Some estimates indicate there are roughly 10,000 types of the most common species of winemaking grape, vitis vinifera, with more than 300 of these being endemic to Greece. Many of these 10,000 varieties have fallen endangered or extinct worldwide because they prove too challenging to grow or produce only mediocre quality wine.
Neither can be said of the native Greek grape Moschofilero (mos ko fee’ le ro), revived by winemaker Yiannis Tselepos in 1989; or Malagousia (mah-la-goo-zia), brought back from extinction by winemaker Vangelis Gerovassilou in the 1970s.
Saving Grapes from Extinction
Despite Greece’s 6,500 years of winemaking history, Burgundy-trained Yiannis, considered the “Master of Moschofilero,” opted to plant and propagate the intriguing grape as soon as he and his wife Amalia, purchased land near the foothills of Mount Parnon in some of the areas highest elevations, when they founded Domaine Tselepos in the late 1980s. Bordeaux trained Vangelis, renowned as the “Father of Malagousia,” saved the grape from extinction when working on an experimental vineyard at Porto Carras, before founding his eponymous winery in Eponami in1981.
In the Fileri family of cultivars, Moschofilero is aromatic, high acid variety known for its notes of rose garden, spice, citrus, and perfume. Tselepos Moschofilero vines are planted 150 meters higher than those found elsewhere in the region and vinifies each parcel of his 30 hectares separately. This makes his wines not only fresh and vibrant, but also eminently ageworthy. They can age in the bottle, beautifully, for over ten years.
Domaine Tselepsos offers two distinct examples of Moschofilero that show the late-ripening grape’s ability to dazzle in multiple forms:
Their sparkling Tselepos Amalia Brut NV (SRP $28) from Arcadia reminds of the diversity of quality Greek wine. Whether served as an apero, with fresh fruit, or paired with fresh goat or hard nutty cheeses, this elegant sparkler shines with its delicate mousse and aromas of rose petal, brioche, and honey. Moschofilero in bubbly form is an innovation born from Yiannis’ desire to keep advocating for the grape’s potential.
The Tselepos Mantinia Classic (SRP $17) is a “blanc de gris,” offering pronounced notes of white flowers and citrus; zesty characteristics of the Moschofilero grape found specifically in Mantinia. This Peloponnesian wine boasts crisp freshness from the lively acidity that lends itself to a variety of food pairings including spinach & ricotta pizza and roasted chicken thighs with green olive cous cous.
In contrast, Malagousia is also an aromatic variety that produces full bodied wines with perfume ranging from basil, lime, orange and exotic fruits to rose petals. Ktima Gerovassiliou, founded by Vangelis Gerovassilou known as the “Father of Malagousia,” produces both varietal wines and blends Malagousia with Assyrtiko for wine with brighter acidity and minerality.
The Domaine Gerovassiliou Malagousia (SRP $23) is one of the best examples of the Malagousia grape’s winemaking potential. Notes of pear, white flowers, mango, and lemon zest erupt from the glass. It’s pretty enough to be enjoyed on its own, but compliments a wide range of dishes from Thai-spiced grilled swordfish to orzo cauliflower salad to fried zucchini blossoms.
The Domaine Gerovassiliou Estate White (SRP: $20) is an intriguing blend of 50% Malagousia and 50% Assyrtiko. Its distinctive nose entices with notes of exotic fruit and notes of green pepper, jasmine, orange, melon and lemon. On the plate it has a rich, round feel with a lemony aftertaste – a perfect pairing for oysters.
To produce this wine, Gerovassiliou works with 3 clones of Malagousia within a single vineyard on his 56 hectare estate in the Epanomi region. The soil is comprised of sand, clay, and calcareous rock and mild winters and temperate summers yield a serious wine that can still be casually enjoyed.