No other wine was as famous during the Middle Ages and the Renaissance than Malvasia, whose history is perhaps the most interesting of all wines.
Malvasie was the name given by the Franks to the Byzantine town of Monemvasia and to its wine.
The vines were situated in the “land of the Dorians”, in the region of Epidaurus Limera, which was an ideal environment for the cultivation of vines.
The gentle coastal climate combined with the right kind of soil to create the perfect conditions for the unique qualities of this valued wine which local merchants shipped out of the port of Monemvasia up until the 13th century.
During the Byzantine period the economies of fortress towns such as Monemvasia were based on trade. After the 14th century these towns acquired considerable privileges and traded freely with all major commercial centres. Judging from records of commercial transactions of the time, the trade in Malvasia wine was enormous.
Monemvasiot merchants traded the local wine under the name of Monemvasio, Monemvasioti or Monemvasia, which was sold by the Venetians and Genoese under the name Malvasia.
The precedence of this wine in the markets of the East and West lasted five whole centuries, from the 13th century under the Byzantines in Monemvasia until the mid-17th century in Venetian-occupied Crete.
When the Turks captured Monemvasia the vineyards were destroyed and the wine no longer produced. However, local grape varieties have been preserved in various places, chiefly in the mountains, up until today (these varieties include the Thrapsa, Mavraki, Asprovaria, Kitrinovaria, Kidonitsa, Petroulianos, Monemvasia and Glykrithra).
The wine that achieved world fame for 300 years from the 12th century was a national export and is still produced in Italy, Spain, Portugal, Madeira, Croatia and California, has come full circle and now once more being produced in the land that bears its name.
Local wineries were part of an Industrial Research Development Programme which, together with the Faculties of Agriculture at Athens and Thessaloniki Universities, the Vitro company and the Ntional Foundation for Agricultural Research, recorded 14 grape varieties found in the region. Some of those probably were used to produce Malvasia.
Over 12 exciting years of studying the characteristics of these local varieties, setting up experimental vineyards and holding international scientific symposia on the Monemvasio-Malvasia wine, along with experiments with the Wine Institute, resulted in a sweet white wine from sun-dried grapes and a liqueur (again from sun-dried grapes). These wines, which have been awarded Protected Designation of Origin, were officially released on July 23, 2010, the anniversary of the liberation of Monemvasia.