Greek wine basics: Nemea II

The following post is the fourth in a series of Greek wine basics. It’s been transcribed from Konstantinos Lazarakis MW’s The Wines of Greece (London, Mitchell Beazley, 2005, currently out of print). While Lazarakis’ book is difficult to find these days, it remains THE number-one resource for information — technical and historical — on the wines of Greece. We highly recommend it. You’ll find an archive for our Greek Wine Basics series in the right-hand navigation of our home page.

Above: The temple at Nemea, photo via An Alaskan in Athens (doesn’t seem to be active anymore but a great blog!).

Nemea includes the communes of sixteen villages and three distinct subregions, which are broadly classified by altitude. The first starts from the Nemea valley floor, at about 230 metres altitude (755 feet), going up to approximately 450 meters (1,476 feet). The next is a band of slopes ranging between 450-650 metres altitude (1,476-2,133 feet), while the last consists of the higher parts of the appellation, going up to 900 metres (2,953 feet).

The first zone is by far the hottest and has the richest soils, mainly red clay. Here grapes ripen the fastest and it is relatively easy to achieve fourteen degrees Baumé or above. In fact, the inclusion of sweet wines in the OPAP regulations was mainly because of these very ripe grapes and the possibility of using them in vin de liqueurs or other similar styles. The combination of fertile soils, high yields, high temperatures, and fast sugar accumulation lead to slow flavour development, and most vineyards in the area are suited to the production of lighter wines.

The middle zone is regarded as the most suitable for modern wines: the “New Nemeas”. sites have a cooler mes-climate and lower water-availability limits yields. Indeed, in some areas vines can be very stressed in certain years and careful irrigation would do wonders in improving quality. Alcohol levels approach thirteen degrees, but some producers go higher through extra work in the vineyard to reduce yields and by taking risks, i.e., hravesting late. The fruit character from these altitudes is well-suited to making extracted and oak-aged wines. However, this zone is by no means less homogenous. Aspect and topography can vary widely, as can soils. For example, Gymno and Koutsi are at about the same altitude, but the former has very infertile, stony soils and a steep gradient, while the latter has limestone and a relatively mild ascent.

The last zone relates to the highest parts of Nemea, dominated by the important Asprokambos plain. Standing between 750 and 900 meters (2,460-2,953 feet), Asprokambos is the coolest part of the appellation by far. The soils are mainly argile-calcaire, and the area’s cooler meso-climate has established its reputation as a prime source for rosé, due to high acidity and bright fruit character. However, nowadays many premium producers are becoming more interested in “cool” (by Peloponnesian standards) viticulture and show a renewed interest in premium Nemea. Top examples from Asprokambos show an impressive combination of excellent colour, fresh but deep fruit, velvety yet assertive tannins, and a notable but balanced acidity.

Explore posts in the same categories: Boutari, Nemea

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