Greek harbour town (also Malvasy, Monembasia, Monemvassia) with just under 5,000 inhabitants today. It lies on a rock off the coast of the province of Laconia on the south-eastern side of the Peloponnese peninsula. Because of its difficulty in being captured, it was known as the "Gibraltar of the East". It owes its name to its location, "moni embasia" means "only access". In an extremely eventful history, it was under the rule of Byzantium, the Franks, Byzantium again, the Ottomans, the Pope, Venice, then the Ottomans again, Venice again and finally the Turks, until it finally fell to Greece in 1821 in the Greek War of Liberation. In the late Middle Ages, especially under Venetian rule, the city was a famous trading centre for sweet wines from the Aegean, especially from the islands of Crete (Candia), Paros, Santorini (Thira) and Cyprus, which were shipped from here to many countries in Europe. This gave rise to the collective name Malvasia for the mostly sweet dessert wines made from various grape varieties that are often not even related. There is also an autochthonous Greek grape variety called Monemvasia.
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