A beautiful drive through the mountains, stopping every few miles to pay one more top up on the toll charges. Nemea was outstanding. We arrived at around 2 pm, bought our tickets for the Ancient Stadium, and the chap handing out tickets offered his condolences that we were British. Of course, we accepted his sympathies; basically, now the UK is out of the EU, we have to pay double the going rate for entry into the archaeological sites. Yet another Brexit bonus.
We walked around the track that was used for the Nemean games around 4000 years ago. Stunning! The site itself was very pretty, full of wild flowers, wild grape vines, and you can rest on benches on the slopes that surround the racetrack, imagining the buzz and excitement that would have been all around at the time. Now, the site is almost deserted. It gave me an odd feeling of nostalgia, sadness even, for a thing I had never experienced. There ought to be a word for this complex emotion!
Well, that said, Jenny was mainly involved with the flowers, and it really is a perfect time of year for this. After the stadium, we drove on a few hundred yards to the Archaeological museum, which is in the same area as the Temple of Zeus. This was quite moving; the main columns have been rebuilt, but there are very heavy stone columns toppled over in the grounds in front of the temple, and these have been stained with moss, orange and grey lichens, or maybe algae, I’m not sure, and again I felt that weird sadness of loss for something I hadn’t experienced.
Well, the archaeological site is fabulous, and the museum is also excellent, good collection of pottery, extensive funeral goods in an ante-room full of interesting jewellery and therianthrope statuettes.
Nemea is the biggest wine-growing region in the Peleponnese, so we drove on to a couple of family run wineries nearby. The first was a fairly commercial concern, Bairaktaris. This had the wine tanks on site, and a busload of wine tourists doing tastings.
The reds are interesting, heavily oaked, which I feel is rather overdone in the Greek wines. The hot climate means that the reds often taste subdued, as if they have been mixed from a slightly faded and muted palette, so the addition of oak feels like they are overcompensating for this. But I rather like that subdued quality, a lot of wines now are being made in steel tanks and have almost identical zesty fruit with (I suspect) acidity added afterwards in powder form.
The whites have a slightly aromatic quality, especially the Rhoditis, with fresh lemony flavours but also low acidity. The comparison with Pinot Grigio didn’t quite seem right, as this is usually bursting with zingy fresh fruit, whereas the whites often have almost a reduced quality.
The second winery that we visited was a family winery called Karamitsos, with a tasting room run by a lovely woman called Barbara who talked us through the various wines. We took away a white wine called Tree of Life and a red called Two Lions. Because I was driving, I had no more than a few drops from each of the tasting bottles, but they were delicious.
The reds seem almost invariably to be made from Agiorgitiko, although a few of the reds are blended with classic grapes such as Syrah and Cabernet Sauvignon. The whites are typically made from blends of Malagousia, Assyrtiko, Moscofilero and Rhoditis. Many other grapes are used in different parts of Greece but these seem to be the ones that have made it to the export market.