09 July 2016

All you wanted to know about Malagousia with reviews of top 10

In my previous post you read about the mystery of Malagousia and the "mystery man" who brought the Malagousia cuttings to Domaine Porto Carras in Northern Greece during the late 60's or early 70's as it was described by Gerovassiliou in the masterclass in Thessaloniki. The dilemma posed was whether Kotinis (working for Institute of Vines) gave the vines to Porto Carras or if it was actually Professor Logothetis that identified the vines in Central Greece bringing them to the estate. While I was in Zurich, Vangelis Gerovassiliou returned after discussing this issue with Mrs. Kourakou, the Director of the Institute of Vines and Wine from 1964 to 1984 and probably the most respected wine personality in Greece. 

It seems that Mrs. Kourakou supports the view that the cuttings were actually offered by the Insitute of Vines and Kotinis to Professor Logothetis who planted the experimental vineyard in Porto Carras upon Kourakou's advise. Kourakou was at that time helping Porto Carras (as she did with all wineries) by consulting on which varieties to plant. And this fills all the blanks (I hope) leaving space to explore typicity and styles, the final conclusions of the Malagousia workshop. Not an easy task as Malagousia opens a whole new world for the Greek vineyard. 

Decoding Malagousia

Typicity: Textbook aromas include flowers and herbs in cooler mesoclimates followed by a rich and round palate with soft acidity. Up to 13.2% abv the citrus fruit expression is dominant but when alcohol goes above 13.5% terpenes oxidise and aromas lean more to the Muscat character which means that the variety loses its typicity.

An observation that it was more or less accurate during the tasting that followed. Yet we got the chance to taste some Malagousia wines with high alcohol and still preserving their non- Muscat style such as the ones from Kitrus, Kikones and Melmar. 

Clones (biotypes in Greece due to lack of legislation):  Though research still needs to be undergone, nonetheless  Professor Koundouras from Thessaloniki University expects about two to three biotypes since in every generation just one biotype emerges. So far, as Gerovassiliou and Argyropoulos  argue, two biotypes have been identified one with larger bunches and the other with considerable smaller ones.

Recently at VNB nursery in Peloponnese after intensified research during the last years, another biotype has been identified; this ones has less tight bunches and smaller berries than the ones aforementioned. Gerovassiliou  is a strong supporter of the view that we need to research further and particularly analyse the aromas and clones. 

The challenge: Things are straightforward here; to produce a very good quality wine, Malagousia's high natural vigour and yields need to be controlled. Otherwise mid palate will be diluted. So it seems that the variety is best suited in poor soils like sandy ones. Yet it was suggested that even with 70-80 hl/ha you can get pretty good quality but this is the limit. Three tiers were discussed, 210 hl/ha for entry level wines, 110 hl/ha for mid market and 70 hl/ha for premium. 

Gerovassiliou highlighted that Greek wine does not need ''one more'' Malagousia -  a standard scenario for almost every producer, even if owning 2 hectares a Malagousia is a must.  Instead, appropriate mesoclimates should be carefully selected so Malagousia will be cultivated in mountainous areas and not in valleys. Stress and good viticulture are the key to success while experience and optimum conditions are the secrets to get typicity.

Quality assessment: Well the golden medal for quality needs to wait for sometime as Malagouzia is still a quite "fresh" variety. Koundouras suggests that Malagouzia is a more promising variety if compared to Moschofilero. He goes on to point out that it is quite hard to get top tier wines when it comes to a variety that counts merely 10 years of production. On the other hand Gerovassiliou stressed out the need for caution; for him producers should stop blending Malagousia with Muscat and keep labelling the blend as Malagousia. Great prospects can be identified for the variety but for the time being this is a highly recommended wine for our family table! 

For me Malagousia is a little bit like Dr.Jekyl and Mr. Hyde. If treated like a quality grape there is lot of complexity, ripeness and depth. Otherwise it is an aromatic Pinot Grigio. So I guess there is a lot of potential mostly for the table. Having said that I must admit of tasting these last years two extraordinary wines the 1994 Malagousia from Porto Carras and the 2010 from Gerovassiliou. 

Styles 

Getting styles and grouping wines was an exciting task. I did try to split them basically around floral, fruity, muscaty and mineral families. Check out how the wines showed their typicity.

Muscaty: Lykos, Frangou, Pyrgakis.

Light floral and stone fruit: Markou, Moraitis, Symeonidis (cooler style), Papagiannakos (ripe, round, textbook), Avantis, Chrisostomou (red fruit), Wine Art, Ampeloeis, Kikones, Kitrus, Matsa, Melmar.

Oily on the lees: (can be good or not…depends on fruit concentration).

Herbal: Mylonas (basil), Tetramythos, Alpha (pyrazines), Strofilia (rosemary).

Fruity: Antonopoulos (banana very round), Gerovasiliou (grapey, hint of smoke), Porto Carras.

Mineral: T-Oinos and Karadimos 

 

Top 10 Malagousia among 30 wines tasted (all wines tasted blind, added also Volaccus tasted few days later. All vintages are 2015).

Karadimos Family Palaiokastra, Atalanti region: Very complex wine with density of fruit and excellent integration of oak. Palate is great and rewarding. (6m in oak on the lees, planted at 440m). 93/100

Τ-ΟINOS, Tinos island: Planted at 450m in granitic soil this has stayed 6m on the lees. Slightly backward on the nose needing time to open up revealing a strong personality. Impressively structured and mineral on the palate with real flesh and long finish. Could age easily 4-5 years. 92+/100

Chrisostomou, Pieria region: Planted at 105 m above sea level this was very unique especially on palate with waves of freshness and even red cherries as flavours. Fascinating! Would score higher if nose was more pure. 91+/100

Matsa, Attika region:  3m on the lees at 180 m. Light perfumed with candied apricot on the nose followed by a silky palate with intensity. V.Good. 91+/100

Gerovassiliou single vineyard: 6m oak maturation. Grapey nose with hint of smoke. Nicely balanced between ripeness and freshness with soft acidity yet retaining elegance. 91/100

Porto Carras, Halkidiki: 4m on lees with 20% oak this is backward on nose but very concentrated and complex on palate. Deliciously textured and creamy with lemony finish. 91/100

Alpha Malagousia: Cool mesoclimate in Amyndeon with high altitude of 650 m. Herbal and slightly reductive but very fresh with bright acidity on the palate combined with lovely richness. 91/100

Volaccus, Tinos island: Produced in just 700 bottles for 2015 vintage. Floral and grapey on the nose. Fresh and lively with delicate alcohol, mineral and delicious. Planted at 440m with yields of just 30 hl/ha. 91/100 

Papagiannakos Kalogeri, Attika region: Ripe, classic expression with lovely balance. Has evolved nicely since tasted for last time. 90+/100

Kitrus, Pieria region 180 m altitude with 4 months lees ageing. On the same track slightly more perfumed. 90+/100

Mylonas, Attica region 3 months on the lees this has a tarte tatin aromatic dimension with herbal notes like basil and sage. Fresh clean and complex with added layer on the palate. 90/100

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