and whilst I wouldn’t say that’s a problem in this wine today, I doubt it will hold up for more than another year or two. And anyway, it seems that the sole UK source of Megapanos’s Nemea (Adnams, £11.50) has now dried up – for some reason, this fine wine has been delisted as of summer 2011. However if you are quick, you’ll find the odd bottle or three still on the shelves of some of Adnam’s excellent retail outlets. While you’re there, ponder at the bizarre rebranding which seems to have occurred during bottling of the 2004 vintage – I found bottles with two violently different labels on the shelves. The older, more traditional example is shown on the right. The new branding seems ugly and obtrusively modern in image. I’m sure the wine inside is just the same.