Saturday, March 12, 2016

A "Hubble Telescope" dive into the Malagouzia story

In my recent post on the "Malagouzia story," I reached out to readers asking that if they had any additional material on the topic, I would be pleased to entertain it. Well, one intrepid reader came through for me. Not only did they find a source that allowed a deep and broad look into the history of the variety, the reader also translated the document from the original Greek. I am extremely grateful as this extensively sourced tale, including primary source data from individuals involved in the history of the grape, is truly enlightening.

The source of which I speak is an article titled "The Rebirth of Cinderella Malagouzia" appearing in the July 22, 2001 issue of the Greek newspaper Kathimerini and written by Stavroula Kourakou-Dragona, who was recently profiled in the online magazine Greece Is.

According to the writer, and based on the writings of Professor Vassos Krimbas, author of the Greep Ampelografia (Published between 1943 and 1949), Malagouzia was "localized" in the Mesologgi area of Western Greece "since the 1900s." Several years after the conclusion of WWII, the variety was still growing in the areas indicated on the map below.

The variety fell on hard times in its home range due to real estate development and the introduction of irrigated crops and was almost driven to extinction. When the noted agronomist, and area native, Charalambos Kotinis returned to the area in 1993 in search of the variety, he identified only a small number of vines around Mesologgi and some own-rooted vines in the Naupaktos area.

The resurgence of the variety was kickstarted by an initiative from the Institute of Wine in Lykovrysi, Attica. The Institute has a collection of vines and wanted to add Malagousia to said collection and asked Kotinis to secure same. The story from that starting point is detailed in the graphic below.

A few of things of note. Nowhere in her telling of the story does Ms. Kourakou-Dragona mention the Professor Logothetis of the Agricultural University of Thessaloniki referenced in the Jancis Robinson et al., Wine Grapes. Secondly, while Kotinis is mentioned throughout her article, and is clearly the person most responsible for the spread of Malagouzia throughout the country, she crowns Gerovassiliou as the "one that placed the pump on her foot and named her Queen of the dance." I do not feel that the article supports that conclusion. I am not saying that that is not a fact, only that the article does not clearly show that. Finally, while Gerovassiliou is widely credited with rescuing the variety from extinction, that is revisionist history. When the first vines were sent to the Wine Institute, and then on to Porto Carras, Malagousia was still flourishing in Mesologgi. We only know that it went nearly extinct in Mesologgi when Kotinis went to look for it in 1993. By that time we had flourishing colonies of Malagousia in Porto Carras and at Ktima Gerovassiliou. So Vangelis did not rescue this variety from oblivion. Rather, he showed that it could flourish outside of its home range and served as the launch pad for its wider deployment.

©Wine -- Mise en abyme

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