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23 October 2016

A tale of two (plus one) Malvasias

What is a Malvasia? Is it a variety (family of varieties to be precise) or a style of wine? Well it seems to be both and the story starts from the breathtaking Greek port of Monemvasia in Peloponnese.

It is from here Malvasia grapes likely have started their journey in the wine world. ''Wine Grapes'' lists 24 different Malvasias with Bianca di Candia being the most planted Malvasia so far and with a complex puzzle of origins and parentage. There are even red-berried Malvasias from Piemonte and Basilicata.

But beyond being a family of grape varieties it has been a style of wine for centuries, a Byzantine wine that flourished during medieval era originating from Monemvasia port in the Peloponnese. Kourakou-Dragona, the Greek ''Lady of the Vines'' states that this was a sweet wine that was sold under the name Monemvasia by the locals and Malvasia as a corruption of the word Monemvasia by the Venetians. As field blends were common at that time, the Monemvasia-Malvasia wine could not be anything else than a multi-varietal wine. 

Unfortunately that style of wine that travelled from Monemvasia to Paros island to Crete and then to the whole world was lost in the following centuries only to be revived in 2010. Greek wine legislation now states 4 different PDO's:

  • Paros (mostly Monemvasia grape variety – just released commercially by Moraiti winery)
  • Crete for Candia (blend of many varieties including Assyrtiko, Vidiano and even red Liatiko) and Sitia (more or less the same blend as Candia) – not released commercially yet but Lyrarakis will release next year
  • Monemvasia: The cradle of Malvasia where the historic wine thrived in the 15th century. A blend featuring the local star Kydonitsa white grape variety. Released commercially by Monemvasia winery.


Tasting notes follow:

Monemvasia winery, Malvasia 2010 (13% Peloponnese, PDO Monemvasia-Malvasia)

Revival of a historic style of wine by George Tsimbidis. Blend of Monemvasia, Assyrtiko and Kydonitsa that matures in oak for 24 months, this shows fascinating aromas of dried fruits, caramel, toffee and chestnuts and an endless sweetness but wonderfully balanced by crisp acidity. Layered, harmonious and complete. 2016-2030. 94/100

Lyrarakis, Malvasia of Crete NV

Orange zest and caramel on the nose and palate. Not cloying with low tannins on the finish. Very good effort to revive Malvasia of Crete. Sundried local varieties. For the time being this is the unofficial Malvasia. Will be released as a PDO next year. 91/100

Moraiti Winery, Malvasia (15% Cyclades, PDO Malvasia of Paros)

Maiden vintage for this recently revived Malvasia (Monemvasia is the main variety according to legislation) matured for 4 years in oak. Oaky and raisiny with an apricot core on the nose. Sweet lingering palate with generous notes of pineapple, apple, apricot and caramel. Very good needing time to integrate the luxurious oak. 2016-2030. 90/100.

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