Monembasia was a Byzantine fortress on a rocky promontory on the south of the Peloponnesus, it was linked to the mainland by only 1 road. Its name literally meant “only 1 way of entrance” from the Greek “monos” (mono, only one) plus “embasis” (basically, entrance.)
Venice besieged Monembasia in 1248. The Venetians took cuttings from the grape vines there and planted them in Crete. Over the centuries, the name in Crete was transformed: Monembasia > Monemvasia > Malfasia > Malvasia.
Modern DNA analysis has though, despite the history, cast doubt on how closely related Monembasia grapes grown in Greece are to present-day Malvasia grapes grown elsewhere in the Mediterranean.
There are two varieties of Malvasia Grapes, a red and a white, Malvasia Bianca and Malvasia Nera grapes. Both have relatively low yields by modern standards.
In Italy, the red variety is mostly grown in Piedmont and in Puglia. The white is used in make some white ports in Portugal, and is grown in California for use in sweet, fortified wines.
Malvasia Grapes were probably brought to the island of Salina (off the north coast of Sicily) by Greek colonists as early as 588 BC.
Called “Malmsely Grapes” in Madeira.