Tuesday, March 29, 2016

Evangelos Gerovassiliou (Ktima Gerovassiliou) fleshes out the history of the resurgence of Malagousia

On March 21st, I received an email titled "about Malagousia" from Evangelos Gerovassiliou, owner of Ktima Gerovassiliou, co-owner of Ktima Biblia Chora (along with Vassilis Tsaktsarlis), former oenologist at Domaine Porto Carras, and (as described by #Winelover Ted Lelekas in a recent Lavina Kharkwal article on Vangelis and his wines" "... one of Greece's most respected winemakers."

Vangelis Gerovassiliou (center) at Ktima Gerovassiliou

In the concluding paragraph of my recent post on the Malagousia story, I had raised questions as to whether Stavroula Kourakou-Dragona (the author of the source for my piece) had established the primacy of Evangelos in the resurgence of the variety and whether the variety was still flourishing when the first grapes went to Porto Carras from the Wine Institute. In his email, Evangelos indicated that he had read my piece but waited to respond until after he had done the appropriate background research which included conversations with Mr. Nikoloudis (agronomist and a member of the team at Porto Carras that "revived Malagousia") and Mr. Stavrakas (Professor of viticulture at Aristotle University of Thessaloniki), both of whom helped in the research that backed up this email. Vangelis expressed regret that, due to his passing, Vassilis Logothetis, Professor of Ampelography at the aforementioned University, and creator of an experimental vineyard at Domaine Porto Carras, could not be consulted for input.

In comparing Evangelos' missive and Kourakou-Dragona's article, they both agree on the fact that Malagousia was first mentioned in Rousopoulos Oenologics and expanded upon in Krimbas' three-volume Greek Ampelography written beginning in 1943. But from there, their stories diverge markedly. Kourakou-Dragona (her primary source is Charalambos Kotinis) tells of the Wine Institute wanting to include Malagousia in its collection and soliciting Kotinis who provided some cuttings which he had obtained from a grapegrower in Mesologgi named Pantelas Valandreas. And, according to Kourakou-Dragona, some of these same vines were sent on to Domaine Porto Carras.

Evangelos does not subscribe to this version of history. According to him, there were a few Malagousia vines at the School of Agricultural Sciences in Patras. Further, Logothetis had started an experimental vineyard at Porto Carras and was traveling around the country looking for rare and extinct varieties with which to seed the vineyard. One such rare variety that he had secured was Malagousia which he planted in the vineyard in 1969.

Kourakou-Dragona indicated that the first vinification of Malagousia occurred in 1974. Evangelos informs that after tasting the Malagousia grape in 1975, he decided to do the first micro-vinifications at Porto Carras and over the next 4 to 5 years the land devoted to the variety increased to 4 ha.

In 1980, his team sent some Malagousia rootstocks to the Institute of Vine and Wine in Likovrisi, Athens, where Mr Kotinis was employed at that time. Further, in 1982, the Institute asked for some Malagousia grapes and the Porto Carras team responded to that request by sending along two crates of the variety. Mr Kotinis published his book Atlas of Greek Ampelography in 1985.

In concluding, Evangelos said they had looked through the files of the Institute and could find no research on the Malagousia variety prior to 1982. (I read this to say that any research done at the Institute would have been based on the material supplied by Domaine Porto Carras.). Further, the team cannot be sure if Vassilis Logothetis got the initial samples from Mr. Kotinis or whether he found it on a pergola in Nafpatkos.

So the source of the initial Malagousia vines that today populate the North Greece vineyards remains shrouded in the mists of history. Not so the role of Evangelos and his team in the resurgence of the variety. I concur with Kourakou-Dragona in her statement as regards Malagousia where she crowns Gerovassiliou as the "one that placed the pump on her foot and named her Queen of the dance."

UPDATE (3/30/16): In a follow-up email, Evangelos indicated that, after reading the above post, he had a lengthy conversation with Mrs Kourakou and "after taking into consideration all the facts, we have concluded that it was most probably the Institute of Vine and Wine in Likovrisi, Athens that gave the root-stocks of Malagousia to Porto Carras in 1969."

This is beautiful and is the conclusion that I had arrived at overnight. It binds the stories together nicely, providing primacy to the relevant players in their respective spheres of influence.

©Wine -- Mise en abyme

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