A Nearly Extinct Grape Makes a Bold Comeback

roxypicklogoGiven my Greek heritage, and also the fact that it was Orthodox Greek Easter (on May 1), I figured that this was as good an occasion as any to open a Greek wine. In case you are wondering if cats have an ethnic background, the answer is “Yes.” I am Greek because the woman with whom I live is Greek. It’s that simple.

A grape that is considered to produce one of the most aromatic white varietals of Greece, Malagouzia (pronounced: Mah lah gou zya’) results in wines that are anything but shy. Case in point is the 2012 Alpha Estate AXIA Malagouzia,  from the Turtles subregion of the Amyndeon plateau of Greece. The ecosystem of the vineyard is called Turtles and is an ancient nesting area for the local turtle species that is preserved and protected. Hmm. Watching a turtle walk around must be as exciting as watching me go about my day…pretty uneventful. Seriously though, you wouldn’t know it by looking at me but I am an animal-rights activist and wildlife conservationist, just like the woman with whom I live. Okay, back to the wine.

Light yellow with a green tinge, the aromas of this 100 percent Malagouzia leap from the glass and range from jasmine and honeysuckle, mint and rosemary, white peach and citrus to green apple and green melon, apricot, and tropical fruits to warm brioche.

Malagouiza 2012

Photo by Cynthia Bournellis

Dry, full-bodied and complex, the 2012 vintage expresses luscious flavors of creamy custard, lemon zest, citrus, clove and nutmeg, and dried herbs—all wrapped in medium-plus, solid acidity. Warm spices, flint, wet stone and herbaceous notes create a long, lingering, sublime finish. Despite some earlier reviews that suggested consuming this vintage by 2015, the 2012 was nowhere on its way out—or I wouldn’t be writing about it. In fact, dry Malagouzia is known to age in bottle beyond four years.

A once almost extinct grape, Malagouzia originated in the region of Nafpaktos in western Greece, and in the early 1980s was recognized by winemaker Vangelis Gerovassiliou for the potential it had for producing great, complex wines. Today, many wineries in Greece harvest this grape to produce 100 percent Malagouzia, or to use it in a blend, giving this indigenous grape a second life. Malagouzia is grown in a number of regions in Greece, including the Peloponnese, Central Greece and Greek Macedonia.

Now normally I would have prepared a fine Greek meal to complement the wine, but I had celebrated Easter dinner earlier that day and just wanted to experience this varietal on its own. If, however, you want a food-pairing suggestion, then try the 2012 vintage (if you can find it) or a current dry vintage with grilled white fish; a traditional Greek salad (cucumber, red onion, tomato, green bell pepper, feta cheese and Kalamata olives tossed in red wine vinegar, olive oil and oregano); dolmades (Greek stuffed grape leaves); and spanakopita (Greek spinach pie)—all of which highlight the wine’s herbaceous character and crisp acidity.

Koulourakia (top) and Kourambiethes (bottom). Photo by Cynthia Bournellis

But in honor of the occasion, I nibbled on Greek Easter pastries—koulourakia and kourambiethes—my Yaya Helen and I made using an old family recipe.

Hronia Polla (happy [post] Easter)! 

Roxy’s yaya (grandmother) Helen. Photo by Dan Murphy

Alpha Estate is located in northwestern Greece in the Amyndeon, Florina region. For further information, email: info@alpha-estate.com


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