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A glass of Malvasia: a wine with the flavor of Venice and the Mediterranean

Updated: Jul 13, 2023

Malvasia is one of the oldest and most widespread wines of the Mediterranean, but also one of the most complex. It includes several varieties, white or red berry, from which we get dry or sweet, still or sparkling wines with different aromas and flavors.

How many mouths has it quenched in over seven centuries of life, on how many tables has it been a welcome guest?

How much has it influenced and shaped the food and wine culture and economic prosperity of the plaes where it has become the centerpiece of trade, banquets and anthropic landscapes?

It all began in Monemvasia, a fortified port on the Peloponnese in Greece, where Venetians first tasted this sweet, aromatic wine in the 13th century. Ships loaded with wine sailed from here to Europe. The wine came mainly from the island of Crete, where Malvasia di Candia, nowdays the most widespread variety in Italy, was grown.

Greek Malvasia was a sweet wine, made by techniques of must concentration or the addition of resin. Perhaps distant from contemporary tastes, like most of the wines we drink today, but highly prized in the Middle Ages for its medicinal properties and pleasant flavor. It was a favorite of nobles and popes.

Malvasia became a mark of quality for Venice to export, a symbol of pride. It was used to refer to different types of sweet wine from the eastern Mediterranean, and it was in Venice that taverns specializing in the sale of this wine, called "malvasie," sprang up. For those who have had a chance to walk through the streets of Venice, how many "Calle de la Malvasia" are there?

In Italy it adapted to different soils and climates, giving rise to new varieties. Some were perhaps indigenous and without genetic ties to the Greek Malvasia, as the great mystery of Nature and the skill of human beings to understand its potential and unleash its qualities. Among the best known are Malvasia delle Lipari in Sicily, Malvasia di Bosa in Sardinia, Malvasia Istriana in Friuli Venezia Giulia, Malvasia Nera in Puglia and Basilicata, Malvasia Aromatica di Parma and Malvasia del Lazio.

Among the most suitable areas for Malvasia production in Italy are the Colli Piacentini, where Malvasia di Candia Aromatica is grown. This is a variety that has retained the aromatic characteristics of Greek malvasia, but has developed more acidity and less sweetness. The resulting wine is a sparkling wine, straw yellow in color, with a bouquet of white flowers and citrus fruits, and a dry, lively flavor.

But other areas of the Mediterranean, such as Spain, Portugal, Croatia, Slovenia and the Canary Islands also had the opportunity to see this vine spread and produce wines that are different but offspring of this extraordinary journey that began in the Peloponnesus. Today, all these wine treasures are protected by appellations but even more importantly protected and guarded by winemakers who also entrust their lives to the fruit of malvasia and open the doors of their realities becoming a place of hospitality, welcome and spread of beauty, goodness and knowledge.

Today malvasia is a wine that offers a wide variety of styles and expressions. It can be found both as a single-varietal wine and as part of blends with other local grapes. It can be drunk both as a dessert wine and as a meal or aperitif wine.

Malvasia is thus a wine that tells an ancient and fascinating story, but can also be modern and versatile. It is a wine that deserves to be known and appreciated for its richness and diversity. It is a wine that knows how to give emotions and surprises to those who drink it. It is a wine that knows how to be a bridge between cultures and regions of the Mediterranean.

We are talking about a wine that is known all over the world, produced even in lands as far from its origins as California and therefore appreciated in lands that when the Venetians landed in Peloponnese could not even dream of.

Have you never wondered looking at a bottle and pouring yourself a glass of wine what the whole story behind it was?

Visiting the places where a wine is produced is a journey within a journey. A total immersion in the history and culture of a place, the only way to truly understand what we pour into our glass, wherever we are in the world.

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