Aigio 251 00, Greece
Photo by Kurt Winner
Fresh and Local Food and Wine are the rule in Aigio GreeceAigio Greece is a town located just above the waters of the Corinthian Gulf. From the town square you can see the vast expanse of water that has been plied by merchants and warships over the centuries. With a population of just over 30,000 this town is the perfect size to walk and explore. Tavernas line the streets with their tables, proprietors enticing you to come in and try the local seafood and produce with a glass or two of excellent Greek wine; or sip some Tsipouro with tiny crunchy whole fish you eat like potato chips. Our very Greek lunch was at Refrain by Stratos located across the street from the beautiful Psilalonia Square that overlooks the Gulf, and consisted of local fish, wine and prepared by Chef George right at our table. A small museum in town with important ancient artifacts and treasures from the area is open for exploration, and because this is Greece, there are many beaches to enjoy too.
Aigio is an area of contrasts. After waking up in a beachfront hotel you can make your way into the mountains by car and wander among the grape vines and go for a wine tasting. One of the best is Rira winery http://www.rira.gr. Located on a mountain top with 360 degree views and overlooking the gulf, this winery has to be one of the most beautiful I have ever visited. The two female winemakers cultivate and produce 15 varieties, both international and indigenous (Hellenic) on 250 verdant acres. We sampled a flowery Chardonnay, a robust red blend of Merlot and Syrah, and my favorite a heady Rose with a little effervescence called 2 Roses. This wine is delicate but is perfect to pair with local seafood, light pasta dishes or just a cool sip on a hot Greek summer day.
For a more substantial wine the 2014 Gold medal-winning Aigialos P.G.I. is the ticket. This Merlot and Syrah blend can hold its own with beef or wild boar, or even a pizza. The winemakers suggest having this with a Halloumi, a semi-hard cheese made form goat’s and sheep’s milk for what they call an “explosive” experience. Few wineries can offer wines that would match this view, and yet Rira has done this along with that world class Greek hospitality. That our evening activities also included a visit to Tetramythos winery http://www.tetramythoswines.com/en/ located on the slopes of Mt. Aroania. Calling themselves a Bio Winery, production here uses the gravity feed method, and organic practices in their production. Tetramythos also produces familiar wines such as Cabernet and Merlot. But what really shines here are the traditional Greek grapes like Muscat Mikrorago, Black of Kalavryta and Mavrodaphne, these are very much worth tasting and enjoying, especially with fresh and local dishes. Greek wines are the darlings of the wine world, and more people than ever are discovering them. Both Rira and Tetramythos are open to the public for tours.
Although our visit was short lived, Aigio left me wanting to explore more of the beaches and mountains. I asked a new friend and local journalist for http://www.filodimos.gr/?mobile=0 and radio personality on http://www.radioegio.gr/id/ Pepi Spiliotopoulou, who lives there to share some thoughts on the town she calls home. Here’s what she had to say…
Aigio is one of the most beautiful small towns in Corinthian Gulf dating back to 3000 BC. The old name of Aigio is Vostizza, which means "town of gardens". It's geographical site is great, as you can visit beach to mountain in less than 30 minutes. The local economy is based mostly on exporting currants, olives and lemons. You can enjoy traveling in Aigio most times of the year, visit local museums or the famous "Alyki" salt lake with dozens of kinds of birds, especially in winter, or travel with one of the best railways in the world "Odontotos" from Diakopto to Kalavryta. There is also an ancient theater in Aigeira, 30km east of Aigio, with a rare spectacular view to the Gulf. Of course there are plenty of choices to taste fantastic food and wine, fresh fish and the famous delicious local sweet "Rodozachari", made of pink rose petals in a special thick and brilliant syrup, which you taste and immediately fall in love with!
The town and local area of Aigio is another example of a largely unexplored Greece ( by Americans) that can easily be missed, but it’s worth your time to explore this seaside town off-the-beaten-path. I suggest that you visit in the fall, as the summer crowds will have retreated and you can enjoy the town without the hassles of the Athenian crowds.