If you have been following my blog for a while, then you might already know I am Greek! Well, half Greek anyway. My Yiayia and Papouli, mom’s parents, were the first generation of our Greek family to immigrate to America. I grew up listening to the Greek language, eating the best homemade Greek food imaginable, and enjoying the spirited Greek culture. While I tasted plenty of Papou’s Ouzo growing up, I haven’t explored many Greek wines beyond Xinomavro and Assyrtiko. So, I am very happy to be featuring a handful of the over 300 Greek indigenous varieties in my rare varieties series. We are kicking off our Greek wine adventure with an aromatic white variety called Moschofilero. But first, let’s explore some of Greece’s winemaking history.
Millenia of Greek Winemaking
Since antiquity, wine has been an integral part of Greek culture. While the Greeks were not the first civilization to make wine, they were among the first to develop a complete cultural structure around winemaking. The Greeks cultivated vines, produced wine, consumed wine regularly, and traded their wines with other countries. As active maritime traders, the Greeks brought wine, pottery, bronze, silver, and textiles to Italy, Spain, France, and beyond. Additionally, the Greeks carried their advanced winemaking techniques to other civilizations.
Greece has some of the world’s oldest vineyards. The country’s extensive history of winemaking is evident in millennia old vineyards planted with an unbroken track record. For example, in Santorini there is a group of own-rooted, phylloxera free vineyards that are 3,500 years old. Many of Greece’s vineyards are cultivated in their own unique ecosystem. As a result, natural selection has bred vines that have become pest resistant over time. Thus, many Greek vineyards are suitable for organic farming because there is less need for frequent chemical spraying.
Greek wines are typically fresh and elegantly structured with complex aromatic profiles. Most Greek wines are famously food friendly, which is ideal because Greeks love to eat! Backed by millennia of winemaking techniques and supported by modern resources, Greek winemakers are producing world-class wines. Consequently, they continue to fortify Greece’s reputation for quality throughout the wine world.
The Variety: Moschofilero
Moschofilero is a late-ripening variety mainly grown in Peloponnese, Greece’s southernmost peninsula. Easily recognized in the vineyard by its pink skin, Moschofilero produces fresh wines with bright acidity. Wines are typically unoaked to preserve the beautiful aromas and freshness this variety offers. Citrus aromas, like lemon and pink grapefruit, along with spicy notes and floral aromas are characteristic of Moschofilero. Sniffing a glass of Moschofilero is like smelling a delicate potpourri. Yet, rose is the trademark floral aroma of this variety. Traditionally, Moschofilero was used in blends to enhance aromatics. Today, you’ll also find Moschofilero in single varietal still, sparkling, and rosé styles.
Peloponnese and PDO Mantinia
The best expressions of Moschofilero come from the high-altitude vineyards of Mantinia in the region of Arcadia. Both are located in Peloponnese, the most southern point of the Balkan Peninsula. Peloponnese sits at the same latitude as Sicily, Andalusia, and Southern Portugal. Considering the climates of its latitudinal cousins, one might think that Peloponnese offers a hot, dry climate. However, Peloponnese has 50 mountains within the peninsula that bring cool, moderating influences from their snowcapped peaks. The Corinthian Gulf and the Ionian, Aegean, and Mediterranean Seas also surround the peninsula, each offering cooling influences. Therefore, the six PDO’s in Peloponnese have a moderate Mediterranean climate. However, there are varying mesoclimates depending on vineyard factors like elevation, exposure, and proximity to the sea.
Established in 1971, PDO Mantinia is located in central Peloponnese. This Protected Designation of Origin sits between Mount Parnon (2,404m) to the east and Mount Mainalo (1,980m) to the west. The Mantinia plateau stretches 36km and sits at an average elevation of 660m above sea level. Winter weather typically brings intense rain and even snow. While summer has a significant diurnal swing with hot days and cool nights.
PDO Mantinia wines must be made from 100% Moschofilero and includes dry still white wine, as well as dry and off-dry sparkling wine. Generally, Moschofilero grown in the foothills of the surrounding mountains expresses higher acidity and more citrus aromas. Whereas the plateau vineyards produce Moschofilero that is more aromatic with a distinctive rose aroma.
The Winery: Boutari
Founded by John Boutari in 1879, Boutari is one of Greece’s most famous and historical wineries. Today, his great grandson Constantine Boutari carries on the family’s Greek wine legacy as the President and CEO of the company. Boutari has been active in many of Greece’s wine producing regions, including Naoussa, Goumenissa, Mantinia, Attica, Santorini, and Crete. In each region, Boutari played an instrumental role in the revival of local vineyards and indigenous varieties.
For Moschofilero, Boutari was an especially forward-thinking winery that was able to master the behavior of this variety in the vineyards. They produced some of the first exceptional single varietal Moschofilero wines. Starting at their Santorini location in 1990, Boutari also became the first Greek winery to offer organized wine tastings and tours.
Boutari, Moschofilero PDO Mantinia 2018
- Delicate, opulent and brilliant pale-yellow color
- Medium pronounced aromas of lemon, white grapefruit, potpourri, lychee, and a hint of spice
- Medium minus body, medium plus acidity, medium length finish
- Flavors of lychee, citrus, and rose on the palate with a spicy acidity
Moschofilero is the perfect wine pairing for grilled seafood like octopus and calamari. This wine is also delicious alongside salty olives, marinated roasted red peppers, or baked feta marinated in olive oil, lemon zest and fresh herbs. Moschofilero would be fantastic alongside sushi, oysters, and other raw seafood dishes, as well as grilled chicken souvlaki.