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An outstanding Greek twist on the Bordeaux blend: 40% each cabernet franc and merlot are complemented by 20% of the indigenous agiorgitiko grape, all grown at altitude inland from Nemea in the Peloponnese. This means the grapes get all the sunshine they need to ripen but less of the heat. The result has a haunting bouquet and fine many-faceted full flavour.
Product Code: GR1241
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George Skouras, who trained as a winemaker in Dijon and began his career in Cephallonia, moved to Nemea in 1986, where he created his own winery and became influential in the Greek wine renaissance. He makes wine from both indigenous (particularly aghiorghitiko) and international varieties (loved by the domestic market) in a state of the art winery outside Argos. They own 40 hectares and 40 more under contract. His Cuvee Prestige wines are models of their kind and his top wines, Nemea Grande Cuvee and Megas Oinos are world class.
The extremely ancient and proud history of winemaking in Greece goes back 6,500 years and the central part it has played, and does play, in Greek culture ought to have assured it of a place in the hearts and minds of modern wine drinkers. The fact that it has not yet done so is due to a complicated set of factors that involve history, language, geography and climate, not to mention economic woes, political upheaval and a lack of investment. The prosperous years, in winemaking terms, of the Byzantine Empire was followed by the rapacious regulation of trading Venetians and then the dead hand of the Ottoman Turks who, though they did not prevent the making of wine, taxed the end product heavily. Communication difficulties exacerbated the problems and wine production became a very fragmented and localised business. An international reputation, or even a national one, based on produce from well organised, demarcated and business-like regions with a reputation for fine wines never got off the ground in Greece as they did in, for example, Bordeaux or the Douro. Even though independence was won from the Ottomans in the 1820s, the ripples of the occupation were still felt into the 20th century.The Greek wine renaissance began in the 1970 by the Greek Shipowner Capt. John Carras, who set up his Estate in Chalkidiki, then the largest Estate in Europe. He employed Professor Emile Peynaud from Bordeaux University to advise and supervise the viticulture. The grapes originally planted were predominantly international grape varieties and his Chateau Carras (a Bordeaux blend) soon became famous and was listed at Harrods. The Hatzimichalis family followed swiftly with a very large Estate in Central Greece; again focusing on International grape varieties.In their wake many smaller producers started making good quality wines. In the 1990's French trained George Skouras continued the renaissance and made 'Megas Oinos' a red wine that focused on the indigenous agiorgitiko variety; this became an iconic wine in Greece. As the 'new breed' winemakers travelled and studied abroad they realised that Greece's 'treasure trove' of indigenous varieties are perfectly suited to the climate and terroir. By the beginning of the millenium there was a host of young, talented winemakers making wine from Greek grape varieties e.g. Leonidas Nasiakos with his moschofilero, Haridimos Hatzidakis with his Santorini assyrtiko and Apostolos Thymiopoulos with his 'New Age' xinomavro. More recently the second and third generation of Cretan winemakers such as Nikos Karavitakis and Maria Tamiolaki (Rhous Winery) have followed suit and are pioneering the Cretan indigenous grape varieties such as vidiano, vilana and kotsifali. The winemaking industry in Greece has become dynamic, adventurous and exciting and many smaller and niche winemakers have become very popular both in the domestic market and in the international scene.The climate of Greece is categorised as Mediterranean, and is one of the hotter European areas for wine production. The mountainous interior provides many opportunities to plant at altitude and therefore to ameliorate the effects of heat, but the effects of drought are harder to overcome in an EU region where irrigation is forbidden without a Brussels derogation. Ripeness is therefore rarely a problem except in certain, exceptional circumstances and sites, and the problem is more likely to be a lack of acidity. Harvests in July are not unknown. Soils are generally limestone based and impoverished except in areas close to the coast or certain valleys where more lucrative crops are planted on the fertile soils. On the islands, in particular the Cyclades, the soils are often volcanic. Santorini is a prime example, and these volcanic soils play a significant role in the character of the wines there. There is, of course, a mosaic of soils types in the entirety of Greece, from schist to sand, but limestone and volcanic soils tend to proliferate.As with most EU countries, Greece has developed an appellation system, based on the French model, to the extent of borrowing the terminology of Appellation d’Origine Contrôlée on the label. Quality wines, as defined by the EU, are designated either OPE (Controlled Appellation of Origin) if sweet, or if dry as OPAP (Appellation of Superior Quality. If the words Réserve or Grand Réserve are used on a label they have the legal meaning of being aged for an extended period. The equivalent of a Vine de Pays system also operates under which a wider range of grape varieties may be used to make wine.Wine is made all over Greece, from the high country of Macedonia on the border with what was once Yugoslavia, to the arid island of Crete in the Mediterranean, a location that is closer to Libya and Egypt than to Macedonia. Native varieties are being planted and replanted despite the encroachment of several international varieties. Sweet wines like the famous muscats of Samos and Mavrodaphne of Patras have a long heritage and when made well are wonderful. And we must mention the famous, and sadly misunderstood, Retsina. Though it has a somewhat debased reputation there is a modern breed of winemakers like Tetramythos determined to make a more refined and delicate version that may yet convert any doubters.
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The Observer 5th May 2019
"… cabernet franc and
merlot, which is mixed with a little of the local aghiorgitiko, for a complex
finely fragrant Hellenic claret. It has an appetisingly food-friendly streak of
acidity that calls out for garlic and rosemary lamb. - David Williams"
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The Society's wine buyers work very closely with our suppliers to determine how best to seal our wines. We list below those closures currently in use with a brief description of each.
A technical cork made up of the remnants from the production of natural corks which are ground down into particles and cleaned and then combined using a food-grade polyurethane glue. A cheaper closure which The Society's buyers discourage suppliers from using.
A technical cork made from cheaper-grade natural cork where the naturally occurring pores are filled with ground down cork particles and then the whole is sealed with a food-grade wax coating. Generally only used for wines with a short shelf-life.
Diam corks look like agglomerate corks but are far superior and are designed to put an end to cork taint and random oxidation. The production process chops cork into pieces and sorts the superior, highly elastic, suberin component from the less elastic lignin, which is discarded. It mixes the suberin with microscopic spheres of the same substance used for contact lenses, which fills the voids between the cork particles reducing porosity to air and increasing elasticity without introducing humidity. Finally the pieces are mixed with a glue and moulded under pressure. The mechanical properties of the cork are guaranteed for a certain minimum number of years depending on the grade of cork - for example Diam 2 is guaranteed for two years; Diam 3, 5 and 10 are also available.
The Champagne cork is 90% agglomerate made from cork off-cuts which are ground down, cleaned, compressed and then glued together with two disks of good quality natural cork glued onto the end which protrudes into the bottle.
Natural corks harvested from the cork oak (Quercus suber) forests in Spain and Portugal have been the closure of choice for wine for the 300 years. The bark of the cork oak is stripped from mature trees every nine years. The planks are stored and then cleaned and graded before the corks are punched out of the wood. For wines destined for long-ageing, high-grade natural corks are still the closure of choice.
Cost-effective synthetic 'corks' made from food-grade plastic with a silicone coating (similar to that used on natural corks). Generally used for wines for short-term cellaring.
A glass stopper with a plastic 'O' ring which acts as an interface between the top of the bottle and the stopper, held in place by a metal, tamper-proof seal. Relatively expensive as a closure and not widely used. Can be removed by hand.
A short natural or agglomerate cork with a plastic or wooden top to enable the stopper to be removed by hand. Traditionally used for whiskies, sherries, Madeira etc.
Aluminium alloy screwcaps made with an expanded polyethylene wadding for the lining. Screwcaps are also known as ROTEs (roll-on tamper evident) or by the brand name (Stelvin is a popular brand). Widely used in Australia and New Zealand and for wines for short-term cellaring. Becoming increasingly sophisticated in terms of allowing differing levels of permeability so mimicking the properties of natural cork offering winemakers more choice depending of the style of wine being made. There is still a lack of sound data regarding the performance of screwcaps for longer-term cellaring.
This is an agglomerate cork with a disk of good-quality natural cork adhered to both ends. A reasonably priced, reliable alternative to natural cork.
This is the metal pilfer-proof cap usually used to seal beer bottles but also used in the production of Champagne and sparkling wine when wines are stored under crown cap before the dosage is added. A few producers use crown caps to seal wine bottles. Open with a standard bottle opener.
Jamie Goode has written an excellent book on the subject of closures for those wishing to find out more (Wine Bottle Closures, Flavour Press).
Alcohol by volume%
Units per standard bottle
The Society includes the alcohol by volume percentage figure for each wine available online, in Lists and offers.
It is generally accepted that alcohol levels in wine have been increasing in the last 20 years. There are many reasons why, but the single most important factor is the vast improvement in vineyard management techniques which have resulted in healthier, riper fruit being harvested. Alcohol is a by-product of the fermentation of sugars in the grapes and the best-quality wines are made from grapes that have reached physiological ripeness (colour, flavour and tannin), and this generally happens after sugar ripeness.
There are several techniques that can be used to reduce alcohol levels but currently most are intrusive and strip flavour as well as alcohol and we don't buy wines made in this way. In actual fact, more than half of our still table wines have an abv of 13% or less. Members looking to choose wines with lower levels of alcohol can now search our range by level of alcohol.
Excellent-quality wine is at the heart of everything we do at The Wine Society and balance is the single most important feature of quality. The interaction of a wine's main components of sugar, acidity, tannin, alcohol and flavour matter more than the actual level of alcohol. A well-made wine of 14.5%, for example, will taste more balanced than an inferior-quality wine with 10% alcohol. Furthermore, alcohol levels are only a guide to a wine's fullness: a 12.5% cabernet sauvignon may feel heavier and more full-bodied in the mouth than, say, a gamay of 13.5%. Members should refer to the wine's tasting note for a description of the style and fullness of the wine.
The Society is committed to promoting the responsible enjoyment of wines and spirits by providing relevant information to our members that allows them to make their own informed choices. An additional figure is beginning to be used on labels: the number of (UK) units of alcohol contained in that bottle. This is simply the alcohol by volume percentage multiplied by the content. Thus a 13% wine in a standard 75cl bottle will have 9.7 units of alcohol. All new labels of Society and Exhibition wines will include this information. drinkaware.co.uk
The Society's buyers provide recommended drink dates for all of our wines to help members decide the right time to pop the cork. As a general rule, most everyday white wines are best enjoyed within a year of purchase, and most everyday reds within two years. Certain fine wines, however, those with the right structure and balance, have the ability to evolve over time and gain complexity and finer nuances of flavour.
If the product page says:
...then our advice would be:
Should be drunk over the coming months, certainly within the year.
Ready to drink now but will keep until the year shown.
We recommend keeping longer before opening. For example, a wine will be ready to drink in 2020 but still young and will keep until 2042. It's a matter of personal taste when such wines should be drunk. Many members prefer to try the wines over many years from the opening drink date to the last to watch the wine evolve.
Within one year of purchase
A non-vintage wine that should be drunk within 12 months.
Within two years of purchase
A non-vintage wine that is ready now but will keep for two years.
Savouring the wonderfully complex and intense bouquet and flavour of a wine drank at its peak is undoubtedly one of life's greatest pleasures. As with people, the ageing process will vary from wine to wine. Over the years the wine's primary aromas of fresh fruit will develop more complicated and persistent secondary and tertiary aromas. The fruity flavours of, for example, a premier cru white Burgundy will, over time, evolve buttery, toasty and yeast aromas, or fine reds may develop coffee, cedar, tobacco, vegetal, or even 'animal' flavours as they age.
There is much pleasure to be had by experimenting with bottles at different stages of maturity; finding out how a wine evolves with age and, perhaps more importantly, establishing your own preference in terms of taste for mature wine are all part of the interest and excitement of cellaring wine.
The drinking window we provide is a guide to when the wines will be at their best. Many will favour the wines in the youthful early stages of their development; others will enjoy the wines at their most mature.
Decanting is a useful way of softening the tannins, rounding out the flavours and releasing the potential of a young wine. To find out more please visit our Serving Wine guide.
The Society's purpose-built, temperature-controlled Members' Reserves offers members access to optimum storage conditions for their wines.
For more help and advice about how best to enjoy your wines contact us via our enquiry form.
Oak plays a very important role in the production of wine throughout the world. However, the level of oak detectible in a wine can vary depending on a number of factors – for example, the age and size of the barrel and the type of oak used, as well as the length of time the wine is aged in wood. Oak also influences the structure and tannins of the final wine. For wines on our website, we use the following classifications:
This suggests that a wine has either seen no oak at all, or may have been produced using very large, old oak barrels, resulting in a wine that has no taste of oak. Expect these wines to be crisp, fruit-forward and aromatic.
Some oak has been used in the production, yet it has not been a defining factor in the style of the wine. In this instance, the oak may have played more of a part in the structure of the wine but there will still be discreet flavours associated with the use of new oak.
Wines that are defined by and known for their use of new oak. This must not be confused with a wine which is 'overly oaky' as that would purely be down to bad winemaking! We buy only wines that, we believe, use oak in a balanced and appealing way, enhancing flavour and complexity, and/or imparting structure.
How detectable oak is depends a good deal on the size of the barrel and how new it is. New oak provides a much more evident flavour and aroma and must be used carefully. The size of the barrel is important, as the smaller the barrel, the more surface area of the wine is in contact with the wood and the more flavour will be drawn out. Often, very large old oak barrels are used, which impart little or no oak flavour to the wine at all. They will still bring an extra dynamic to the final taste of a wine though, when compared to stainless steel or concrete vessels, as oak is porous and therefore lets a small amount of air into the barrel. This controlled oxidation has a positive effect on wines, softening the tannins and developing secondary flavours, all helping to add a complexity which comes with age.
There are many ways that people rate wines, whether it is on the 100 or 20 point scales, 5 stars, 3 glasses or simply thumbs up or down. The pleasure of a bottle of wine is hard to express in figures, but it does help give the memory of that wine a context, and a way of sharing your opinion with others.
In response to members' requests we have added a star rating option to the site so you can mark your favourites, or maybe those occasional less-than-welcome experiences, and make your next order easier.
You can use the 5-star rating tool to record your experiences however you wish, but if you are looking for some guidance we believe that a focus on the 'value' of the wine takes into account the quality but also the pleasure it provided, and whether it is something you would recommend to friends.