The grape vine’s presence in the land of Messinia is an old one. It began 3,000 years ago and is still going strong. In citing the province of Pylia, Homer remarks that it “abounds in vineyards”. As for Pausanias, he stresses that when Dionysus first tasted the wine crafted in Messinia he exclaimed “Evoi!” which, loosely translated, means “cheers”. At this point, we need to go back 115 years to the area of Yalova, a location the locals rightfully call “Messinia’s great mother of vineyards” since it was the hub of Greece’s leading wineries. In those days, traveling by road was hazardous since most of the existing road network was in a condition of disrepair. As a result, transporting the raisins and wines the prefecture of Messinia produced was a next-to-impossible and hard-to-afford task. It made good sense to concentrate production in the area of Yalova since the sheltered bays of Navarino and Molos nearby, along with the sea routes that started there, offered safe transport of the area’s winemaking products. As the vineyards of Messinia had always played a decisive role in the cultivation of varieties that yielded raisins and wine, it was only a matter of time before it became a winegrowing and winemaking hub where the rest of the Peloponnese and Greece turned to when it came to domestic consumption of table grapes and exports to Europe. Exports grew and became even more profitable after the European vineyards suffered from the onslaught of phylloxera. In fact, during the 19th century, raisins became the main export of Greece. The main product deriving from Corinthian currants was raisin wine, which had a high alcoholic content, was of a somewhat inferior quality, and was affordably priced. One of the most historical moments of the Messinia vineyard was the Currant Revolt of 1935. With an unfair legislation at the time that loomed over currant producers separating them into those who produced low quality currants and those who produced high quality ones, producers revolted in an effort to keep Corinthian currant production and trade sustainable. However, that revolt had rather dismal results for the area’s currant producers. In 1954, 800 Messinia winegrowers joined forces and established the “Nestor Agricultural & Winemaking Cooperative”. Its role was to gather, standardize, and sell the grape production yielded throughout Messinia. A few decades later, in 1980, taking advantage of a funding program, winegrowers decided to enrich the local vineyards with international varieties, bringing Cabernet Sauvignon and Chardonnay to Greece. They also began cultivating varieties such as Grenache Rouge, Grenache Blanc, Cabernet Frame, Merlot, and Tempranillo. In its cooperative form, the vineyard of Messinia showcased local varieties such as Fileri and Messinia Roditis. Today, apart from the local PGI Messinia wine (Messinia’s local wine), PGI wines include PGI Trifylia (Trifylia’s local wine), and PGI Pylia (Pylia’s local wine).
The native varieties under cultivation in the area are Fileri, Moschofilero, Roditis, Fokiano, and Mandilaria. As to the international varieties, those are Cabernet Sauvignon, Chardonnay, Grenache rouge, Grenache Blanc, Cabernet Frame, Merlot, and Tempranillo. Out of those, Cabernet Sauvignon is by far the predominant one.
Fileri is Moschofilero’s modestly aromatic clone. It is cultivated in southern Peloponnese but its main winegrowing hub is the area of Mantinia. Its berries have a reddish hue, yet the wine it yields when vinified is white. It has a rich, balanced taste, and a sweet finish.
Ugni Blanc is a white grape variety of Italian origin. Although it is a standard cultivation in Italy, it is far more commonly grown in France and, to a lesser degree, in Australia, California (U.S.), and Argentina. In Greece, Ugni Blanc yields fruity wines of high acidity with notes of citrus, such as lemon and quince.
Fokiano is native to the island of Ikaria and is said to have been the variety which had once yielded "Pramnios oenos", a dry red wine cited by Homer. Today, it is grown in mainland Greece and the Peloponnese and mainly on the islands of the Aegean Sea. It yields red wines as well as sweet ones.
Tempranillo, a black grape variety, is mainly cultivated in Spain where it is the dominant grape in Rioja, Spain’s most celebrated wine region. The wines it yields are an alluring ruby red color with which it generously gifts every blend it participates in. On the nose, it releases aromas of dark-fleshed fruits such as wild berries and plums. As it ages, it becomes redolent with tobacco, vanilla, and leather.
Hailing from Bordeaux, France, it is cultivated in most vineyards in both northern and southern Greece. It yields wines that are a profound red, almost blue-black, color. It is known for its high aromatic intensity where dark, red fruit celebs such as black cherry, forest berries, and luscious plums hold sway. With a rich fruity flavor with soft tannins whose harmonious balance on the tightrope of fruit does not go unnoticed, Merlot gives wines that richly deserve to be aged in a French oak barrique.
Grenache Rouge (Red Grenache) is a Spanish variety and the world’s most widely planted red grape one. In Greece, you will find it cultivated in Thrace, the Peloponnese, mainland Greece, and Macedonia (northern Greece), areas where its acreage yields are impressive. It goes towards a dizzying range of wines from full-bodied reds to fresh rosés. Vibrant in color and of medium acidity, it brims with the aromas of fresh fruits. In the mouth, it unfolds a medium body and soft tannins.
Chardonnay is a wildly popular grape variety whose green-skinned berries yield white wines. It is a major component of sparkling wines, including champagne, everyone’s favorite. Its origins can be traced to Burgundy, France, but it is grown everywhere and anywhere wine is produced around the world. It yields exquisite wines brimming with exotic flavors and aromas.
Cabernet Sauvignon is the world’s instantly recognized red grape variety. It bestows on wines attractively dark red hues and intense aromas of red fruit such as gooseberries. If left to age, Cabernet Sauvignon becomes the proud owner of clear-cut aromas of spices and chocolate. Fresh or aged, it has a mouthfeel that irresistibly draws all red wine lovers. Its robust body and rich tannins are surpassed only by its lingering aftertaste.