by Markus Stolz

decade of Megas Oenos

byMarkus Stolz
January 31, 2011, 0 Comments

Megas Oenos from the Domaine Skouras has been one of the great Greek iconic wines for more than two decades, and it continuous to lead the super-elite of Nemea.  The wine is a blend of 80% Agiorgitiko and 20% Cabernet Sauvignon. The Agiorgitiko vines (5.5 ha vineyards, 4 parcels) are between 50 and 70 years old, the Cabernet Sauvignon vines (1.5 ha vineyards) were planted 38 years ago and are some of the oldest in the Peloponnese. The soil in the vineyards consists mainly of clay and is covered by 10 cm of gravel. Drainage is excellent and the soil is rich in minerals. The vineyards are all located on a mountainous area at an altitude of roughly 600 metres (2000 feet). The winters are cold, and heavy snowfalls are common. The summer-days are hot, but the temperatures drop during the nights. There is a constant breeze in the area, reducing humidity and adding a cooling effect.  For more information on the philosophy at Domaine Skouras, please refer to this article I posted last year, and in case you are interested in learning more about the person behind the Domaine, this is an insightful interview.

Konstantinos Lazarakis MW is doing a brilliant job in educating wine lovers. He represents the UK’s Wine & Spirit Education Trust through WSPC in Greece, and thanks to him many young Greeks have become very serious about wine. Konstaninos’ latest initiative is simple: He organises and presents some of the most stunning wine tastings Greece has ever seen.  This is part of the HESTIA programme, which explores the world of Greek wines. The tastings were dubbed the HESTIA Vertical Tasting Series, as at least 10 different vintages of the same wine are shown. This was the second event, read my notes on the first happening here (Kir Yianni Ramnista).

The Megas Oenos tasting was quite special for yet another reason: George Skouras was of course there to present all wines, but from large format bottles, mostly magnums! This was a rare treat indeed, and a cost of just 30 Euros a real bargain for the participants. The event was packed (and sold out), and lasted for 3 ½ hours. George Skouras shared a lot of insight and was engaging with the audience, never tired of answering questions.

The wines showed extremely well and highlighted the ageing potential. They range between 12 and 13.5% in alcohol, have a high acidity, and are dominated by pure fruit. Of course these wines are perfect food partners – apart from their great structure, they have a serious delicious factor. Following are my notes – we worked our way from the oldest to the youngest vintages.

1997 Megas Oenos, Magnum, 12% alcohol: Medium deep garnet with orange tinges on the rim. Great nose – aromas of sweet cherries, truffles, cigar-box, with a dark touch, fruit aromas are very intense. This is velvety on the palate with explosive fruit, a lively acidity and soft and beautifully integrated tannins. The finish is long, pure elegance.  18/20

1998 Megas Oenos, Magnum, 12% alcohol: A hair darker coloured, slightly deeper rim. More closed than the 97 with more vegetal aromas, mushrooms, tealeaves, also coffee and plums. Creamy on the palate with ripe red fruits, good acidity and soft tannins. Not as long as the 97, less staying power. Nevertheless a beauty. 16+/20

1999 Megas Oenos, Magnum, 12% alcohol: Deeper coloured, moving to a black cherry colour, some orange tinges on the rim, but less evolved than both the 97 and the 98. Very open aromas of black berries, cherries and blackcurrant, also roasted nuts and espresso, seems to me that the Cabernet is more pronounced. On the palate there is an explosion of sour cherries and raspberries. The acidity matches the tannins that are less soft, this has quite a bite. Great on the finish with a very good length, this will keep. 18+/20

2000 Megas Oenos, Magnum, 12.5% alcohol: Medium deep raspberry colour, lighter than the 99. This is a bit funky on the nose, with jammed cherries, earthy, smoky, and some barnyard action. The palate is full-bodied, explosive blackcurrant, has a dark and wild element to it. Tannins are clearly noticeable, but nicely integrated, acidity is high. The finish seemed a little short to me. 16+/20

2001 Megas Oenos, Magnum, 12.5% alcohol: Medium deep black cherry colour, no maturity on rim. Again a very “dark” nose, wild cherries, cocoa, barnyard, leather, smoky. Very solid palate, full-bodied, good acidity, clearly noticeable tannins, cassis and dark berries with a wonderful rich and long finish. This keeps coming back in the aftertaste. 18/20

2002 Megas Oenos, Magnum, 12.5% alcohol: This was a disaster vintage in the region, with 30 days of evening rainfalls starting August, followed by hot and humid mornings. The Agiorgitiko had a really hard time, the Cabernet was less affected. This is the only year where the blend was dominated by Cabernet Sauvignon (60%). Medium deep red cherry colour, rim just lightens up. The nose is less fruit pronounced, faint cigar-box, leather, truffle. Medium bodied with somewhat harsh tannins, but black fruits making their way through on the palate. The finish and length are quite ok, a very good effort for such a terrible vintage. 15+/20

2003 Megas Oenos, Double Magnum, 12.5% alcohol: Medium deep black cherry colour. Pronounced aromas of black berries, roasted nuts, earthy and smoky. Full-bodied on the palate, highish acidity and a mouthful of tannins. This seems to be a bigger wine, more dense in style, a little more “dressed up” and less fruit extracted. It finishes really well, with a good length. We also had a standard sized bottle in direct comparison. This was quite fascinating, the crowd clearly preferred the double magnum, I thought that the 750 ml was more open, and gave more pleasure for current drinking. 17/20

2004 Megas Oenos, Magnum, 12.5% alcohol: Quite a deep black cherry colour with purple tinges, rim just lightens up a little. This bottle was slightly corked, waiting a few minutes did improve the wine, but this was not a faultless bottle. Some vegetal aromas, dark and broody, black fruit, earthy, spicy. Full-bodied on the palate with a dense tannin structure, matching acidity, elegant in style. Finishes well and has a good length. If the bottle would have been faultless: 17/20

2005 Megas Oenos, Magnum, 13.5% alcohol: Bright black cherry colour, purple reflexes. Aromas of malt, mushroom and sweet cherries. The barrel seems more pronounced. Medium bodied with a mouth-watering acidity, tannins are beautifully integrated, very good fruit action; this covers the whole palate. Solid finish, very long. 17/20

2005 Labyrinth, Magnum, 13.5% alcohol: Starting in 1999, George Skouras decided to fill one large barrel with the Megas Oenos wine. Every year, one third of the wine is drawn and bottled, yielding just 300 bottles. The remainder is filled up with Megas Oenos from the next vintage. He borrowed this technique from the Spanish Solera system. Very dark purple colour with a dense and wide core. There is a fascinating freshness on the nose, ripe red fruit, tealeaves, truffles. This is full-bodied, yet vibrant with lots of red berries. The tannins are obvious but soft at the same time; this is particular strong on the mid-palate. I felt the finish was perhaps a touch short and exhibited a slightly bitter component. 16.5/20

2006 Megas Oenos, Magnum, 13.5% alcohol: Deep red cherry colour with purple reflexes. Great open aromas of black berries, truffle, earthy, spicy and smoky. Full bodied on the palate, shows beautifully, explosive black berries, very dense and concentrated with a perfect balance of acid and tannins. This is so consistent from start to finish, with a very solid and long finish. 17.5/20

2007 Megas Oenos, Magnum, 13.5% alcohol: Deep and intense purple, the darkest colour so far. Open aromas of blueberries, black truffle, spicy, smoky, roasted nuts. This is singing. Intense on the palate with a great structure, velvety with bite. A very elegant wine, yet full of muscle, a great effort. 18/20

2008 Megas Oenos, Magnum, 13.5% alcohol: This is bottled, but not yet released to the market. Just a hair less deeply coloured than the 07, inky purple. The nose is a bit more restrained with red berries, wild herbs and dark chocolate. This has a fine structure, somewhat softer than the 07, but more extracted fruit character. The 07 is more masculine, the 08 feminine in style. I like this wine a lot, very smooth and extremely elegant, reminds me of the 99, the fruit is just so pronounced. 18/20

In 2009 no Megas Oenos was produced, the vintage did not yield grapes that were up to the standard. We did however taste the two varietals from the 2010 vintage that are destined to produce the Megas Oenos:

2010 Agiorgitiko: This is nearly black with a purple rim. Typical Agiorgitiko aromas of ripe cherry fruit, quite dense. This is already very tasty, quite a mouthful, fruit driven, high acidity and pronounced tannins. Solid on the finish, long. Super potential. 17.5/20

2010 Cabernet Sauvignon: At this early stage, very similar coloured to the Agiorgitiko. But the aromas are so different, textbook Cabernet nose of blackcurrant and cigar box. The palate is very promising, with dense fruit, the blackcurrant coats the whole palate; the tannins seem to be softer than in the Agiorgitiko. Good finish, solid length. 17/20

This was a great showcase of top quality Greek wines. I have often stated that the quality/price ratio of the finest Greek wines is outstanding. Current vintages from the Megas Oenos cost about 15 Euros in Europe (for standard bottle sizes), I guess they sell for 25 to 30 US$ in the States. For this price tag, they clearly over-deliver.

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