Malagousia is an ancient white Greek variety that was virtually unknown until the 1970’s. The credit for saving the variety goes to Porto Carras Winery in Halkidiki. They did the work to revitalize Malagousia, a grape that would have likely otherwise gone extinct. Yet, how Malagousia landed in the loving arms of Porto Carras Winery remains somewhat of a mystery. Though there are two running theories still up for debate.
The first theory attributes the discovery of Malagousia to Professor of Oenology Vassilis Logothetis. The professor was on a mission to uncover rare, indigenous varieties of his homeland and happened upon Malagousia in the region of Nafpaktia in western central Greece. He presented his discovery to Vangelis Gerovassiliou, one of his students and a winemaker in Thessaloniki, who was first to begin vinification projects with Malagousia at Porto Carras Winery and later at his own winery.
An alternative theory behind the mystery of Malagousia states that the Institute of Vines and their agronomist, Kotinis, gave Professor Logothetis cuttings of the variety. He then cultivated an experimental vineyard following the advice of Mrs. Kourakou, the Director of the Institute of Vines at the time.
The Variety: Malagousia
Malagousia, also spelled Malagouzia, produces wines of sophisticated structure, impeccable balance and rousing aromas. The type of wine you can’t stop smelling as you try to wrap your head around how so much can fit into one glass as harmoniously as this. This ancient white variety is capable of expressing an expansive array of aromas depending on the mesoclimate of the vineyard. Possible aromas include stone fruit, tropical fruit, herbal, spice, vegetal, and floral notes. For instance, a cooler mesoclimate will often express more floral, herbal, and citrus aromas.
Regardless of expressed aromas, Malagousia produces rich, round wines with moderate acidity and medium alcohol levels. You’ll find the variety plays a supporting role in blends, as well as the starring role in single-varietal wines. Malagousia is produced in both oaked and unoaked styles, though an oaked version has greater aging potential.
Malagousia in the Vineyard
As we learned from the adventures of Professor Logothetis, Malagousia is thought to have originated in west central Greece. Halkidiki is still a center of production for the variety, meaning Macedonia is the most recognized Greek region for this variety. However, plantings of Malagousia can be found throughout the country.
Malagousia is a high-yieliding and extremely vigorous variety that requires attentive control in the vineyard. When left to its own devices, this variety will produce diluted wines, and nobody wants that. The size of the cluster and berries varies, as there are two main biotypes of Malagousia. One has larger clusters with larger berries and the other has more compact clusters with smaller berries. When yields are restricted and Malagousia is planted at higher altitudes to poor soils, intricate, age-worthy wines are possible.
Greek Master of Wine Yiannis Karakasis shares his thoughts on the variety, “For me Malagousia is a little bit like Dr. Jekyl and Mr. Hyde. If treated like a quality grape there is lot of complexity, ripeness and depth. Otherwise it is an aromatic Pinot Grigio.”
Alpha Estate Winery
Alpha Estate produced the Malagousia I explored for this rare varieties feature and the wine was absolutely stunning. Accomplished viticulturist Makis Mavridis, along with the help of chemist-oenologist Angelos Iatridis founded Alpha Estate in 1997. After perfecting his craft in various regions throughout Greece, Mavridis landed on producing his own wine in northwestern Greece, specifically in Amyndeon within the Florina region of Macedonia. The winery is located amongst 75 hectares of estate vineyards, ensuring the fastest possible processing times as the grapes come directly off the vines and into the winery during harvest.
Florina is Greece’s coldest viticultural region and also home to one of the country’s most important viticultural areas, the plateau of Amynteo. In PDO Amynteo, the climate is humid and more temperate. Four lakes and mountainous terrain ranging from 500-700 meters above sea level moderate the temperature of the zone. The soils of Amynteo are low fertility, sandy soils with thick alluvial deposits and calcareous substrates.
The Malagousia grapes that produced the wine below were grown in the Amyndeon plateau within PGI Florina. The vines faced Mount Varas at a northwestern exposure, 620 – 710m above sea level. Soils of the vineyard are sandy, sandy clay, and limestone.
Alpha Estate Malagouzia, Single Vineyard “Turtles” 2018
This wine was made from 100% Malagousia grapes from a single vineyard block selected by the team at Alpha Estate. They aptly named the vineyard block “turtles” because the vineyard ecosystem includes an ancient nesting area for a local turtle species that the winery works to preserve and protect.
- Brilliant, light yellow color with green reflections
- Fresh, lively, and intense aromas of lemon peel, honeydew melon, spices, rose, honeysuckle, and lychee
- Round and rich on the palate with a great structure and moderate acidity
- The floral and lychee aromas carry through to flavors on the palate
- A wine with captivating aromas, tons of finesse, and a polished, persistent finish
Malagousia is an ideal wine to match with Greek seafood meze like calamari with fresh aioli or grilled octopus. This wine is a great pairing for taramosalata, a salty and mouthwateringly delicious Greek spread made with fish roe. I enjoyed this Malagousia alongside homemade dolmades and the pairing was spectacular. The aromatic intensity of the wine paired perfectly with the herbal flavors of the dolmades. I would also pair Malagousia with lighter baked vegetable dishes like a baked zucchini, spinach, and feta casserole, as well as any salad with arugula or an herb and garlic crusted baked halibut.