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A Very Special White from Greece
By Mary Ewing-Mulligan
Jan 24, 2012
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Domaine Gerovassiliou, Epanomi PGI (Greece), Malagousia, 2009 (Cava Spiliadis, $24):  This is a wine with a fascinating story.  It’s one of those back-from-the-brink stories, about a grape variety that almost certainly would have become extinct if not for the efforts of a savior.  The grape variety is Malagousia, a native Greek white grape, and the savior is Vangelis Gerovassilou.

Gerovassiliou studied winemaking in Bordeaux under the esteemed professor, the late Emile Peynaud and apprenticed with Peynaud in his consulting work for the great châteaux of Bordeaux.  Peynaud handpicked him to be the head winemaker at Porto Carras, which in 1976 was Greece’s most important winery.  During his 23 years at Porto Carras, Gerovassiliou researched and cultivated native Greek grape varieties, in collaboration with a respected professor of ampelography from the University of Thessaloniki in northern Greece, his alma mater.  One of those varieties was Malagousia.

In all of Greece, only a single pergola (shade trellis) of Malagousia remained, until Gerovassiliou propagated the vine at Porto Carras.  While still working at Porto Carras, he established his own wine estate in 1981 in his hometown of Epanomi, near Thessaloniki in Greece’s Macedonia region.  He cultivated Malagousia there, along with other native white and red grapes as well as international varieties.  In 1976, Gerovassiliou produced his first vintage of Malagousia wine.

Today Vangelis Gerovassiliou is considered one of Greece’s finest winemakers.  His estate encompasses 138 acres of vines on a peninsula surrounded by the sea on all but one side.  His vineyards include 60 acres of Malagousia.

Domaine Gerovassiliou Malagousia is a fascinating wine as much for its taste as for the grape’s survival story.  It is a dry, rich, flavorful white with exotic nuances that defy comparisons to any other white variety.

The wine’s aroma suggests peach stone and ripe citrus, with a gentle floral note and a piney accent.  The wine enters your mouth dry, but viscous and rich.  It’s full-bodied and broad, but its fresh acidity energizes the taste and keeps it from being heavy.  Flavors of orange zest, rose, peach and balsam are compact, and they carry completely in your mouth, to a long finish.

Although this wine is oaked, it does not have aromas or flavors of oak, and you can surmise the effect of the oak only in the wine’s richness and a slight grip of texture.  Two-thirds of the juice fermented in second- and third-use oak barrels, while one-third fermented in stainless steel.  Gerovassiliou told me that he uses oak fermentation to bring rounder body and more flavor to the wine.  The lees are stirred both in the barrels and in the tanks, to give character.  The wine does not undergo malolactic fermentation.

Tasting this wine, I wish I could transport myself to an outdoor seaside restaurant in Greece, where I would eat a simple grilled fish with parsley and lemon, with boiled potatoes on the side. But this wine has the weight for substantial foods, too.  Back home, I’d serve it with linguine with white clam sauce, wild mushroom risotto, or a hearty white bean soup.  This 2009 is in its prime of enjoyablity now.

90 Points