Discovering Mantineia Part 1
By Olga Antoniadou
The area of Mantìneia (stressed on the first i), in the central Peloponnese, covers part of the Northeastern section of the Prefecture of Arcadia. A high altitude plateau at about 660m that borders Mt Mainalo to the west, Mt Lyrkeion to the northeast and Mt Artemision to the east. One thing all producers stressed during our conversations is that the area is characterised by high diurnal variation generally, but this is particularly important in the summer, with differences in day-night temperatures exceeding 20oC, which preserves acidity and aromas.
The mythic founder of the ancient city of Mantineia, that played an important role in antiquity, was Mantineas, the grandson of the ancestor of the Arcadians, Pelasgos. The city is known from the descriptions of Pausanias (a traveller and researcher of the 2nd century AD), and was excavated by a French archaeological expedition under the direction of G. Fougères at the end of the 19th century (Mantineia_guide.pdf by the Ministry of Culture). A must visit site.
The grape variety of the area is Moschofilero, a pinkish variety, but the wines have PDO status only if vinified as a white wine. One would think that it is worth revising this PDO to include cold soaking or skin contact wines that have a pinkish hue, as nowadays some very interesting single varietal wines are made in this way. As Yiannis explains in his detailed article “Moschofilero: where from and where to” this enriches the aromatic profile with red fruit (the typical aromas are of rose petals, lemon blossom, citrus fruit, some spice, with very good acidity) and it is a variety that lends itself beautifully to the production of sparkling wines. Moschofilero is another of the varieties that was rather underrated and is now showing its potential.
I spoke to a number of producers, so once again, I will have to split the presentation into two parts, and, as usual, two wines are tasted from each winery. Let me begin with the younger wineries, although most have been growers for many years.
The winery is situated in Fteri, Milia, about 8km from Tripolis. I spoke to Kostas Koutsoumpos who is the owner/producer with his wife Pitsa Troupi and her brother Yiannis. These two very brave and adventurous people gave up their original professions in their forties (he, physical education, she, finance and banking) to start the winery in 2010. It wasn't a completely wild jump, as Pitsa's paternal family had been cultivating vines since the '70's and owned vineyards. Another ace up their sleeve was the fact that Pitsa's brother, Yiannis, is an agriculturalist.
They cleared out an old apple warehouse and started business. In 2015 the winery was expanded and modernised. Their vision, tenacity, hard work, innovative ideas, and clever decisions have made it one of the leading wineries of the area in a space of a little over ten years. In 2020 they made it to the prestigious 50 Great Greek Wines List. By changing their rootstock, harvesting earlier, paying much attention to vine health, lowering yields and experimenting with winemaking techniques (fine lees, battonage, skin extraction, barrel, amphora, cement, minimal interventions, natural yeasts) with their winemaker Dimitris Akrivos they changed the profile of Moschofilero from a rather light, easy-drinking, aromatic white to a wine with texture and essence.
They currently own 10ha of land planted with 90% Moschofilero and 10% Assyrtiko, and plan to grow to 13ha in the next couple of years, with an aim of becoming completely independent at some point (they now work with other growers for their entry level wine Fteri). They started off with a production of 60tons and in 2022 will produce 170,000 bottles and 12 small production labels.
The next generation is sprouting as their son Theodoris studied oenology, gained his Masters in Montpellier and is now partaking in harvests around France.
A white wine that delivers notes of white flowers, citrus fruit, apple, white peach, and rose petals with amazing freshness and definition. Beautiful, creamy texture with a long citrus peel aftertaste.
Hoof & Lur 2021
A salmon coloured wine part fermented with the skins with its natural yeasts, minimal intervention, unfined and unfiltered. White pepper, citrus fruit, floral and salty mineral notes with the rose aromas more apparent on the palate and a mix of cherry and strawberry jelly, long citrus fruit peel aftertaste. A fleshy and crisp wine, with some tannin just about present. What a wine!
Situated in Steno, the family began to build the winery in 1990 in the place where grandpa had envisioned it. Grandpa traded must to the whole of the Peloponnese since the ’50’s. He died suddenly in 1979 before he had the chance to start the winery he had dreamed of. “Our father gathered Sotiris and I one day to tell us that he was thinking of starting a winery and wanted to know whether we agreed. I was 10 at the time and Sotiris was 11. You know, I missed all of my vacations as a child for the winery and we also ‘lost’ our parents, because they were terribly busy. Nonetheless, now I feel I have the best job one can ask for, because in the wine business you meet so many interesting people, you have fun, there is always a jovial atmosphere,” says Katerina (the third brother is Konstantinos a viticulturalist). Katerina is a young petite lady, with iron willpower, who is very down to business at the start of our conversation. As we continue to talk she lightens up, and I get to see her sense of humour and her lovely dimples!
2009 was the first year a wine was marketed under their own label, previously they made wine for other wineries. They work with growers (about 10ha in total) and produce about 50,000 bottles of their PDO Mantineia and about 10,000 bottles of the Ieria rosé PGI. All of the vines are dry farmed on clay loam soils and are spread out in the areas of Lithovounia at 670-700m altitude, Steno and Agiorgitika (2nd largest single vineyard). “We want production to be low, to achieve full maturation, and have the least possible strain on the fruit, so we hand harvest in the early hours of the morning and refrigerate in the vineyard”. They use cold soaking, fine lees battonage and are adamant about ageing their wines. “In the 2020 vintage we started a new collaboration with the Chatzakis Winery of Syros and will be launching a new label ‘Drezina’ 60% Moschofilero-40% Assyrtiko”.
Bosinaki Moschofilero PDO 2021 (tank sample)
A lovely wine that is particularly floral initially, which then opens up to give sweet orange, bitter orange, citrus fruit, rose petals, a touch of ginger, and a lengthy bitter orange aftertaste. Some residual sugar that tames the acidity.
Bosinaki Rosé Moschofilero PGI 2021 (tank sample)
A wine with aromas of red cherries, lemon, lime zest, citrus fruit and roses, with excellent acidity, slightly creamy on the palate. Very nice.
Situated in Neochori, about 5km from Tripoli, the Moropoulos Winery started its own bottlings in 2016. An old grain warehouse that belonged to their father was refurbished and became the winery. A family that has a tradition in farming. Grandpa studied economics but was not much of a city boy and returned to take over the farm. There is a 1ha 50yr old vineyard (goblet vines) from his time. “Our parents in the '60's and '70's had many different cultivations and a vineyard. We always had many people going in and out of our home as wine was an integral part of our family life, but it wasn't until later (1998) that all of our farmland became only vines,” Georgia Moropoulou tells me. They own 12ha of which 4ha on a hill are an organic vineyard, the rest is sustainable farming and almost all is dedicated to Moschofilero with a mere 0.5ha planted with Merlot. Nevertheless, they have some interesting ideas about planting other indigenous Greek varieties. There are three siblings and I spoke to Georgia. She studied computer science, her sister is an agriculturalist and their brother studied business, so they are quite a team. What I really liked about Georgia was there was something about her that reminded me of how people were when I was growing up. Earnest, unpretentious, slightly reserved, but with the enthusiasm of a teenager. Their winemaker is Lefteris Anagnostou who made winner wines for the Karamolegos Estate in Santorini. They currently make two labels, a white and a rosé Moschofilero, but as of vintage 2020 they will be launching a late harvest wine. Their production is currently about 25 000 bottles, because part of their harvest goes to other wineries. They use lees ageing, some contact with oxygen, and bottle slowly to ensure their wines will hold over time.
Moropoulos Moschofilero PDO 2020
A lovely wine that unfolds orange blossom, bergamot, lime, white peach, rose petals, a touch of ginger, excellent acidity, some salty minerality and long slightly peppery finish.
Moropoulos Moschofilero Rosé PGI 2020
A sweet nose that is full of aromas of red fruit like red cherry, red berries, white peach, blood orange, candied rose petals, lovely acidity and texture. Drinks beautifully alone or with food.