The enchantress Malagousia

How an extinct variety has been regenerated by Vaggelis Gerovassiliou

Estate Gerovasiliou Nov 09. 2017
by Estate Gerovasiliou


The story of Gerovasiliou's land starts with two random facts.

The coincidences

The initial idea was to be a successful civil engineer. An accident that I had as a football player of Anagennisi Epanomis prevented me from attending private tutoring, to enter Polytechnic School. However, I entered Agricultural University and was involved in enology. The second crucial coincidence happened when I was working as a wine expert at Porto Karras. Back then, in 1974, when I was doing my internship, Porto Karras was collaborating with Univesity of Thessaloniki (auth) and Wine Institute with the guidance of Mss Kourakou. Viticulture's professor: Mr. Logothetis, in relation to an experimental work, was collecting old, Greek grape varieties, which he was founding at the Wine Institute and also at the arbors from multiple villages, as a wandering researcher. These arbors worked as a vehicle of salvation of viticulture throughout the time that Greece was under the Turkish thrall. 

Viticulture's rescue

Greece had many grape varieties, mostly grapes for wine. At the times of Turkish Empire, Greeks started to abandon viticulture because of the extreme taxpaying. Continuity of viticulture is owed to two events: to the exception of Agio Oros from taxpaying, where the grape variety of Limnio was saved and to the grapevines. Greeks had the idea of putting arbors in their yards, a habit that still lives on until today in villages. That way they could eat grapes, but also produce secretly, amateurish, wine without paying taxes. Thus, arbors were an alive, biologic cellar, saving many of our native grape varieties, like Malagouzia. 

Malagouzia's wine

Malagouzia's salvation happened literally from a switch. Professor Logothetis had achieved to find 2-3 last grapevines. Their origin might have been from Wine Institute. They were found there because of the agriculturist Kotinis, who had carried some plants from Naupactus, where together with Mesologi are the origins of Malagouzia. The grape variety was practically extinct. Last 3-4 grapevines were at Porto Karras. There I tasted Malagouzia's grape and found it pretty intriguing. Back then, in 1976, I took the decision to graft some plants, so we could make wine from them. Next year I produced the first wine, which was amazing. Moreover, Giannis Karras was really fascinated. It was so sweet to the taste that we named it ''Xelogiastra '' (=seductress) because it carried you away to drink it. We decided to develop the cultivation and made a significant expansion to Porto Karras. In 1981 I decided to reborn my family's vineyard in Epanomi. It was the grape variety that I made the first plantings and my first wines. Since 1988 we started to give to other winemakers, which resulted in the grape variety to become popular. Today Malagouzia is the number one grape variety cultivated in Greece. It represents the biggest exports of quality Greek wine and forms an important ambassador of Greek gastronomy abroad. 

Besides its commercial value, Malagouzia's history inspires us till today, to not give up when we face difficulties, but to transmute every unfortunate or not predictable circumstance to a chance for progress. It proves that we can give value to something ostensibly pointless or to a hopeless case and reborn ourselves along with it.

The story was developed in collaboration with the CHARACTERS  team

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