During the last two decades, Drama region in Northern Greece has managed to build up its reputation mainly on the basis of international varieties. Bordeaux blends, Syrah, Tempranillo, Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc, are the protagonists of the area, while indigenous varieties like Assyrtiko, Malagouzia, Agiorgitiko or Xinomavro, existed, in the majority of the cases, simply to supplement the very successful blends of the area.
At times when international markets are taking an interest in the diversity and the unique character of Greek native varieties, Drama seems to have "missed the train" due to its mainstream international choices. Nevertheless, next to the aromatic blends with their distinctive pure fruit and crisp acidity, varietal wines made exclusively from Greek varieties pop up with a lot to offer!
The most recent "hit" in this category, is the single-varietal Agiorgitiko 2012 by Pavlidis Estate, which the Wine Commanders had the opportunity to try it out prior entering the market in a few months time, i.e. sometime during 2015. Explosively fresh, with a crunchy, delicious fruit spotlessly expressed and a robust structure, it shook us for good right after the Great Days of Nemea.
The Agiorgitiko is planted in Pavlidis Estate for more than a decade and is part of the classic red blend Thema together with Syrah. However, the winemaker of the estate Nikos Karatzas, noticed during the separate vinification procedures the excellent results that the variety produces and decided to try it on its own, even on an experimental basis.
Going through its third year now, though the results of the experiment have not yet hit the spotlight, the innovation is not limited strictly to its variety.
Α second harvest that takes place in the 9ha vineyard planted with Agiorgitiko, ensures only the riper grapes for this wine. The fermentation is spontaneous and occurs in open oak barrels with their top cover removed. In the fermentation process 60% new oak is used, followed by maturation for fourteen months in less new oak close to 30%.
Spontaneous fermentation with indigenous yeasts gives a complex aromatic character boosting Agiorgitiko to express the purity of its characteristics as depicted in the area, whereas barrel fermentation allows the oak to beautifully integrade retaining fruit in the foreground even at this stage when the wine is still quite young.
"The goal was not to create the Drama version of Nemea" stipulates Nikos Karatzas". The objective of our project of 3000 bottles was simply to express more clearly the terroir of our region".
Bearing such goal in mind, the wine gives an amazing, dense fruit on the nose, like sniffing sour cherries and red cherries, with delicate oak tones in the background, expressing itself through spice and chocolate nuances and finally completing its aromatic palette with notes of cooked bacon. The palate is a bit wilder with powerful and robust tannins, sustaining its ripe and juicy fruit that shines with its freshness. Concentrated with a lot to give in the coming years. (90-92/100)
We love the fact that this Agiorgitiko escapes from standard practice by adopting cumbersome and unusual techniques, which, as the result proves, seems to suit it. We love the fact that regions like Drama remains dynamic regarding Greek varieties producing excellent Agiorgitiko even so far away from its natural home in Nemea. Ultimately we love the fact that the Greek wine is constantly "on the go", creating great hopes for its future.
Parenthesis: it seems that barrel fermentation, a non-common practice in Nemea, might be a good solution to the management of the oak that fails sometimes to properly integrate taking points out in many Greek red wines.