Malagousia wine grape

Malagousia
An aromatic white variety from Greece today regarded as one of the country’s best, Malagousia nearly went extinct forty years ago.  It was saved by Dr. Vassilis Logothetis of Thessaloniki University, who travelled throughout Greece in the 1970s taking cuttings of rare vines in order to preserve them.
 
He found Malagousia in Nafpaktos, a town on the south coast of central Greece, just across the Gulf of Corinth from the Peleponnese peninsula.  Discovering some vines he didn't recognise growing over an ancient pergola (shade trellis) abandoned since the Greek Civil War of the 1940s, he took a couple of cuttings.
 
Along with 26 other rare varieties he had collected, these cuttings were planted in an experimental vineyard leased from Yiannis Carras, owner of Domaine Porto Carras.  There were so few vines of each variety that it was impractical to make a separate wine from each, so they were all vinified togather.  But Porto Carras’s new young oenologist, Vangelis Gerovassiliou, spotted the potential in Malagousia and began to plant more of it, vinifying the first varietal wine from the grape in the late 1970s.
 
The results were impressive.  Wine writer Konstantinos Lazarakis, one of the few to taste those early wines, says in his The Wines of Greece, that “the wine had the power of a Chardonnay, the extract of a great Semillon, a great affinity with oak, and an aromatic character that can only be described as unique.  It hints at Muscat, although it is not as sweet, profound, or floral.  The primary fruit level is high, showing ripe peaches and apricots, coupled with hints of fresh green pepper.”
 
Malagousia’s fame spread rapidly and it was propagated throughout Greece, becoming one of the most important white varieties.  Today there are more than 300 hectares of it - all derived from those two cuttings.  The original pergola has long since been lost.
 
Malagousia is an extremely vigorous variety.  This probably accounts for its survival on that abandoned pergola but makes things difficult for growers, who must prune it hard to force it to ripen grapes rather than devote its energies to growth.  It requires care in the winery too because its distinctive aromas are prone to oxidation.  Those aromas are often likened to Viognier and, like that grape, its wine is best enjoyed young.
 

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