by Markus Stolz

Mavrotragano

byMarkus Stolz
October 8, 2009, 9 Comments

Part of a series of videos to bring 100 different Greek grape varieties to you.

Fact File Mavrotragano

MavrotraganoArea grown: Santorini

History: Eighty years ago, Mavrotragano was commonly grown throughout the island. Traditionally, it was used in the production of sweet wines. Over the following seventy years, these plantings were pulled out little by little to make room for hotel development. In addition, Mavrotragano vineyards were replanted with Assyrtiko, which produced a better revenue-stream for growers. By 2000, it covered less than 2% of Santorinis’ vineyards. The variety was close to extinction.

Until 1995, no professional winemaker had ever produced a dry wine from Mavrotragano grapes. In this year, Haridimos Hatzidakis decided to experiment with a dry version while working at the Boutari estate. Shortly afterwards he set up his own winery and in 1999 the first ever bottled Mavrotragano from the 1997 vintage was released to the market. Without any knowledge of Hatzidakis’ work, in 1998 Paris Sigalas also produced a dry version of Mavrotragano. He was intrigued by the results. The production accounted to just 400 bottles. Both growers added to their vineyards and planted the variety in 2000. Soon other growers followed suit, and by today the Mavrotragano wines have reached a cult status in Greece. It is without any doubt that the efforts of Hatzidakis and Sigalas have saved this great variety.

Grapes: Small grapes of bright red to black colour and thick skins. A low yielding variety that matures quickly by the end of August.

Nose/bouquet: Red and black fruits, spices, minerals, rich and gentle tannins. Comparable to Nebbiolo is style.

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About Markus Stolz

Over the last years, I have come to really appreciate Greek wines. There are many grape varieties that exist only in Greece and I have the good fortune of being able to try them all. I wish to share my enthusiasm with wine lovers around the world, who often limit themselves to maybe four red and four white grape varieties for most of their life.

  1. Kostas KatsoulierisOctober 14, 2009, 12:40 am

    I will definitely seek some of this wine out as it looks very interesting. I love the fact that old (and almost forgotten) varieties are being brought back to life (prime example being Malagouzia) as well as the fact that varieties previously thought of as only being fit for sweet wines are being made in a dry style. I am a big fan of dry Mavrodaphne whether as a single varietal (eg Taos & Morfeas) or as part of a blend (Mercouri & Mega Spileo). Keep up the great work!

  2. elloinosOctober 14, 2009, 7:44 am

    I could not agree more with you, it is amazing to see wines being made today again from almost forgotten varieties. Greek wines offer an abundance of different flavour profiles, it is nearly impossible to become bored with them. I also like the dry Mavrodaphne wines very much, the Taos is very elegant indeed and needs to sit for a few hours in a decanter. Amazing aromas :)

  3. WineWonketteJuly 15, 2010, 5:27 pm

    We just returned from Santorini where we visited many of its wineries. When we asked about Mavrotragano (we especially liked that of Hatzidakis) we were told that due to the low yield, there aren’t many of these distributed outside Greece. Are any of the reds distributed in the U.S.? And if so, we do we find them?

  4. elloinosJuly 15, 2010, 5:39 pm

    I am so glad you enjoyed this wine – the US importer of Hatzidakis is Trireme Imports http://www.tririmeimports.com, phone 704-875-1973. They do list the Mavrotragano on their website, maybe you could contact them directly to see where they have distribution?

  5. David WisemanSeptember 4, 2010, 4:37 pm

    Markus,
    I was amazed by the detail of your Greek wine knowledge and very encouraged that you are promoting what is undoutedly a hidden gem of the wine industry. As a member of the Wine Society, here in the UK, I have attempted, in vain, to see a wider appreciation of Greek wine. We spend a lot of time in Crete and have noticed how the quality of the wine has improved year after year, driven on by young wine makers like Bart Lyrarakis, who has been behind the re-introduction of some of Crete’s ancient indigenous varieties such as Dafni. My wife and I are both lovers of the Nebbiolo grape and I can’t wait to track down a bottle or two of Mavrotragano, from Hatzidakis, when we are in Chania later this month. Your blog is a breath of fresh air and let us hope is picked up by other like minded Greeks who should be prouldy promoting a great export for their country.

  6. elloinosSeptember 4, 2010, 5:12 pm

    David, thank you very much for your very kind words, truly appreciated. I could not agree more with you that Greek wines are indeed a hidden gem of the wine industry. I have also been a long-standing member of the Wine Society (since the early 90′s), as I lived for more than a decade in London. Last year I went to see Jo Locke, MW, and tasted a selection of Greek wines with her. Although she was taken by the quality, she did not see enough customer demand to take them on. I am in contact with some merchants in the UK and would love to gain a foothold into this so important wine market. I also appreciate your comments in regards to Lyrarakis, funnily enough I have just been in contact with him a couple of days ago in order to feature some of his wines in the 100 Grape Varieties from Greece series. BTW, Hatzidakis is from Crete himself, but his winery is in Santorini. Do visit the Manousakis winery when you are in Chania, they do great work with the Rhone varietals. Thank you very much for getting in touch via my blog!

  7. Yiannis PapadakisJanuary 5, 2011, 4:13 pm

    One more, relatively unknown detail. Tuscan wine magician Luca D’ Attoma (a renowned oenologist and wine consultant, creator of modern legends such as Tua Rita Redigaffi), during a trip to Greece, and after tasting a large number of Greek wines, picked as his favorite the Domaine Sigalas Mavrotragano 2007, for which he said that it is “one of the best wines he has tasted over the last years”! Bare in mind that Luca is a very demanding taster, and this was proven by the fact that his comments were negative on most wines he tasted in Greece, including some of the most highly appreciated and fashionable in the country.
    Having tried all 4 available mavrotraganos (Sigalas, Argyros, Santo and Hadjidakis), I can say that Sigalas is totally different than the other 3, more modern in style, more opulent, voluptuous and fruit-driven, quite oaked and less close to a Barolo or Barbaresco than the rest. Whether you prefer it to the more traditional style of the rest, is a matter of taste, but for sure it will appeal to more people.

  8. elloinosJanuary 5, 2011, 4:22 pm

    Yianni, thank you very much indeed for the very interesting additional information. I have also tasted the Sigalas Mavrotragano a few weeks ago and was stunned by how different it was. I agree fully with your description, opulent and fruit driven!

  9. KaJuly 9, 2011, 6:57 pm

    n have just opened a Hatzidakis Mavrotragano 2003 purchased from a good wine shop at Lakkas, Paxos Island. It is very much a Barolo in colour (pale and bricky), the perfume is rose petals (no tar here) and more perfumed and chalky. No farm yard secondary aromas. The tannins are still strong and chewy. I have decanted it x 3 ready for a fillet steak later.

    Fantastic that some producers keep these rare varieties going and I wish the wine press would pay more attention to their work and product.