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Mavrodafni (also spelled Mavrodaphne) is both a dark wine grape, which is indigenous to the Achaia region in Northern Peloponnese, Greece, and the sweet, fortified wine produced by it.

History

The principal producer of Mavrodafni wine is Achaia-Clauss, a winery founded by the Bavarian Gustav Clauss. Clauss came to Patras in 1854 as a black currant merchant. Enamoured by the physical beauty of the surrounding mountains, he bought a small plot and embarked on viticulture as a hobby. Soon he focused on a local varietal, Mavrodafni, which he started vinified using the solera method. Pleased with the results, he formed his wine company in 1861. At the same time, Clauss expanded the vineyard and built the winery, which is still used today.

The origin of the grape's name is unclear: it translates as Black Laurel, but legend has it that Clauss had fallen in love with a local girl named Daphne, and named his prime product after her.

Winemaking process

Mavrodafni is initially vinified in large vats exposed to the sun. Once the wine reaches a certain level of maturity, fermentation is stopped. Then the Mavrodafni distillate and the wine, still containing residual sugar, is tranferred to the underground cellars to complete its maturation. There it is "educated" by contact with older wine using the solera method of serial transfusions.

Once aged, the dark purplish brown wine is bottled and sold as a dessert wine under the Mavrodafni OPAP designation.

As a wine

Mavrodafni presents aromas and flavors of caramel, chocolate, coffee, raisins and plums, and is one of the few wines that can accompany chocolate-based desserts.

Batches of superior quality are bottled, less than once a decade on average, and sold as Mavrodafni Reserve. A certain quantity of these top "vintages" (a misnomer as solera wines do not have vintages as such) is retained by the winery and transferred to two room-sized, elaborately-carved 1882 casks named the George I and the Count Bismark (after two illustrious visitors to the winery that year). Wine from these casks is only bottled a few times a century, as Mavrodafni Grande Reserve. The majority of these Grande Reserve bottlings are bought by the Greek government, to be used in entertaining foreign dignitaries during state occasions.

The castle-like Achaia-Clauss winery is a popular tourist attraction, hosting about 200,000 visitors a year. Its guestbook includes celebrities such as Franz Liszt, Eugene O'Neill, Field Marshal Montgomery, Neil Armstrong, Margaret Thatcher, and Valéry Giscard d'Estaing.

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