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Thursday, October 24, 2013

Modern Mavrodaphne - its not all sweet

Mavrodaphne is a red grape variety that is commonly grown in the northern Peloponnese around the area of Achaia and is seen as far west as the mountainous island of Cephalonia.  While most Mavrodaphne imported into the US is of the sweet, fortified persuasion, there are two producers in our portfolio currently working with the variety to produce dry red wines - Mercouri Estate and Gentilini

Mercouri Estate


The Mercouri Estate has been cultivating and using Mavrodaphne for decades in its Estate & Cava Red.  For me, Mavrodaphne in the Estate's blends gives aromatics of violets, or "purple" notes, as the wine develops.  It's pretty cool to see how these wines age and how their varietal characters develop.

Just a few years ago, the Estate released a single varietal Mavrodaphne, Daphne Nera.   This is 100% Mavrodaphne that is funky, earthy, spicy and moderately tannic.  It needs time to breathe and pairs well with fattier cuts of meat.  Since it's a relatively small production, we typically import about 50 cases a year of this wine.  As a small side note, the faces you see on the label are the current owner's mother, sister and brother.  The picture is from the 1920s or 30s and really captures the beauty and charm of the winery and its surroundings.

The Gentilini Winery is located on the island of Cephalonia, in the Ionian Sea.  It is a large and beautiful island that was under the Venetian rule until the mid 1800s.  In 2002, Marianna Kosmetatos & her husband Petros Markantonatos, assumed control from her father.  In the past 10+ years, the couple have succeeded in creating food friendly, modern wines from local varieties.  While the white grape Robola is the most famous on the island, there is a small appellation zone for dry Mavrodaphne.  It is from this high elevation zone that the grapes are harvested and used to produce Gentilini Eclipse. Eclipse got its name from the lunar eclipse that occurred during the harvest for the grapes that would make the first vintage of this wine.  Eclipse is dark and inky black in color with aromas of spice, wild berry and anise.  Like the Daphne Nera, Eclipse is best drunk with fattier meats & cheeses.
While dry expressions of Mavrodaphne are not going to become a staple Greek variety produced by dozens of wineries, it is a grape variety that is worth seeking out.  They offer you something different than Agiorgitiko These wines retail on shelves anywhere from $27 - $55 for the Mercouri Cava Red.  If you are lucky enough to find a bottle on a shelf or a wine list, try it!

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