Mantinia PDO and Moschofilero

My odyssey in Greek wine continues, and I now feel I have the first glimmerings of understanding for the grape variety Moschofilero. At the very least I now have in my mind a crude caricature against which I can compare future experiences.

The area most closely associated with Moschofilero is the PDO of Mantinia, shown in bright red on the map. It lies in a mountainous region on the large Peloponnese peninsula, on a relatively flat plateau of over 600 meters above sea level. The low summer humidity of the region restricts the impact of many vine diseases, and its altitude confers light and crisp cool-climate characteristics to its wines. Mantania PDO wines must be predominately Moschofilero with up to 15% Asproudes, a generic term for local white varieties (aspro is Greek for white) normally grown and harvested together.

Moschofilero is a variety with a number of clones that are quite different in outward appearance if not flavour profile: they can have very different leaf shape, berry size and skin colour. Most vines bear grapes with red or pink skins, but they are vinified as white wines so the strongest colour you may see in the wine is a very faint pinkish tinge.

Help with pronunciation is given in the video. The name sounds as if it is related to Muscat, and although there is no close genetic link the aromatics of the two varieties are similar. But think more of a dry Muscat from Alsace that a heavy sticky one. Moschofilero is floral and grapey, and the ones from Mantinia are also typically light and fresh with good acidity – a bit lighter and sharper than an Alsace Muscat I would say. With those characteristics it stands in marked contrast to most other Greek white wines, which are heavier and more powerful: Assyrtiko and Malagousia varietals for example. Moschofilero has seen a lot of popularity in Greece, but little of that has spread to the UK where it is still  relatively difficult to source – compared with other important Greek grape varieties, that is. In the 1970s it was used to produce cheap Greek sparkling wine, and in the ’90s the variety become very fashionable within Greece. It is still regarded as a high quality grape, but perhaps in a more measured way. Use it as an aperitif, or to match any light and delicate food: salads or simply cooked fish.

I have only tried a few Moschofilero varietals, all from Mantinia, and bought recently from Maltby and Greek and The Daily Drinker. They were all sharp, light, delicate and floral as expected, and difficult to dislike if approached with an open mind, but they could easily be overwhelmed if eaten with the wrong food, and anyone expecting a rich oaky white wine experience would be very disappointed.

The one sparkling Mantinia I tried with some friends went down particularly nicely. This was Domaine Spiropoulos, Brut, Ode Panos 2013 – £18.30 from Maltby and Greek, so this was not one of the cheap sparklers from the 1970s. In terms of weight, sweetness and aromatics it lies about half way on the spectrum between Asti and Champagne. Sorry if that description is a bit crass. It does not really do the wine justice, but I hope it gives you some idea. On the face of it, it is light and fun, but there are also subtleties of flavour that raise it to another level. It gets a rating of ***** from me.

The other Mantinia I would like to highlight is Semeli, Mantinia, Nassiakos, 2009 – £11.50 from The Daily Drinker. I liked this too (****), though its age is the main reason for giving it a mention. I have not seen any comments on how well this variety ages, but I had imagined it to be a drink-youngest-available wine, and this one is now over five years old. It had lost some of the prettiness of younger Moschofilero but had, I thought, gained some complexity. In particular I thought, or imagined, it had acquired a very slight whiff of Riesling petrol. The wine may have been in decline (Who knows? Certainly not me), but it was certainly far from dead.

So there you have it – Moschofilero. Try it if you get a chance.

Author: Steve Slatcher

Wine enthusiast

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