“Mantonico”, the Mediterranean wine of the prophets


If you think to a wine believed to confer divinatory powers to whom drinks it, then this is that white nectar called “Mantonico“, a white wine coming from  a rare native vine of Calabria.

This is another story about Calabria and its cultural and enological richness: let’s discover the Mantonico, the wine of the prophets.


Its origins are still little known, but it is said that this grape also arrived with the landing of the first Greek colonists in the 7th century BC on the shores of Locride, or that has been domesticated earlier in the ancient Enotria.

Alcaeus of Mytilene: “Now we need to drink…or to suffer the pains

In all probability the name derives from the Greek μαντονικος (mantonikos), from μαντις-εος (mantis-eos), which means “fortune-teller“, “prophet“.

If one drinks it in abundance, can fall into that “state of elation” that in the ancient times generated the power of divination: in classical antiquity one realized communication between the human and the supernatural, through a spiritual contact with the divinity.
Ancient grapes have always characterized myths and legends of the wine world.

A golden grape

In Calabria, too, as happens with the Greco di Bianco, around Mantonico fascinating stories revolve that tell the oenological roots of the varied biodiversity of the region. This way, Matonico has become a very important autochthonous grape.

This variety is a “niche” for its rarity, but also an element of culture, which remained in history of southern Italy, as evidenced by the traces left by the Dionysian cults, by the orgiastic rites or by the Roman bacchanals.


For centuries this Calabrese white grape variety has been confused with Trebbiano and above all with Montonico Bianco which in Ampelographic Bulletins of 1875 is referred to as a permanent plantation in the province of Teramo.

Neither it should not be confused with the Montonico Pinto of the Ionian Calabria.

It is known by numerous synonyms, from Uva Regno to Ciapparone and Caprone, some of these similar to those used to define Montonico Bianco. There is also the red berry variety, but it is not very common.

The rare red acinus variety

The Mantonico has its ideal habitat in some areas of southern Calabria: its greatest spread is recorded along the Ionian coast, where it covers a total area of about 45 hectares, distributed mainly in the municipalities of Palizzi, Casignana, Locri (where in dialect it is called Mantonacu viru that is “true Mantonico”, to differentiate it from other similar varieties) and Monasterace, all in the province of Reggio Calabria, but also dates back to the Crotone, in the Valle del Neto and in the Marquisate.

These are hilly areas particularly suited to viticulture, with their calcareous-clayey soils and the Mediterranean climate mitigated by sea breezes.

In the past, sapling cultivation was preferred; today, spurred cordon cultivation was widespread; once the Mantonico was mainly intended for export as a table grape, especially towards Northern Europe.


The bunches are stocky and of medium size, while acinus are medium in size, ellipsoid, regular, with a sweet and acidulous taste at the same time, with a resistant and tannic peel of greenish yellow color, but which arrive at late maturation with a beautiful golden yellow. These characteristics have favored the use of the ancient technique of drying the grapes on racks before proceeding with the vinification, thus obtaining a sweet and concentrated nectar, as happens with the Greco di Bianco.

Thus was born another “meditation wine“, of a golden yellow with amber reflections, with intense notes of flowers, candied fruit (apricot, citrus), honey and dried fruit, delicious on the palate, fresh, savory and velvety.

Excellent at the end of a meal together with aged cheeses or dry pastry desserts, such as mostaccioli.

Vineyard on Ionian Coast

Another Calabrian enological pearl that has recently been revalued and enhanced not only in the passito version but also in the dry version.

If it is dry vinified (which happens in very few wineries), it produces a wine with a pale yellow color, but with fine and elegant floral hints, fruity citrus, peach.

Greco di Bianco, ancestral wine


Everyone tasted, once in a lifetime, at least, the liqueur wine, and sweet, which passes under the popular name of passito or malvasia wine.
Even Alexander the Great, a great drinker of raisin wine, seems to have also died from the effects of a solemn hangover (of raisin wine), during a last banquet with his generals in 323 B.C.; further, starting with his death begins the famous Hellenistic age and the historical connubbio between Greek and Roman culture.

It is as saying that passito opens a new era in human culture.

Perfect with cheese


The grape of passito wines are the so called Mediterranean Malvasias. These grapes are present in different countries and, there, each is always located many kilometers apart from the other. They are unique and rare, each with its own peculiarities. They have an enormous evocative power, and are linked to myths and legends that span a time span of over three thousand years of human history.

All the Mediterranean Malvasias accompany the marvelous voyage of the domestication of the vine from East to West, and the delicious nectar of Calabrian Greco di Bianco is almost certainly the greatest demonstration.

Echo of a glorious past


Some in-depth genetic research has classified our very ancient “Greco di Bianco”, a vine from which the homonymous wine is obtained, like a malvasia. This Calabrian grape was formerly considered as distinct cultivars from the Malvasias of the Lipari, of Sardinia (of Bosa and of Cagliari), the Greco di Bianco (or of Gerace), Malvasia di Sitges, Malvasia dubrovačka (Croatia), the candid white of Madeira (Portugal) and Tenerife (Canary Islands).

Instead, all the mentioned grapes have shown an “identical molecular profile”, they all come from Calabria!

According to prof. Attilio Scienza, University of Milan, it is not known from which specific Mediterranean region Malvasia grapes left, nor what was the chronology of their stages of diversification in the West, but as shown by some DNA sequences, it seems that this vine did not arrive in Spain from Greece, but from Magna Graecia and therefore perhaps from Calabria.

Vineyards descending towards the sea

The cultivation of these Mediterranean Malvasias is still today located near the sea, as in Calabria; this shows that their wines were for the compositional characteristics suitable for long journeys and the object of intense trade.


In the past there was a lot of confusion between the Malvasia wine and the Greek wines, very similar for the organoleptic characteristics of the wine, as evidenced by the synonymy of Malvasia with Greco di Bianco or Gerace, the only one among the group’s vine varieties in all likelihood, to Greek colonization. In Dalmatia and in Spain it arrived in the Middle Ages to emulate the Venetian malvasias.

A solution of the problem can be found in the history of the name “Malvasia”, as it follows.

According to some studies the name derives from “Monemvasia”, an old commercial port of Laconia, in the Peloponnese. The first written document of a Malvasia dates back to 1214, when the Archbishop of Ephesus Nicola Mesarites referred to a wine called “Monovasia” or “Monemvasios” together with the wines of Chios, Lesbos and Eubea. The Italianisation and diffusion of this term is linked to an active wine trade in the Middle Ages, especially by the Venetians, who began marketing the Vinum de Malvasias in 1278.

Malvasia, the grape, and a glass of liqueur

The name Malvasia referred to the sweet and aromatic wines of Greece (produced in the Peloponnese, in Rhodes, Crete and in the Ionian islands) and after the latter was conquered by the Ottoman Empire, new production centers were created along the sea routes of the Mediterranean. In Italy the first to speak about the various Malvasias was Andrea Bacci at the end of the sixteenth century: in his work he reports that Giulio Cesare Scaligero of Riva del Garda, a humanist cousin him, claimed that the etymology of Monobaticum wine derives from the Greek Monobasiten ( Μονοβασίτήν) term by which Athenaeum of Naucrati (3rd century AD) called a particular wine “the sole basis and foundation of the goodness of all wines”.

Drying the grapes on the reeds


The above mentioned hints of history and oenological science are enough to make clear what experience awaits the lucky drinker of this fantastic sweet and liqueur wine of Calabria, called “Greco di Bianco”.
We wish everyone to drink it in happy company (and at a temperature just below 18 degrees)!