When in Greece, we always try to visit at least one winery. Come along on our tour and tasting with the wonderful family at Karamitsos Winery in Nemea.
Finding Karamitsos Winery
A few years back while searching the internet, I came across an image of a wine label with the name ‘Karamitsos Winery’. Of course, I was intrigued. I couldn’t find a website or other information, and kept my eyes open for any information about the eponymous winery. Fast forward to 2018, and I discovered Karamitsos Winery on Facebook; I followed them. Last year, when we traveled to Greece, we had a rather harried itinerary, with my elderly father in tow. “Next time,” we said. “Next time” finally came.
Shortly before we embarked on our trip to Greece this summer, I emailed the winery, introducing myself and our desire to visit, taste, and to determine if we were indeed related. They answered immediately and enthusiastically and would eagerly await our visit.
Nemea, here we come!
On our way to Athens from my family’s horio, not far from Ancient Olympia, we exited the highway at Nemea. Karamitsos Winery is right off the exit. You can see the signs as you emerge from the ramp. It’s across the road from the Monastery of the Dormition of the Virgin Mary on the Rock. For wine lovers like ourselves, it was thrilling to see our name on a winery. This was going to be awesome – we just knew it.
We were greeting warmly by Christina Tsipi, with whom I’d corresponded; and then by Lefteris Karamitsos, a second-generation winemaker, and his wife Litsa, the winery’s sales director; plus Sophia, another employee. The two charming, young Karamitsos sons joined us later. We had a look around and then they took us to the barrel room where wines are aged in French oak barrels. There we spoke briefly about their operations, and their history. To say this was cool is an understatement.
History of Karamitsos Winery
Lefteris’ father, Dimitrios, hailed from nearby Ayios Nikolaos. Following his marriage, he moved to his wife’s native Nemea. The family began making wine some 70 years ago, in the heart of Nemea, the northeast Peloponnese’s wine country. During the early years, they produced wine only for home consumption, but later, sold to local establishments. Dimitrios’ passion for the vine and for creating fine wine passed to the next generation. Lefteris was determined to turn this into a full-time business.
Karamitsos Winery Today
The family’s first “official” winery opened in 2002. Over the years, the small winery has refined the art and science of their winemaking tradition, producing high quality wine. Their philosophy has always been to focus on the care of the vineyards. Only by nurturing the best grapes possible, they believe they can produce elegant, distinctive, and quality wines. While they use modern techniques, they look to tradition as their guide – in the cultivation of organic grapes and the production, as well as honoring the history of the region. They ferment without additives, so the wines have richer and longer lasting aromas derived from the grapes.
Two lions guard the entrance, evoking the story of the Nemean Lion, of which Hercules prevailed. Wine names pay homage to the lions – Two White Lions and Two Red Lions, plus the gods of Greek mythology – Aphrodite and Poseidon, and the land. The winery opened in this impressive location in 2016. The modern, sophisticated winery offers a brilliant entry into Nemean Wine Country, and the stunning backdrop makes for a memorable experience.
Today, Karamitsos Winery produces about 200,000 liters of wine each year, of which they bottle roughly 40%. They are slowly ramping up their production to prepare for distribution outside of Greece. They’re doing this slowly, as they refuse to sacrifice the quality of the wine.
Finally, it was time to taste. They brought soft drinks for our daughters, who sat with us, engaged. The girls like to smell the wine and reveal what their young senses discover. I loved the artwork on the labels. They were designed by a local artist based on Lefteris’ vision. We tasted six wines and enjoyed them all. My amateur tasting notes are listed as well as expert notes.
Poseidon (Protected Geographical Indication of the Peloponnese)
Variety: 100% Assyrtiko
Area: Ambelotopi Dourmiza, Nemea
Maria’s notes: Lovely white. Note the brightness of this wine, deliciously different from the mineral quality of Santorini Assyrtiko. Citrus notes. Serve very cold, 8-10°C. Can drink alone, and pairs well with yellow cheeses, seafood, fish, and white meat.
Expert tasting notes:White wine with golden yellow color, dense, intense, complex and deep aroma of yellow fruits and citrus fruits with notes of tea. Rich mouth with strong acidity, excellent balance, and a touch of roughness in the aftertaste.
Two Lions White (Protected Geographical Indication of the Peloponnese)
Variety: 50% Assyrtiko/50% Malagouzia
Area: Nourmiza & Almond Tree Vineyards, Nemea
Maria’s notes: If you like Assyrtiko and Malagouzia, you’re in for a treat with this blend. It has a nice balance of sweet and acid. Serve very cold, 8-10°C, with yellow cheeses, seafood, fish, or white meat.
Expert tasting notes: White wine with a bright greenish yellow color. Has a complex and elegant nose of white fleshy fruits, flowers, and citrus fruits, with diffused fragrance and buttery notes. The blend of vibrant acidity with the sweetness of the alcohol and the abundant extract contributes to the long aftertaste.
Aphrodite (Protected Geographical Indication of the Peloponnese)
Variety: 100% Agiorgitiko
Area: Ambelotopi of Achladia, Nemea
Maria’s notes: Semi dry rosé. Beautiful pink color. Light and easy drinking. Serve chilled to 10-12°C. Great alone or with seafood, white meat, and cheeses. This one screams summer!
Expert tasting notes: Rose color with aromas of caramel, red fruit, cherry, raspberry, sour cherry, and gooseberry. Mouth with a good balance of sweetness, alcohol, and acidity. Good quality tannins in a fixing amount, leaving it soft.
Sporos (Protected Design of Origin (PDO) Nemea)
Variety: 100% Agiorgitiko
Area: Ambelotopi in Koutsi, Nemea
Maria’s notes: I consider myself more of a ‘red girl’, and this elegant wine put a smile on my face. Bright cherry and other fruits on the nose, a rich wine on the palate. Serve chilled to 16°C, with red meat, sausages, and yellow cheeses
Expert notes: Bitter red fresh wine with soft tannins and elegant nose dominated by bright red fruits such as cherry and gooseberry. The rich body combined with the very good acidity results in a young velvety Agiorgitiko.
Two Lions Red (Protected Geographical Indication of the Peloponnese)
Variety: 60% Agiorgitiko, 40% Syrah
Area: Ambelotopia Mavrosykia, Nemea
* Maria’s notes: I don’t typically drink Syrah but found this to be a pleasantly rich wine with a fruity nose. I’d drink this blend for sure. Serve at room temperature with red meat and yellow cheeses.
* Expert notes: Rich red wine with a fine nose dominated by strawberry, berry, spices, tobacco, and black pepper, a mouth full of rich tannins, high alcohol and moderate acidity.
Variety: 100% Agiorgitiko
Area: Koutsi, Nemea
* Maria’s notes: A fantastic sweet dessert wine. It was unique and delightful. I drank the entire glass and more! Serve chilled to 10-12°C, with cakes, fruit, or chocolate.
Taste Greek wine at Karamitsos Winery
Whether you visit one winery or want a brilliant start to your visit through Nemean Wine Country, be sure to stop by Karamitsos Winery. The warm, welcoming atmosphere, and world-class wines will make for a delightful memory. Bring a few bottles of this wonderful Greek wine home – we did. If not, no worries. They have wine sleeves on the premises so you can bring the bottles on the plane. Currently, wines are only sold in the winery. They also host events and can accommodate up to 500 people outside and 150 inside.
As it turns out, we are not related, unless it’s somewhere a few centuries back. Nonetheless, we felt like family, and will definitely visit again when we return to Greece.