A unique, unpolluted environment, the absence of factories and a strong farming tradition have provided ideal conditions for the growth of organic farming and livestock breeding in Monemvasia.
Local organic producers of high quality products, cultivated with respect for environmental protection, include extra virgin olive oil, table olives, wine, citrus fruits, vegetables, honey, dairy products and poultry, in accordance with accreditation procedures established by the European Union.
Extra virgin olive oil
Olive oil is the main crop in the region covered by the Municipality of Monemvasia, and is closely linked with its history.
It is the main source of income for most farmers, with a total annual output amounting to some 8,000 tons, 99 percent of which is classified as extra virgin, the highest level of quality.
This is due to the climate, the cultivation methods used, the dozens of ultra-modern modern olive presses, but above all to the farmers’ own passion for their product.Most of the olive oil is produced in accordance with the principles of integrated management and a large number of olive groves are accredited as being organically farmed.The varieties of olives grown are mainly Koroneiki and Athinolia which product a fruity-flavored oil; the Koroneiki has a slightly more bitter and spicy aroma than the Athinolia. A blend of the two varieties is greatly sought after on the international market due to its balanced flavor and concentration of nutritional benefits.
The olive harvest begins in the first 10 days of October around Neapoli and continues until mid-March, mainly on the plain around Molai.
The entire process from harvesting to pressing is an interesting experience for visitors. The flavor of fresh olive oil on a slice of toasted bread is a gastronomic delight.
Bottled local olive oil and natural soap from virgin olive oil are available from stores selling traditional products, or can be bought directly from the producers or standardizing agents.
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.
Malvasia 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 centers. 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 Genovese 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 National 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 by Protected Designation of Origin, were officially released on July 23, 2010, the anniversary of the liberation of Monemvasia.
Within the wider municipality are a number of acclaimed wineries, in addition to the many farmers who make wine at home from their own grapes.
Local wine of all kinds is available at stores selling traditional goods, and directly from the producers.
‘’Have a good trip, and don’t forget to bring me back some amygdalota!’’ is what every traveller hears before leaving for Monemvasia, where the famous almond sweets are a specialty.
It is hard to resist the aromas wafting from confectioners’ stores, where recipes that have been handed down through the ages are made with ingredients chosen with the strictest of criteria, but above all the pride that confectioners’ take in their trade.
These delicately flavored almond sweets have travelled the world as faithful ambassadors of Monemvasia. Then there are the samousades, stuffed with walnuts, honey and almonds, the rafiolia, flogeres, melitinia and finally the diples, served at every joyful occasion in this part of the world.
Honey & by-products
A mild climate and wide variety of flora have encouraged the growth of a quality honey industry in the municipality of Monemvasia.
Three main types of honey are produced:
- Thyme honey: Harvested in July and August from the thyme-clad slopes of mountains from Zarakas in the north to Cape Maleas in the south. Valued for its attractive aroma and pleasant flavour.
- Heather honey: Honey made from the pollen of the heather those flowers in October and November. The most nutritious of all honeys, it is rich in trace elements, minerals and antioxidants, among others.
- Flower honey: Harvested and produced from the pollen of spring blossoms, including a wide variety of citrus blossoms on the plain of Asopos. Very nutritious due to the wide variety of nectar available at this time of year.
The municipality’s honey producers also offer other products such as pollen, propolis, beeswax and honey wine. These products are available from local stores.
Kalamata olives are the fruity crop of the tree Olea European var. ceraticarpa cultivated since the ancient years in the region of Monemvasia and all around the Southern Peloponnese peninsula. They have a distinct shape and taste.
Kalamata olives are hand-picked at peak ripeness from October to December when they reach a deep purple, brown-black color.
Curing in brine and wine vinegar gives Kalamata olives their typical robust sweet and sour slightly salty flavor bursting with Mediterranean aroma.
Essential in Greek salads and all kinds of salads, Kalamata olives are also perfect as appetizers raw or cooked in various dishes of the Mediterranean diet.