Aivalis is a small artisanal winery in Nemea, a tiny appellation in the Peloponnese of Greece. Established in 1997 by Hristos Aivalis (pictured left with his son Sotiri) produces some of the finest Agiorgitiko in Greece today and is a widely acknowledged leader among producers in the region.
Aivalis produces several Agiorgitiko both single variety and blends from its own small vineyard plots and others which it leases and manages from other vineyards scattered throughout Nemea. Over the years, Hristos served as winemaker, having learned his craft from his father. His wines are well made and authentic expressions of Nemea.
In the last three years, Hristos’ son Sotiri a graduate of the School of Enology at the University Athens, who also studied winemaking in Beaune for two years, has taken over winemaking responsibilities. Since serving as winemaker, Sotiri has introduced noteworthy changes in winemaking at Aivalis. Most significantly, his Agiorgitiko while still authentic, are elegant yet lush and bold with good depth of flavor. They exhibit firm fine-grained tannins, typical of Agiorgitikos.. While most Aivalis wines are drinkable today, they are also ageworthy. Aivalis also produces two white wines, a Sauvignon Blanc and a Chardonnay. The Chardonnay exhibits hints of Burgundian winemaking. The wines reviewed below were mainly crafted by Sotiri. Total production at Aivalis is 3k cases
The Agiogitiko Grape is probably the most important of Greece’s red grape varieties and the most widely planted red grape in Greece. While traditionally grown in the Nemea region of Peloponnese, it is also found in Macedonia and Attica. As will be noted in the reviews below, Agiorgitiko displays a deep red color with a red-fruited aromas and a rich palate of sweet spices. It is a serious wine which has an affinity with new oak. Often hedonistic, it is easy to enjoy. It is produced in a variety of styles and is the backbone of many blends. It is a perfect compliment to lamb and beef dishes.
The importer is Dionysos Imports, Manassas, VA
Aivalis 2017 Gerakina Single Vineyard Nemea ($18) 90 This is Aivalis’ entry level 100% Agiorgitiko. It is sourced from the Gerakina Vineyard, which is leased and managed by the winery. Semi-opaque ruby in color, the Gerakina is fruit forward with earthy red plum and dark cherry aromas and flavors. It is smooth, dense and suave on the palate with layers of flavor and soft round tannins. A good introduction to Agiorgitiko.
Aivalis 2019 Le Sang de la Pierre Nemea ($37) 93 100% Agiorgitiko from 40 year old vines. Almost opaque, it reveals spicy red fruited plum aromas and flavors with hints of earth, chocolate, and wood. Mouth filling, suave and hedonistic with firm tannins, yet feminine in character. Aged 14 months in new Burgundian foudre. A wine that needs decanting if consumed today.
Aivalis 2018 Dieux Dieux Nemea ($36) 92 A 50-50 blend of Agiorgitiko and Syrah, the Dieux Dieux is dark-fruited and flavorful with hints of blueberry, blackberry and dark chocolate. Soft and full in mouth, it reveals the richness of Syrah with the flavors and firm tannins of Agiorgitiko. Still quite young . the wine is dominated by Syrah at this stage of development. The original blend of the Dieux Dieux was Agiorgitiko and Cabernet Sauvignon which will again be produced in 2022 or 2023.
Aivalis 2016 Armakas Nemea ($156) 91 The 2016 Armakas is an attractive blend of Agiorgitiko, with varying amounts of Syrah, Merlot, Cabernet Franc, Cabernet Sauvignon. and Malbec. It is sourced from a clos-like vineyard of rocks and top soil formed over the years and used to experiment with other vines. Destemmed by hand, it is crafted from the best grapes and free run juice Uses gentle pressing of 2 bars pressure for free run juice. 15% alc.
Aivalis 2019 Monopati Nemea ($35) 93 A 100% Agiorgitiko, the Monopati is a gorgeous wine sourced from 20-40 year old vines. Semi opaque in color, it offers rich aromas of plum and black raspberry on the nose. On the palate, it reveals concentrated and layered fruit flavors, with hints of dark chocolate, a silky texture and firm round tannins. Aged 16 months in French oak, 50% new. Delicious and ready to drink now.
Aivalis 2018 Tessera Nemea ($105) 94 The Tessera is a 100% Agiorgitiko crafted from pre-phylloxera vines that are quite rare in Greece. Yields from these vines grown in sandy soils are at a low 1 kilo/vine. Opaque dark ruby in color, the wine is dense and inky with a mineral-slate like nose; it offers black fruit on the palate with hints of huckleberry, violets, and slate. While the tannins are firm and will need some time to be resolved, the wine can be enjoyed now with decanting. 15% alc. Not made every year and produced in extremely small quantities.
Aivalis 2019 Wild Geese Sauvignon Blanc Peleponnese ($15) 88 Light yellow straw. Yellow fruited nose of apple and a hint of lemon. Soft on entry with ripe yellow apple/melon flavors and medium acidity. The father made this wine. Very little of this is exported; it’s mostly sold in nearby Nemea restaurants.
Aivalis 2018 Chardonnay Peloponnis ($18) 91 Barrel fermented. Medium yellow straw with a hint of toast with Meyer lemon and orchard fruit. Soft and quite creamy on the palate with a hint of salinity and medium plus acidity. Quite elegant and offered at a terrific price.