Having had enough of politics and elections for the moment, Helena and I decided to take off and visit a few wineries in the Nemea area in the Peloponnese region, just south of the famous Corinth Canal. Nemea is an easy hour and a quarter drive from Athens and is home to dozens of wineries. The region, most famous for its red Agiorgitiko varietal, is one of the two best known wine regions on the Greek mainland (the other being Naoussa in the north.)
Greek wine has long suffered abroad from a reputation for producing thin, light, unrefined table wines and nasty (to those who haven’t developed a taste for it) retsina. But the reality is that today Greek wineries are producing some very high quality products—reds, whites, and rosés—at very reasonable prices. The Wine Spectator finally recognized this just a few months ago with an extensive and very positive review article on Greek wines. The article focused on the deliciously crisp, lively whites from Santorini, but Greece has much more to offer the wine drinker, with literally hundreds of indigenous grapes, as well as the better known imported varietals.
We have visited many wineries in Greece over the years and have always found a warm welcome—when someone is available to receive us, that is. Wine tourism is still in its infancy here and advance notice is a must at all but the largest facilities. And, on a mid-winter visit, even the biggest producers won’t necessarily be available.
We called a number of Nemea wineries before setting out the other day and managed to find only two that were able to accept visitors. Calling the published phone number for one winery and asking about the possibility of making a visit, we reached an elderly woman who said “Well, I don’t really know anything about that. I’m his mother—you’ll have to call him on his cell.”
We weren’t able to organize a visit with that mom and pop (or I guess I should say “mom and son”) winery that day, but we did visit two very pleasant places—the Semeli and Repanis wineries. Semeli is set in a spectacular location above the town of Nemea, with fabulous views of the valley below and mountains in the distance. Repanis’s location is more prosaic, but its location immediately off the highway from Athens makes for very easy access.
At both wineries, we tasted a variety of pleasant wines, ranging from citrusy whites (either 100% moschofilero or blended with sauvignon blanc) to full-bodied rosés from agiorgitiko grapes, to medium-bodied, flavorful reds. At both wineries, the price to quality value ratio is hard to beat, with some very nice wines available for between 5 and 12 Euros—a very substantial discount from the prices of these same wines in Athens grocery stores. In order to justify the quite significant cost of gas and tolls from Athens, we were forced to buy several cases…