Amorgiano; Pariano; Vaftra; Koundoura Black; Mandilari: These are but a few of the names of the late-harvested red grape Mandilaria variety and serve as testimonials to the extent to which the variety has spread throughout Greece and the Greek isles in particular. As early as the time of Pausanias, Mandilaria has participated in the production of the renowned Ariousios wine from Chios. Today, it is also blended in a great number of reds, rosés, and dessert wines with a strong identity and personality. Nevertheless, Mandilaria monovarietals are quite rare.
The Mandilaria heartland is to be found in the Aegean Islands and in Crete. It is thus no coincidence that in those areas, the variety participates in the PDO Peza, Archanes, PDO Paros reds and is entirely responsible for the production of the PDO Rhodes red. On those islands’ wind-swept and sun-scorched vineyards, the goblet-pruned Mandilaria acquires extraordinary characteristics: It assumes a dark red color; aromas of vine-ripened fruit; fleshy aromas (e.g., of leather); and a medium body with unrestrained, hefty tannins. Toiling hard both at the vineyard and at the winery and by mixing it with other varieties (the white Monemvassia, in Paros and the soft red Kotsifali in Crete) many a wine grower of note have been trying to tame the overall untethered nature of Mandilaria. Still, leaving it in the bottle for a few years is the best way to find ourselves before a “European” wine whose taste travels you to the magnificent place of its origin.
Imposing in personality, the unique variety of Mandilaria invariably leaves on Greek wine its indelible stamp which, be it impressive or imperceptible, never fails to reveal the variety’s terroir identity. Given the variety’s multi-faceted character, daring wine lovers wishing to expand their palette of aromas and tastes, will find an excuse to fill their glasses with some Mandilaria.