Malvasia Family History

Malvasia’s a confusing grape.  It’s all over the place. Malvasia in Lipari is a delectable dessert wine. Malvasia in Chianti was used to calm down the harshness of Sangiovese. It is the principal grape in Madeira, one type of which is called “Malmsey” which for years was a synonym for any wine made with Malvasia. It’s called Malvazia in Croatia, and Malvoisie in France. Usually its white. Sometimes its red…

I found an online introduction to an abstract about the genetic heritage of Malvasia that said:
(Of 49 distinct varieties determined) “Data analysis showed that the use of Malvasia or related names is not (genetically) justified for 29 varieties. Twenty other varieties could rightly be considered as Malvasia, particularly when no other name or synonym is known, even if this generic term may be a source of confusion.”

And while the summary of this abstract doesn’t name names, it’s obvious that a lot of what’s called Malvasia really isn’t Malvasia at all.

Let’s go back to the beginning…

Theoretically, Malvasia gets its name from a Greek town called Monemvasia, which was the site of a fortress under the Venetian empire, and known in Italy as Malvasia. The wine from this area gained a certain fame in the empire…

Theoretically, the grape variety’s family tree splits, with one half going west to Sicily, Madeira and Spain (where they call it Torrontes). The other branch sailed up the Adriatic to through Croatia, Istria and then Friuli and up through Eastern Europe. Somehow, as the variety made it’s way northward, the term “Istriana” got tacked onto the variety (probably to distinguish it from the various “imposters” floating around Italy already). Malvasia Istriana is one of the oldest grape varieties here in Friuli (along with Ribolla Gialla) and up to the turn of the century, was just as important a symbol of Friuli as Picolit.

As time went on, and French varieties became famous (and easily marketable), Malvasia Istriana became less prevalent, but there have always been those who had the passion (and the place) to continue making great Malvasia in Friuli.

Malvasia Istriana almost tastes a little salvaggio (wild, savage), with a unique play of strong character and delicacy. It’s medium-bodied, but seems rich. It’s waxy and peachy and flowery and mineral. It matches well with seafood, for its lithe fruit, but can stand up to roasted chicken with its minerally backbone. It may be the perfect match for sushi.

We are about to release our Malvasia into the market. It’s a blend of our fruit and some fruit from rented vineyards, half of the grapes are macerated for a day on the skins for structure and half are pressed in whole-bunches, champagne-style, to get to the heart of the grape’s flavor.

And now I have a question for you all…
Honestly (but GENTLY), tell me what you think of the label…
Malvasia Istriana07_200
Joe wanted a purple label. Funeral Purple he said. Good Friday purple.
I like it…
Rest assured, the stuff inside ROCKS, regardless of the label…


2 thoughts on “Malvasia Family History

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