Nemea disclosed

By Yiannis Karakasis MW


When one talks about Nemea, it will classically be described as the largest PDO region of the country with approximately 2.500 hectares under vine. The variety that is considered the ultimate star is, none other, than the charming Agiorgitiko, which produces soft, fruity and easy-drinking wines. This may be a statement that involves much truth, but it is not the whole truth.

Nemea is so much more; it is a mosaic of vineyards that vary in exposure, altitude and soil, and this particular assortment is expressed in the wines. They come in a wide variety of styles and qualities.

One needs to walk through the vineyards and the larger area to fully grasp the diversity of the terroir. It is worth trying the wines of each locality separately so as to discern the breadth of all the different elements and how these are imprinted in the wines. It would not be an exaggeration, I think, if one were to say that Nemea rivals Naoussa in terms of the complexity of terroir.

Nevertheless, what I describe has not been highlighted during these recent years. Not only have these facts not been made known, but the image of Nemea has suffered. Oceans and seas of cheap, bulk wine supply armies of thirsty consumers damaging the reputation of the area, which has come to be associated with poor quality, dubious wine. If one bears all this in mind I actually wonder how well we know Nemea and because I like challenges, and the unattainable even more so, I set up a tasting during the Great Days of Nemea to show the diversity of the area.

The Basics

Before we start, let’s take a look at the basics because, without them, nothing can be done. The landscape of the zone is defined by 7 valleys which have been formed by the flow of rivers, such as Asopos. These are:

1. Between Nemea, Galata, Aidonia, Petri and Koutsi

2. Ancient Kleones

3. Ancient Nemea

4. Leontio-Gymno

5. Asprokambos-Psari

6. Kefalari

7. Malandreni


The altitude for the zone starts at 300 meters and reaches above 1200 meters, but vineyards are planted up to 850 meters in Asprokambos. Approximately 50% of the vineyards are up to 500 meters. The climate, although generally Mediterranean, in practice shows great difference even within short distances. The rain is theoretically at about an average of 750 mm and is 80% more common during the winter, however, it does not follow any rule thus affecting what we call a vintage to the maximum. There are years with minimum rainfall (2007 with 408 mm, 2008 with 515, 2013 with 541) and others where it reaches close to 1000 mm (1999 to 908, 2010 to 872, 2014 to 826). And, as if the rain were not enough of a problem, add the cool nights to the equation, and this makes it all the more exciting and complex.

The soils are characterized by the presence of clay and silt, but there is also limestone which seems to add a different feature to wines. Naturally, in the lowlands the soils are more fertile, whereas the farther one goes up to the hills, the soils become shallower, with more rocky features, and at the highest level one encounters marl which gives very good drainage and thus lower yields.

Up to now, all of what I have described above has not been highlighted. Everyone thinks Nemea is uniform without realising its many facets. To a certain extent this is justified by the fact that the majority of wines are blends. Koutsi has been singled out and there has been some discussion about Asprokambos and Ancient Nemea. Personally, I consider this an exciting puzzle that is worth exploring and tasting.

Let’s take a look at the various terroirs using the tasting I organized for the Nemea Winery Association and the Great Days of Nemea as a guide, since the reasoning was to compare seemingly dissimilar areas. // Read the full article: