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The Malvasia Grape

The Malvasia grape variety has historically only grown in the Mediterranean region, the Balearic Islands, the Canary Islands and the island of Madeira, but is now tended to in many other wine-making regions of the world as well, such as Italy, Slovenia, Croatia, Corsica, the Iberian Peninsula, California, Arizona, Australia and Brazil. In the past, Malvasia wine was predominantly consumed as a sweet dessert wine similar to Malmsey wine from Madeira. The white Malvasia grape is more common but, a red Malvasia grape also exists.

In the old days, wine generally only had about 7 per cent of alcohol. It was then quite difficult to sufficiently cool the wine and as a consequence, much of the wine turned sour and could not be stored for any length of time. In contrast, the Malvasia wine even at that time had an alcohol content of about 14 per cent, making it considerably easier to store. Its low degree of acidity was regarded as delicious. Soon, the sweet Malvasia dessert wine was very popular at the European courts.

Here in Mallorca, the Malvasia vine was only rediscovered in the 1980s. The Malvasia grape only grows in the Tramuntana area, in Estellencs, Banyalbufar, Deià and Pollença, with Banyalbufar being the main producer. Of all the wine grown in this municipality, Malvasia is the only grape variety there. During the 16th century, a total of 25,000 litres of Malvasia dessert wine were produced by the Cooperativa de Banyalbufar alone, with most of that astounding amount being sent to the Court of Aragón. You might want to go to Banyalbufar one day; all vines are cultivated on terraces there, first built by the Moors some 1,000 years ago.

The consumption of dessert wines has decreased enormously in recent years. Mallorcan Malvasia grapes are now primarily used to produce white table wines. There is a young white wine from 2010 with a deliciously fruity aroma, selling at around 15 € and a slightly older, oak-barrel stored white wine with a heavier, round body selling for around 25 €. The first would be drunk to accompany a meal, whereas the latter would stand up as a wine drunk on its own, full of character. Mallorcan Malvasia dessert wine sells in half-litre bottles at around 12 €.

The photos were taken in Banyalbufar, Mallorca, Baleares, Spain. The date: May 18th, 2012. The time was 16:33:40 and 18:25:38, respectively.

3 replies »

  1. Pingback: The Malvasia Grape
  2. Probably of Greek origin, the Malvasia is a very old family of grapes found throughout the Mediterranean. Known as Malvoisie in France, Malmsey on the island of Madeira and by numerous names in Italy, Malvasia is most likely named after the Greek port city of Monemvasia. Generally associated with white wines of considerable color and sweetness and also with the production of dessert wines. Malvasia is one of the four styles of Madeira. It is also part of the Italian sweet wine Vin Santo, in which the grapes are dried before pressing. There are also many dry styles found throughout Italy. Malvasia Nera is used for making red wines, usually blended with Negromaro in southern Italy. There are very few wines made solely from Malvasia, but the best come from Piedmont and are known as Malvasia di Casozo and Castelnuovo Don Bosco. Malvasia can also be found in Spain (Ribera del Duero), France, Greece, Australia and the U.S.

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