The famous Robolla wine is native to Kefalonia and recent archaeological excavations have shown that grape cultivation was known in Greece as far back as Neolithic times, and that early Greek colonisation throughout the Mediterranean laid the foundations for subsequent developments in viticulture. Through the ages, the various conquerors of Kefalonia learned to appreciate Robola and they imposed exorbitant taxes on its export.
Today, with an annual production of 500 tonnes, Robola is exported throughout the wold, particularly to countries in Europe and America. Robola of Kefalonia is considered to be the major eponymous export product of Kefalonia with shoes history and culture it is inextricably linked.
The Robola zone almost touches the edges of the fir forest of the Mount Ainos National Park. The cultivation of Robola here is one of the greatest achievements of Kefalonian agriculture as the vines literally emerge from among the stones.
It is not insignificant that the Greek legislator, seeking to protect this product of exceptional quality within its specific zone, included the grape variety in the name of the geographic appellation, a case unique in Greece. Thus the actual name of the appellation is Robola of Kefalonia VQPRD. In this way, Robola cannot be anything but Kefalonian, even if the actual varietal is used in other parts of Greece to improve local blends.
Vineyards can be found throughout the island of Kefalonia with the most significant ones in the Omala Valley in the centre of the island which contains the Robola appellation zone, the Paliki peninsula and in the south of the island. The individual vineyards are small with low yields. Most of the grapes grown on the island are for winemaking with the rest going for currants. Around 90% of the grapes grown here are white varietals with a small quantity of red grapes attracting interest because of their superior quality.
Robola is one of the three finest Greek white cultivars. The vine, with its slightly blond grape and its round, thin-skinned berry is well adapted to the difficult stony soils of the Kefalonia highlands. It is this soil that gives the potential for wines of exceptional quality, which are characterised by delicate citrus and mineral aromas, balanced acidity and medium body with a long aftertaste. Robola has been granted an Appellation of Superior Quality only when grown on Kefalonia as it is also grown to a lesser extent on other Ionian islands where it is mostly used to improve blends. The vine thrives on poor limestone and gravely soils and grows best at mid to high alttiitudes. Flowering begins at the end of March and peak ripeness is reached from mid-August to mid-September.
White Muscat which has been granted a Vin de Liqueur appellation, has long been cultivated on Kefalonia. The Venetians prized this wine so highly that they imposed a special monopoly on its export so that it could always be available for the Venetian dinner table. It is grown on lime-rich clay soil which is mostly found in the south of the Paliki peninsula. It flowers in March and the grapes ripen by the end of September. White Muscat produces sweet wines of exceptional quality.
Mavrodaphne, which has also been granted a Vin de Liqueur appellation, is a productive, drought resistant red variety which was first cultivated on Kefalonia but can now be found on other Ionian islands and on the Greek mainland. The Mavrodaphe of Kefalonia has traditionally been vinefied as a dark red, rich dry wine, which develops best when aged in oak casks.
The white wine Vostilidi adapts to many soil types and has traditionally been made as village wine but recently some wineries have begun to vinify this grape with modern methods producing interesting wines of high quality.
The white Tsaoussi produces good yields and blends well with other varieties such as Robola, producing fresh wines of medium acidity.
Since the 15th century the Zakynthinio variety has been cultivated on Kefalonia where it enjoys high atmospheric humidity, producing wines of medium alcohol and good acidity.
KEFALONIA'S APPELLATIONS OF ORIGIN
The only Ionian island to have been granted 'Appellation of Origin' for its wines, Kefalonia boasts three:
Robola of Kefalonia
Muscat of Kefalonia
Mavrodaphne of Kefalonia
The Robola zone covers a high-altitutude, limestone area in the centre of the island in the are of the village of Omala and the Monastery of Saint Gerassimos. The Muscat and Mavroaphne zones are both located on the Paliki peninsula with a small amount of Mavrodaphne grown in other areas of Kefalonia. The main difference in the appellation zones is that whereas Robola is almost exclusively grown at high altitudes, Muscat of Kefalonia and Mavrodaphne can also be found quite close to sea level.
There are also three zones for regional wines - Vins de Pays. These are the Slopes of Ainos (Plaghies Ainou) in the Omala Valley (white and red), Metaxaton in Livatho (red) and Mantzavinaton on the Paliki peninsula (white, rose and red). These zones produce high quality wines of differing varieties.
To help chose your wine, here are the characteristics of the Kefalonian wines.
Robola of Kefalonia - VQPRD has a pale gren colour and golden hue. Robola's characteristic bouquet is that of citrus blossoms, peaches, citron and apple. In the mouth, Robola has good balance with mineral notes and excellentlength. Robola is a fresh wine that should be drunk young (within two years of harvest).
Mavrodaphne of Kefalonia is a dry red wine (the traditional style) distinguished by its deep red colour and ripe cherry and wild berry flavours. The wine has god tannins, is full-bodied with a long aftertaste and ages well. It may be vinified as a sweet dessert wine.
Muscat of Kefalonia. The appellation zone covers certain communities on the Paliki peninsula but this variety is not widely cultivated. The grapes are sun-dried and the bouquet of the wine has varietal characteristics.
In the Muscats du Monde recent competition Foivos Stalactite Muscat came within the Top Ten voted from a selection of 210 wine samples from 23 countries. See the results onwww.muscats-du-monde.com
Vostilidi was an intrinsic part of the daily diet, drunk to forify the farmers in their heavy manual labour. Today the wine is robust and tannic, with strong flavours and a golden to orange hue. It characteristically has a bouquet of dried fruit and is full-bodied with medium acidity and a long aftertaste.
Zakynthino is a grap which produces a robust wine with a bright yellow-green colour, a bouquet of fruit and flowers, fresh acidity and a long, citrusy aftertaste. Experimental vinifications in oak have produced excellent results.
Tsaoussi is a mixed-use variety also consumed as a table grape. It is aromatic, with melon and honey flavours and is exceptional when blended with varietals such as Robola whih have higher levels of acidity.
Moschatella is a table grape dried in the same way as currants. When vinified, it gives light-bodied, delicately aromatic wines. Due to its pariular aromas, this grape has traditionally been vinified as part of a blend with varieties such as Tsaoussi and Vostilidi.