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Featured Wine Grape: Greek Malagousia


BOUTARI/MATSA MALAGOUSIA, KANZA, ATTICA, GREECE, 2004 $12

I picked up this white wine from a deli in Athens, Greece while, literally, running round town in June. The front label was all Greek to me, but the back label included enough English to satisfy my nerdish requirements for a wine that was thoroughly indigenous whilst also, I trusted, distinctly drinkable.

The story goes like this. The negociant Boutari, one of Greece’s biggest wine companies, invested in the Matsa Estate, a boutique winery in the Attica region just north-east of Athens. Matsa’s vineyards had been dominated by the Savatiano grape that produces much of Greece’s generic Retsina, but with Boutari’s capital investment, wine-maker Roxanne Matsa (the daughter of a former Greek ambassador to the USA) was able to experiment with more “noble” Greek grapes, finally settling on the near-extinct Malagousia as the prime match for the soil and climate.

The label may be hard to decipher; the wine is not.

Why Malagousia should ever have fallen from f(l)avor is beyond me, judging by this wine. A seriously yellow color, with a honeyed, floral aroma, it had more acidity than I’d been led to believe by some of my reference books, and a hefty presence in the mid-palate. If a little short on fruit, it nonetheless offered up a distinct mineral and orange taste at the back of the throat. As so often the case with a brand new wine, the more we tasted, the more we enjoyed, and as equally often these days (my God but we’re getting old!), we managed to make it last two full nights. By the end of that second evening, I felt like I could have been drinking a decent Marsanne, a wine of similarly big palate yet equally muted fruit. Malagousia is one of many Greek grapes that we may come to hear more of as that nation’s ancient wine industry – one that dates back several thousand years to Europe’s original empire – modernizes at a furious pace. The language may prove a barrier to wider understanding and enjoyment, but the grapes should not. Greece is the word.

MUSIC: Greece has been making wine for thousands of years. It’s been making rock music for a lot less longer. But Athenian group Film’s second album Angel B is a striking example of the country’s rapid modernization, and a fine record to accompany this fine wine.

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