While Mandilari originates from Crete, it has spread all over the Eastern Aegean Sea, in islands like Santorini, Paros and Rhodes. Interestingly, traditionally it has always been blended with various other local varieties. In Santorini, it played an essential role as a blending partner in the Vinsanto sweet wines.
It has intense tannins and very high acidity, and contrary to Kotsifali, it doesn’t reach high levels of alcohol. It is perhaps the most deeply coloured red of Greece. Therefore, it needs several years of ageing to achieve the perfect drinking state. Blending it with smoother, higher alcohol varieties creates wines that are approachable when young. When blended, it acts as the minor part of the blend. Mandilari is very late ripening, but planting it in cooler sites can preserve aromatic intensity. Even when grown in the warmest locations, alcohol levels rarely reach over 11%. It is very vigorous and productive, but high yields need to be managed as they can sometimes compromise tannin maturity. It is susceptible to downy mildew and grey rot.
In Crete, it acts as a blending partner with the other significant local red, Kotsifali. In Archanes PDO it provides the blend with bright acidity and savoury aromas due to the limestone-rich soils. Altitudes of up to 450 m (1,476 ft) aid in the slow ripening of the tannins. In Peza and Handakas Candia PDOs, vineyard elevation can reach 600 m (1,970 ft). Here wines are lighter than those found in Archanes, and sometimes rosé Mandilari is also produced.