Agiorgitiko and Xinomavro, say these names three times fast: ah-gee-or-gee-tee-ko, ah-gee-or-gee-tee-ko, ah-gee-or-gee-tee-ko, zhee-no-mav-ro, zhee-no-mav-ro, zhee-no-mav-ro. While they may be a tough grapes to pronounce, they both make delicious red wines. In fact, they make the most prominent red wines in Greece, and they’re perfect wines to seek out in the fall.
While Greek wines may be better known as refreshing summer quaffers, causing drinkers to think of the sea air, the sun and the deliciously lite Mediterranean fare, summer is not Greece’s only season. As the climate begins to cool, they make delicious and warm braised meats and stews, perfect for Agiorgitiko and Xinomavro.
Agiorgitiko, which is the most widely planted grape in Greece, is most easily comparable to Cabernet Sauvignon, as it has similar dark fruit flavors of prunes and plums, and the same heavy tannins that dry your mouth out and beg for the wine to be drunk alongside meat. It’s also due to this similarity that you can often find the two grapes blended together. It’s a powerful and bold red wine that fans of this style will love, which is what makes it go so well with the heavier meat dishes.
While the Agiorgitiko is grown throughout the country, where it is best known is in the region of Nemea, where the wine carries the nickname, “the blood of Hercules” – as legend has it, after Hercules slayed the Nemean lion, it was this wine that he consumed.
Quickly behind Agiorgitiko as the country’s second most planted red grape is Xinomavro. Regarded by many as the country’s best red wine, Xinomavro has many similarities to Pinot Noir and Nebbiolo, producing a wine that has a nice amount of acidity. And just like Pinot Noir, it is often used to make rosé and sparkling wine as well. If you’re a fan of Burgundy or Barolo, this will be a great wine for you to try.
Just like Agiorgitiko, Xinomavro pairs very well with meat dishes, but due to its acidity can also be enjoyed with richer seafood. The best Xinomavro comes from the hills of northern Greece in the region of Naousa. While the wine can be blended with other grapes if grown outside of Naousa, here it must be 100% Xinomavro to carry the name Naousa on the label.
So whether you’re in the mood to take an imaginative trip to Greece, or you’re just looking for a great alternative to Cabernet or Pinot Noir, grab one of these great Greek reds as we truly embrace fall.