I've been curious about Greek wine for quite some time but have never been able to work up sufficient courage to dive into the subject. The grape names are foreign and exotic, the producers are totally alien to me, and I just don't have any real frame of reference. I guess I kind of expected Greek wine to resemble Italian wine in the kind of way that the Roman Gods resemble the Greek Gods or in the way that the countries can kind of resemble one another when viewing them on a map (sort of, if you kind of squint and let your mind wander...). But I guess if there was enough of a correlation between the products of the two countries, then one might expect them to be similarly represented in the world marketplace, which is certainly not the case. Italy is currently number one in world production while Greece is a distant 15th in production (one slot behind Moldova!). Italy produces about 15 times more wine than Greece does and has about 9 times more land devoted to vineyard acreage.
In any case, I decided it was high time to see what they were up to on the Greek Isles and sample some wines with really long, funny sounding names.
First up was the Agiorgitiko grape which is much easier to say and spell in its Anglicized form, St. George. This grape is an indigenous Greek varietal and grows in the Peloponnese, most famously home to the ancient city-state of Sparta. Apparently Agiorgitiko is a pretty hardy grape that takes well to very warm climates, which is good because temperatures apparently regularly top out over 100 degree Fahrenheit in Nemea, the town best known for its Agiorgitiko plantings.
The bottle I bought was a 2007 Agiorgitiko from Skouras Estate, who apparently spells the grape Aghiorghitiko. A bit of googling finds that they are in a distinct minority with this spelling, but it's their wine and they can spell it however they want, I suppose. The bottle set me back $15.
The wine was a dark garnet color with a little bit of a purple hue. It was fairly densely saturated and there wasn't much of a color change near the rim. The deep garnet color was pretty steady all the way out.
The nose started out a little bit sour and acetic, but was really dominated by dark fleshy fruit flavors. Plum and some prune aromas were there, but overall, it wasn't a particularly aromatic wine and it took some pretty concentrated sniffing to be able to tease any individual aromas out of the glass.
First impression on the palate: juicy and a little thin. Black cherry and plum flavors were the main fruit components, but they tasted a little stewed. Fine, powdery tannins were present right after I opened the bottle, but they dissipated after about half an hour. The acidity was a little out of whack on this one, making the wine taste kind of sour. There was some kind of spicy undertones going on, but I couldn't nail them down. Clove? Nutmeg? Something in that vein. My wife took a taste and described it tasting "like flat Cold Duck." I'll have to take her word on that.
So is it any good? Well, it's not terrible. This wine was pretty one dimensional and plain with a pretty short finish. It wasn't particularly well balanced and really could have used some extra weight on the palate to carry those dark fruit flavors and even out the acidity a little bit. I'm not a Greek wine convert after this bottle, but I'm also not writing them off wholesale either. I'm definitely going to try some other producers for Agiorgitiko and will hopefully expand over into Xinomavro and Assyritiko territory at some point in the near future as well.