Nemea, one of Greece's loveliest wine regions


Only an hour and a half from Athens lies Nemea, a place steeped in Greek mythology - Hercules showed his early feats of bravery here, while Demeter sought solace and comfort, and Zeus’ temple was erected there in the 4th century BC. However, it is not by chance that most notably, it was Dionysus who, according to legend, sent his son, Phlias, to plant vineyards throughout Nemea, creating what is now Greece’s premier wine-producing region.

With over 30 wineries in Nemea, nearly half open for visitors, passionate winemakers eagerly await to guide visitors through their vineyards and cellars to sample their wines.

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In the Heartland of Agiorgitiko

Features like the Temple of Zeus, the stadium where the Nemean Games were held with a wild celery crown as the prize, and a quaint Archaeological Museum filled with treasures linked to tales worthy of the silver screen – are set against a backdrop brimming with vineyards and cypresses.

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We travel through a novel, forward-thinking Nemea and give a bow to the Agiorgitiko grape, enjoying its intoxicating aromas of raisin, dried plum, and mocha. We visit vineyards, wine cellars and traditional presses juxtaposed with innovative technology and modern architectural touches, visit restaurants that celebrate both the land and its history, and hear of festive events and concerts that breathe life into winery courtyards.

The vinicultural haven of Nemea has it all and, at just one hour from Athens, stands as the perfect destination for both novice and seasoned wine enthusiasts. Nemea today is a flourishing ensemble of scattered wineries, with 17 villages within a wine-producing belt.

Agiorgitiko: What’s in a Name?

Nemea’s vineyard is located in the namesake plain and at the foothills of Mount Kyllini, spanning 25,000 stremmata. Depending on the location, the vineyards range in altitude between 200 and 850 metres, with the Agiorgitiko grape prevailing throughout.

The famous grape gets its name from a small chapel of Saint George (‘Aghios Georgios’) and is distinguished by its deep blue hue, spherical berries, and thick skin.

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It is a versatile grape variety that produces exceptional wines, and variations in which it can be found include freshly drawn from the tank, lightly aged, and deeply matured, as well as rosé, white, the renowned blanc de noir, and sweet dessert wines. Since 1971, the dry red Nemea wine belongs to the Protected Designation of Origin (PDO) category.

Visiting the Best Wineries

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Our first stop is at a winery steeped in history. Established in 1979, the Semeli Estate became a benchmark for the wine-producing region of Nemea and all of the Peloponnese. Dominating the landscape from its vantage point atop a hill in Koutsi, it is housed in an architecturally beautiful building. The winery was designed with a deep respect for its surroundings, boasting a sculpturally conceived roof that follows the gradient of the land.

Its various levels harness gravity, ensuring that the must flow during wine production is primarily natural. With breathtaking views from every angle, it is both a haven of rejuvenation and a model of wine tourism.

To the south lie the vineyards of Nemea, while to the north, one’s gaze reaches the Corinthian Gulf, stretching even as far as central Greece. This unique terroir perfectly cradles the classic Agiorgitiko and carefully selected international grape varieties.

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Grounded expertise, relentless research, and a team of passionate and tireless individuals have gathered here to take the Semeli label to its present heights and make it globally reputed. The rare reds from Agiorgitiko, including the iconic Grande Reserve, the delicate Thea Mantinia made from Moschofilero grapes, the popular Oreinos Helios, a blend of Moschofilero and Sauvignon Blanc, and the playful rosé Delear, all contribute to their distinctive wine narrative, delivering the very essence of the region to our glasses.

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Our journey continues to another inspired winemaker, George Palyvos, and his eponymous winery in Ancient Nemea. He possesses one of Nemea’s most expansive single vineyards and pioneered the initiative of making it accessible to visitors. This endeavour set a standard akin to the benchmarks of international vineyards. Today, he’s taken a creative leap forward, crafting a viewing point at the highest part of the vineyard. Here, a repurposed train carriage serves as a wine bar, and on its “platform”, guests can indulge in the estate’s wines while overlooking the vineyards.


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Returning to Koutsi, we find the Gaia Wines winery. This modern industrial edifice, constructed in 1997, is carving its own niche in the annals of wine history. Exploration, innovation, experimentation, and beloved wines that grace our tables – from the famed Nemea to the Anatolikos, a sweet wine made from sun-dried Agiorgitiko grapes, Gaia stands as a formidable wine entity in the region.

Vine alternatives: Vinegar and Grape Syrup

In the same region, “Nature’s Wisdom” (‘Sophia tis Fisis’) delves deeply into the world of grapevines, crafting an array of distinguished vinegars and grape syrups. This robust family business, dedicated to organic vinegar and syrup production, harnesses the potential of their grapes, enhancing the area’s wine-related offerings.

Initiating their journey in 2005, they set out to cultivate roughly 80 acres of privately owned Agiorgitiko vineyards in the OPAP Nemea zone. By 2006, they had completed their processing and standardisation facility on the slopes of Koutsi village. From this vantage point, one can gaze upon the captivating Nemea Valley and its seemingly endless vineyards. Within this setting, they offer cooking classes and tastings.

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In conversation with the visionaries behind this enterprise, Nikos Bouzinelos and Kostis Banagis, we discover that their vinegars find homes worldwide. Their ambition? To further emphasise the venue hosting their culinary classes and tastings. Meanwhile, Alfa Leone has been a name in the vinegar industry for over a quarter of a century. Their story began in 1992 when Vasilis Basaniotis commenced his vinegar production using Agiorgitiko grapevines. From balsamic to aged vinegar, infused with pomegranate juice or derived from either white or red wine, Alfa Leone’s portfolio continues to flourish. In conversation with Alexis Basaniotis, we sense an aura of continuity as he reveals plans for a dedicated vinegar production space within their private vineyard on the fringes of Nemea.

Nemea’s Welcoming New Hotel

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Our journey took a delightful turn as Nemea introduced its new gem, the Kera Neme Hotel. This establishment stands proudly as the city’s inaugural hotel, right at its heart, drawing significant inspiration from the region’s rich wine heritage. The interiors are a masterclass in tasteful simplicity, with touches of luxury that are understated yet distinct. Comprising nine twin rooms, the hotel also boasts its own wine cellar.

The hotel's essence embodies Maria Athanasiou and Christos Korakas’ vision of hospitality. Its name carries allegorical nuances, alluding to the “grand dame” – the nurturer, the educator, the very homeland that raises us. We found repose in its contemporary, inviting lounge and indulged in a delectable array of dishes, limited in number but rich in flavour. From a burger with handmade bread, ravioli, and pinsa to a refreshingly crisp green salad, every bite was an ode to culinary art. Naturally, we paired our meal with wines from the vicinity, an experience reminiscent of embracing Nemea’s very soul.

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