Greece is a very unfamiliar country when it comes to wines and winemaking. Having an ancient past of winemaking, Greeks at some point of time lost their radiations in winemaking, in spite of much of the ancient grape varieties that we know now are of either Greek origin or were introduced by the Greeks to the rest of the communities.
Greece however produces in a very local manner, most of it being for domestic consumption. Some grapes, however, do find their way to the top. Mavrodaphni is one of them.
Mavrodaphni is not a purely Greek grape, and it’s not indigenous but was introduced by a Bavarian gentleman in the 1850s.
Since then, the grape has become a popular Greek delight and has started gaining attention from the rest of the world’s winemakers.
What is Mavrodaphni?
Mavrodaphni is a black grape variety that is now mostly cultivated in the Peloponnese peninsula of Greece.
It is certainly not an indigenous Greek variety since it was established to the Peloponnese in the 1850s. It is most often used as a sweet, fortified grape and in earlier days, the grape was once used as a blending agent with several Greek varieties like the Black Corinthiaki.
However, with modern techniques and recent developments in the Greek wine industry, winemakers have now made it possible for the Mavrodaphni to go through additional processes like oak aging that gives the grape exotic aromas of marzipan, caramelized fruits and spices. Mavrodaphni has indeed been a high scoring variety.
History of Mavrodaphni
Mavrodaphni was introduced as recently as 1861 by Gustav Clauss, a Bavarian accompanying the Bavarian prince, Otto.
Clauss had bought some land in Peloponnese and introduced the variety when the Bavarian prince as being offered the crown of Greece. In 1864, the Mavrodaphni was introduced.
The name of Mavrodaphni means ‘black laurels’ in the memory of Gustav’s fiancée who died before they were getting married.
The girl was Greek and had either black hair or eyes and the grape was named after her. The Achaia Clauss winery was established by Gustav himself and still sells the very same wine that it has been producing for the last 150 years.
This story is, however challenged and many postulate that the grape’s name has origins in Greek mythology.
Prior to Achaia wine production, most wines were aged in casks outdoors for six years, but the winery pioneered oak aged wines through Mavrodaphni that is still practised today.
These grapes are harvested in August and sun-dried before pressing. Mavrodaphni is an early budding variety and is grown mostly around Patras.
The grape is fermented normally and is added in some grape spirit to kill the yeast bacteria. This retains the sugar content and the wine is then aged in oak barrels for a minimum of one year using a solera system.
The grape is not very resistant to viticulture hazards and cannot withstand the pressure either from drought conditions and mildew.
There are at least two cones of Mavrodaphni that are grown in the same island of Peloponnese. The more common variety called the Regnio, is grown in the Achaia region and is distinguished with its tighter bunch formations and differing leaf shapes than the original.
The other clone is Tsigelo and is characterised by smaller bunches and as some claim, with higher quality wines. There is also a grape called Thiniatiko that has been under cultivation in the Cephalonia region, but that might only turn out to be the same Tsigelo grape.
Mavrodaphni wine is extremely fruity to the palate and comprises of some of the best aromas in Greek wine inventory.
It is fairly high in alcohol (15%) so the wine can be enjoyed with a lot of mild and spicy items of Greece and the Mediterranean.
Baked figs with manouri cheese, a simple fruit cake or a pear crumble are one of the best items to have with Mavrodaphni.
Editor-in-Chief and Wine Writer
Michael is an online enthusiast, with a lot of knowledge about online marketing. Traveling around the world to hunt for the perfect wine. Latest on Sicily, where Etna has a huge impact on the taste, which is strong with a bitter aftertaste for the youngest wines, but older wines are fantastic. Drinking wine, and writing about them, are one the passions. Remember to drink responsibly 🙂