For a trip to Nemea you need your five senses on high alert; there are too many things to feel… listen… see… taste… and… smell…
It is hard not to feel the pull of ages standing in front of the Temple of Zeus with the 7 remaining Doric columns, and the Nemean stadium, which hosted the ancient Nemean Games, which were at the same magnitude of Olympic Games and attracted crowds from several regions. Today there is a revival of the old games and the Nemean stadium hosts the modern Nemean Games. Reaching the stadium, do not hesitate to become an ancient athlete for a couple of minutes. Take off your shoes and be rewarded with feeling the contact with the stones and oil touched by ancient feet more than 2,000 years ago.
A journey through ages reveals great myths and legends; listen to the stories about Nemea and its wine. Nemea is the birthplace of the famous Flashion wine, the royal wine that Agamemnon the King of Argos (southern Greece) drank in Mycenae (4th century BC).
Another myth is associated with the foundation of the Nemea Games, the story of Opheltes son of Lykourgos and Eurydike. When their son was born Lykourgos consulted the Oracle at Delphi in order to ensure the health and happiness of his child. Pythia proclaimed that the boy must not touch the earth until he had learned how to walk. Lykourgos assigned a slave woman, Hypsipyle, to care for his son. Sometime thereafter the Kings of Argos passed through Nemea. They found Hypsipyle and asked her for something to drink. Hypsipyle placed Opheltes on a bed of wild celery where he was killed by a serpent, thus fulfilling the prophecy. The kings renamed the baby Archemoros (beginner-of-doom) and held the first Nemean Games as funerary games in his memory.
Nemea was also the place where Hercules performed the first of his 12 mythological labors: killing the vicious lion of Nemea, which terrorized the locals. According to the legend, after realizing that his arrows had no effect on the beast, he strangled it with his bare hands. The hero is often represented on Greek artifacts wearing the lion’s impenetrable skin while enjoying a cup of its blood. Nowadays the blood of Nemea has a more contemporary approach, it comes in the form of wine. But not just any common wine; a rich, complex, intense, and generous red that definitely will draw your attention.
The scenery throughout Nemea is unforgettable. You will see hills and small valleys covered with countless rows of vines, sweeping olive groves, pine and cypress trees.
But the most surprising part starts when you taste one of the well-known and noble native Greek varieties: the unique and charismatic Agiorgitiko, the grape of St. George (Agios Georgios), from which Nemean wine is made. Agiorgitiko is a “chameleon” grape because of the large number of wine styles that can be crafted from it: fresh and light rosés with fruit aromas, young to medium-bodied and moderately tannic reds aged in oak barrels to some of the deepes-colored, tannic wines with high alcohol concentration and intensity, aged in an oak barrel for 1-10 years.
You should try sweet Agiorgitiko mostly made by straw grapes and Agiorgitiko blended with other red international varieties to realize why this wine should get a place on the pantheon of Greek wine varieties.
In a bottle of Nemea wine you can smell all the aromas of the Greek countryside. A rich bouquet of red raspberries and cherries; sweet baking spices like cinnamon, cloves, and nutmeg; rosemary, Greek herbs, and pepper; lemon, orange, mandarin, raisins, and figs; honey; olives; mushroom; and wild Greek flowers – aromas that remind you forever of the secrets of Nemea.
In a glass of Nemea Wine you will:
- Discover a wine history of 4,000 years. Drink the same wine as Hercules drank just before he slayed the Nemea Lion.
- Taste one of the noblest Greek varieties that stand out for their deep red color and remarkable aromatic complexity.
- Explore Nemea through a journey to this charming wine region with the different microclimates, altitudes, terrains which can delight visitors by its natural beauty.
- Smell the charming Mediterranean fruity aromas like plums, cherries, strawberries, pigs.
- Feel its graceful texture, low acidity and flavors that create a wonderful balance on the palate.
- Find the best match with your meal as it can be an excellent food pairing with meat dishes but due to its acidity can also be enjoyed with richer seafood.
- Be intrigued not to stick with the first wine; taste different varieties of fresh, light wines, dry or sweet, red or rose, aged in oak.
- Understand why wine experts and opinion leaders appraise the Nemea Wines as the most talented and charismatic Greek wine variety.
Perfect Meal Accompanied with Agiorgitiko:
- Rosé Agiorgitikois the perfect party wine and the perfect summer drink, but it is also a great partner to the oil-rich vegetable dishes of the Peloponnese (and to those of other parts of the Mediterranean), leafy green salads or cooked wild greens.
- The Agiorgitiko reds go well with meat.
- Young, fresh Agiorgitiko that has not been aged in oak, matches well with a large variety of dishes, like meat balls in tomato sauce, pork, even moussaka.
- Braised meats and stews, such as rabbit—in Greece sweet with the addition of onions—are a perfect counter for the more tannic, oak-aged Nemea Wines.
- More flamboyant Nemea Wines, with more tannins, more alcohol, and more evident oak, call for intense aromas, like lamp chops, especially charcoal grilled, or game.
Nemea, Land of Wineries
Travelling through 2,300 hectares of vineyards and olive groves surrounding Nemea are of stunning natural beauty. In the distance looms the mountain of ancient Corinth.
In the midst of this beauty lies Nemea, a small city in the Corinthian region, located 1.5 hours from Athens and half an hour from Corinth and Nafplio. Nemea is built amphitheatrically on the slope of Profits Ilias Mountain, with River Asopos crossing and irrigating the valley and its vineyards.
It was Homer, the greatest of the epic poets (8th century BC) who first called Nemea Ampeloessa – full of vine. Today Nemea is the largest and most important red wine appellation in Greece and the Balkan.
The Town of Nemea
The town of Nemea is famous for producing the most important red wines of southern Greece, going back to the 15th century BC.
Many as 95 wines are produced in this region, all made from the local Agioritiko grape, in more than 40 wineries located in Nemea.
Grapes are grown at three levels: on the flat areas around the village, on the slopes towards the west, and on the mountainous area of Mount Killini in the north. The best grapes are grown in the vineyards at the highest altitudes where thin soil and lower temperatures produce a better quality grape.
The whole area surrounding Nemea is one of absolute natural beauty spread out all around for as far as the eye can see. In the distance looking out over acres of vineyards and olive groves looms the mountain of ancient Corinth.
Nemea is not only known for its delicious wines and natural beauty. Like all Greek towns and villages, Nemea has its own history and mythology.
The Town of Ancient Nemea
It is here that Hercules killed the Lion of Nemea (a fierce monster in Greek mythology), the first of the 12 labors of Hercules, the 12 tasks given to him by King Eurystheus. According to Herodotus, a famous Greek historian, lions did roam about in ancient Greece up until 100 BC.
Nemea’s Old City, especially the stadium, was restored with incredible precision by the honorable Prof. Stephen Miller, the director of the University of California Berkeley’s excavations in ancient Nemea. He has devoted his life to unearthing and restoring ancient Nemea and reviving the Nemean Games, held every four years. These competitions preserve the conditions as they existed thousands of years ago. Runners run on the same track used thousands of years ago, barefoot and dressed in the clothes worn by the athletes of antiquity. The wrestlers compete in the original arena where their predecessors wrestled thousands of years ago, and so with all the other sports.
East of Nemea is the ancient village of Kleones where people have lived since Neolithic times. Here, in the 5th century BC the Kleones Neamean Games were held, competing and just as important as the Olympic Games in Athens. In the village are the ruins of the Temple of Hercules and Athena.