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The red grape variety comes from Greece. Synonyms are Balsamina Nera, Deykaditiko, Lefkada, Lefkaditiko, Lefkas (Cyprus), Marzavi and Vartzami. There is the assumption that there is a common ancestor with the Italian variety Marzemino. Allegedly Vertzami was imported from Italy during the Venetian rule in the 14th century. However, genetic and historical evidence for this is missing. There is also a white variety called Vertzami Lefko (Asprovertzamo, Vertzami Aspro) which is hardly cultivated anymore. It is not known whether this is a colour mutation or whether a genetic link exists.

The medium to late-maturing, high-yielding vine is generally resistant to vine diseases, but susceptible to downy mildew. It produces dark-coloured red wines, rich in tannins, alcohol and acidity, with aromas of laurel, cinnamon and dark forest fruits. These are also used as colour-enhancing teinturiers (dyer's grape). The variety is mainly cultivated on the Ionian island of Lefkada (Lefkas). There are other populations in Crete, Peloponnese and central Greece. It is often blended with Cabernet Franc. The Greek cultivated area in 2010 was 239 hectares. In Cyprus it occupied 96 hectares under the name Lefkada.

Source: Wine Grapes / J. Robinson, J. Harding, J. Vouillamoz / Penguin Books Ltd. 2012

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