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What our expert thought of Gerovassiliou Malagousia




about this wine About this wine
 
The ancient Greeks were growing grapes and making wine long before the inhabitants of Italy or France, and today Greece has a wealth of indigenous grape varieties as testament to that long history.  Yet little is exported, and few of us have tasted Greek wine - except perhaps while on holiday there.
 
Partly this is due to the Greek tradition of flavouring much of their white and rosé wine with pine resin, creating Retsina.  It’s an acquired taste, and Retsina did for the reputation of other Greek wines what Liebfraumilch did for German ones.  The other stumbling block for international consumers is the unfamiliar, polysyllabic place and grape names, especially when rendered in the Greek alphabet.  (Germany has this problem too.)
 
Yet there are really exciting wines being made in Greece, and their lack of an international reputation means that even the best ones are affordable… if you can find them.  A month ago I could have named only two Greek grape varieties: the red Agiorgitiko and the white Assyrtiko.  (See what I mean about those names?)
 
Assyrtico has been grown for centuries on the volcanic island of Santorini, but it has a much younger rival for the title of best Greek white grape - Malagousia.
 
I hadn’t even heard of Malagousia until a few weeks ago.  But then, nobody had until the 1970s.  If it weren’t for the foresight and determination of two men - and a substantial contribution from Lady Luck - Malagousia would have gone extinct before anyone knew its name.
 
The first of our heroes is Dr. Vassilis Logothetis of Aristotle University in Thessaloniki, who in the early 1970s travelled throughout Greece to collect and preserve rare grape varieties.  He discovered (and named) Malagousia growing wild over an ancient pergola on a farm abandoned since the Greek Civil War of the 1940s.  Along with dozens of other rare varieties he had collected, it was planted in a plot he leased from the winery Domaine Porto Carras.
 
Enter our second hero, the young Vangelis Gerovassiliou, who had just been appointed oenologist at Porto Carras.  Recognising the potential in Malagousia he began to plant more of it, and by the late 1970s he was able to produce the first varietal wines.  These were so impressive that Malagousia’s fame - and its cuttings - spread throughout Greece.
 
The first Malagousia vineyard outside Porto Carras was planted in 1981 by Vangelis himself, at his family farm at Epanomi.  A new winery was built for the initial experimental vintage in 1986 and three years later Domaine Gerovassiliou released its first wines commercially.  The business prospered, and in the late 1990s Vangelis left Porto Carras to devote all his energies to it.
 
This wine is produced from the oldest and best Malagousia vineyards at the heart of the estate, making this as near to an “old vines” Malagousia as it’s possible to get.
 
The grapes were hand-picked and carefully sorted at the winery.  After pressing, the must was left for a time in contact with the skins at low temperature, to extract more aromatics.  One third was fermented in stainless steel; the remainder in a mix of second- and third-use oak barrels, to add roundness and complexity rather than the overt oak flavours that new barrels would impart.  The wine was then aged on its lees for a few months with batonnage (lees-stirring).  Malolactic fermentation was avoided to retain acidity.
 
the tasting The Tasting
 
The colour is a medium lemon.  This is relatively deep for such a young wine and is probably due to extended skin contact, since Malagousia isn’t a deeply coloured grape.
 
There's a fascinating nose which initially smells like Viognier: apricot and jasmine.  But then it adds stony citrus aromas of lemon zest, and herbal notes of fresh basil and freshly cut grass.
 
Despite its 13% alcohol this is only medium bodied.  But it has power and texture, with complex, sweet-fruited flavours of melon, peach and tangerine.
 
Oak is not really detectable though it probably contributes (along with lees-aging) to the creamy mouthfeel.  Medium acidity keeps things fresh, suggesting that avoiding the malo was a good idea.
 
There’s a touch of appetizing pear-skin bitterness (probably from the skin contact), joined by a spicy hit of white pepper on the medium+ finish.
 
Assessment
 
This is fascinating and distinctive, confounding my attempts to relate it to more familiar wines.
 
The nose and initial flavours are Viognier-esque, though with its fine acidity and palate complexity this is more like a Condrieu than a new world Viognier.  But then it changes direction!  The pithiness and pepper on the after-palate and finish are very reminiscent of a good Grüner Veltliner from Austria.
 
To get such a range of flavours while keeping the wine in balance shows skillful winemaking, and demonstrates that Malagousia deserves to join the first rank of white varieties.  Thank you, Vassilis and Vangelis.


Tasting notes

Appearance
medium lemon
Nose

Intensity medium+

Aromas apricot & jasmine (like Viognier), stony citrus (lemon zest), fresh-cut grass

Development youthful
Palate

Sweetness dry

Acidity medium

Body medium

Intensity medium+

Flavours Melon, stone fruit, citrus(tangerine). Complex, sweet-fruited. Creamy texture (despite no malo). Touch of pear-skin bitterness
Finish

Length medium+

Flavours as palate, with white pepper
Other notes
Not noticeably oaked. Starts like a Condrieu, finishes like a Gru V.


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