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Posted: Wednesday, 30 January 2019 18:27

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Malagousia the Greek Queen of Wines Shines at Ambassador’s Dinner

Jan 30: Malagousia as a white Greek grape variety was practically non -existent 25 years ago but its revival in 1976-1994 has added to the charm of Greek Wines which have been getting better in quality since then, writes Subhash Arora who was charmed with this Queen of Greek grapes during his visit to Greece in 2016 and showcased the varietal at a private dinner he co-organised with the Greek Ambassador, H.E. Panos Kalogeropoulos at his residence on January 23

Wikipedia defines ‘Malagousia or Malagouzia (Greek Μαλαγουζιά) as a white Greek wine grape that was virtually extinct until Professor of Oenology, Vassilis Logothetis re-discovered it in Nafpktia and presented it to one of his students, Vangelis Gerovassiliou, in the 1970s. Experimental vinification began at the Porto Carras winery, and later continued on Vangelis Gerovassiliou’s own estate. The grape is highly aromatic and has the potential to produce soft, elegant wines.’

The winemaker from Thessaloniki, Vangelis joined Porto Carras in 1976 and worked for 23 years as the winemaker. After his last harvest of 1998, he quit and started completely on his own at his winery where he had grown a few vines and had been experimenting alongside. The results had been extremely encouraging.

 Today, Malagousia is produced practically in all parts of Greece and many best labels carry the name of this variety-either as a single varietal or as a blend with other white grapes like Assyrtiko and Athiri, as it was initially done at Porto Carras, although it is a very low yielding grape at 8 tons/hA. ‘In 1992 we produced 100% Ktima Gerovassiliou Malagousia but only for exports.1994 was the first commercial year for 100% Malagousia in Porto Carras,’ Vangelis explained to me during my visit to the winery in 2016.

 ‘Actually we started making a blend of Malagousia, Assyrtiko and Athiri at Porto Carras in 1976. I planted Malagousia in 1981 in Epanomi. In 1983 it was the first Ktima Gerovassiliou wine of Malagousia and Assyrtiko blend,’ he says. 

My story with Malagousia

My infatuation with Malagousia does not go back to 1970’s. It started in March 2016 when I received a call from the Greek Ambassador Panos Kalogeropoulos informing me that a Greek winemaker was in town if I would like to meet him. Never to say no to meet a producer, I jumped at the idea and fixed up an early meeting at the Embassy where I met  with Vangelis Gerovassiliou, the winemaker-producer who said he owned two wineries, near Thessaloniki.

I politely accepted to visit his winery during a trip I was planning to Athens, Greece that summer. He took out his iPad and quickly took me through a virtual tour of his winery Ktima Gerovassiliou is situatedin a small village of Epanomi, about 25 kms of Thessaloniki. I was pleasantly surprised when he told me his Malagousia 2015 had won the Best White Wine-Greece , at the 2016 Spring Tasting of Mundusvini where I have judged on  14 occasions including the one he was referring to, and will judge again later this month.  I made it a point to visit his winery and Porto Carras, 90 kms from there, thus visiting both the wineries that were the protagonists of the Malagousia revival story .

I was not surprised to find the 91 pointer Malagousia Epanomi 2016 from Ktima Gerovassiliou, (suggested retail $23) at no. 49 in the Top 100 List of Wine Spectator 2018 last month.

Dinner at the Greek Residence

I was so impressed with the Malagousia wines that I had hand carried 3 bottles of Malagousia from the two wineries, including a blend of Malagousia-Assyrtiko (50:50) besides a Sauvignon Blanc, Viognier and a red wine Evangelo -made from 92% Syrah and 8% Viognier that had changed the personality of the wine, had a lot to offer-complex and balanced.

The Ambassador H.E. Panos Kalogeropoulos was very receptive to the idea of a Greek Wine dinner for a few people so that top quality Greek wines might be tasted, paired with food. Awaiting the date for almost a couple of years due to his busy schedule was a blessing in disguise since it enabled me to rest the bottles in my wine cellar. He invited me to come to his residence with a few select members of the Delhi Wine Club and offered hospitality with meal fromhis kitchen. And what an evening it turned out to be!

The informal dinner had 8 Indians and 6 Greeks-all the top officers of the embassy. Since I did not have many red wines  I had taken 3 bottles of Xinomavro from Vaeni Naoussa in Macedonia (same region as Domain Gerovassiliou), one of which was opened along with Sauvignon Blanc which was perfumed, clean, brilliant, fruity and slightly herbaceous but the elegance and the concentration of the light-medium bodied wine in the Burgundy bottle was the highlight.

Dinner at the table was served with the rest of the wines. But we focussed frankly, on the three Malagousia wines-to showcase the blend and what monovarietal does to this wine, in particular the Malagousia. The Blend was drinking well, it was fruity and juicy-but rather simple and would be best as an aperitif.

The stars were the two 100% Malagousia which went extremely well with the excellent Greek Salad with real Feta, grilled Zucchini and eggplant and the fish that was the star dish of the evening- crisp with smooth texture and the Greek spices made it taste delicious, the Malagousia adding  to its charm. The Vaeni Naoussa Reds worked well for the red wine lovers, but somehow Evangelo, the top wine of Vangelis’ winery, named after him- a blend of 92% Syrah and 8% Viognier, fermented together in 4hL wooden vats and undergoing malolactic fermentation together, was really smooth and silky on the palate. Slightly spicy and an excellent length kept up the elegance and balance.  

The general consensus amongst the guests was that Malagousia was an excellent example of a high quality wine-most finding the finesse of Domaine Gerovassiliou slightly more seductive with a smooth, expressive palate and long length that would make them remember the taste for a while. I don’t remember any of our Indian friends having Indian food which was devoured by the Greeks. But it was the wines that played a central role, adding to the informal and friendly atmosphere in which we all learnt a bit about Greek wine and culture and their desire to share it with Indians. Thank you, Your Excellency for working together for the wonderful dinner, that made me want to say ‘Opa’!!

For a couple of Articles related to Malagousia, please visit

Greece: Indian Columbus in Domaine Porto Carras

Greece: Land of Malagousia and Ktima Gerovassiliou Winery

Subhash Arora

 

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 Comments:

 
 

Malay Kumar Rout Says:

 

Well said... Opa.

Posted @ January 31, 2019 13:50

 
       

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