Since the mid-1990s a spirit of change has spread through Malta’s vineyards and wineries. Little did we know then that the first modern-styled bottles that rolled out would go on to foster today’s enthusiasm for Malta’s wines.
At the time of Malta’s accession to the EU in 2004, people still talked about discovering wines from far-flung countries, but the real excitement was happening here, right under their nose.
Some of our winemakers were busy overhauling their cellars and planting vineyards with a wide selection of international varieties never before grown here.
The first wines made from these new trellised grapevines proved to be some of the most individual, notable interpretations of Mediterranean wine. And, to the delight of many a wine enthusiast, they still are.
In 2000, for example, a new garnet-coloured wine by Delicata was released and it quickly became affectionately known as Medina ‘red’. It’s such as popular household term that few customers bother asking for it by the names of its varietals.
Yet, the label has mentioned the same three complementary grape varieties it’s made from in big block capitals for the last 19 years, namely Grenache, Syrah and Carignan.
The wine’s varietal make-up is rather characteristic for the wider region. One only needs to look across the sea to the Midi to understand its distinctive Mediterranean character.
In long stretches from Perpignan to Nice, the red wines of the appellations of the Languedoc-Roussillon, such as AOC Fitou, Corbières and Minervois, and the neighbouring areas of the Provence are tied to the same grape varieties. Grenache, Syrah and Carignan are prevalent but also lesser-known dark-skinned grapes like Cinsault and Mourvèdre are used.
I’m not aware of Cinsault plantings in Malta but locally there exist very small pockets of Mourvèdre (pronounced mohr-VED-dra). The vines thrive in our sunny and warm climatic conditions, provided they get plenty of precipitation, or irrigation rather, needed to produce intensely flavoured purple fruit that isn’t overly jammy or herbaceous.
The late-ripening Mourvèdre has sprawled from its strongholds in France and birthplace Spain, where it’s known as Monastrell. Nowadays it’s also found, more often in blends than on its own, in California and Washington State, the Australian regions of South Australia and New South Wales, as well as South Africa, where it’s regularly labelled as Mataro.
Those who’d like to see Maltese Mourvèdre put through its paces will be delighted with the latest vintage of Delicata’s Medina red.
The 2018 wine is, in fact, a unique blend of locally-grown Syrah and Carignan, which, for the first time ever, have been ballasted by a dash of Mourvèdre instead of Grenache.
The wine’s much-loved style hasn’t changed, though. It’s still a light-bodied, attractive unoaked red with heaps of kitchen cupboard aromas and black fruit so gentle and generous that it’s very difficult to persuade yourself to mature it for a while.
Whether you ask for it as just ‘red’ or by its new triad of grape names, you are sure to get one of our archipelago’s most individual and memorable wines.
Delicata’s Medina blend is one of the first wines made from grapes grown by the first cohort of newly trained local vignerons, a textbook case and an enduring example of the gradual and welcome resurgence of winegrowing in Malta.
Medina Syrah, Carignan, Mourvèdre still is that adroit assemblage made by a Maltese winemaker clever enough to pick matching varieties that have proven their worth in Mediterranean terroirs around us.
Georges Meekers is Delicata’s head of sales and an award-winning wine writer.
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