As one of the oldest wine producing countries in the world, Greece has millenia of experience and expertise when it comes to viticulture, and has developed a set of flavors and characteristics which are found nowhere else on earth. The ancient Greeks revered and deified wine, and were the first true innovators in the history of wine, adding everything from seawater to honey and spices in order to find exciting new taste combinations and aromas. Today, Greek wines are just as varied, although far more refined and sophisticated than their ancient counterparts. The practice of enhancing Greek wines with aromatic substances never left the country, though, as can be seen in the popular Retsina wines, which use pine resin to provide their unique taste and aroma combinations. There is far more to Greek wine than merely Retsina, however, and the vast variety on offer is a testament to the expertise of Greek wineries making the most of the wonderful climate, terrain and grape varietals they work with.
In the Archaea region, high in the Northern Peloponnese mountains, the predominant grape varietal grown is the prized Mavrodaphne. Meaning 'Black Laurel', the Mavrodaphne grapes have extremely dark skins, and ripen slowly under the Greek sunshine, helped by the mineral rich soils the vines thrive in. This grape varietal is mostly used to produce the opaque, inky fortified wine of the same name, which is popular all over Greece and elsewhere in the world. This fortified wine allows the grapes to really show off their complex and fascinating flavors, which range from a rich marzipan to flavors of bitter chocolate, sweet coffee, dried figs and prunes, as well as plenty of jammy fruit notes.
Mavrodaphne is produced in a traditional method which involves leaving the grape juice exposed to the sun in large vats, before having its fermentation halted by the addition of various distillates taken from previous successful vintages. This mixture contains plenty of residual sugar, which gives the end result its characteristic sticky sweetness, and also helps with the next fermentation process, which typically takes place in large underground cellars. The final product is a heady drink, absolutely bursting with unusual, rich and sweet flavors and carried in a dark and slightly viscous Port-like liquid.
Mavrodaphne grapes are also used for the production of still red wines, but are generally blended with varietals such as Agiorgitiko or imported grapes like Cabernet Sauvignon. Mavrodaphne grapes are excellent for mellowing more acidic varieties, and producing deliciously rounded wines, which have taken the international market by storm in recent decades.