Description 1 of 2
Name of varietal: Malvasia
Common synonyms: Malvoisie, Malmsey, Malvasia Istriana, Malvazia, Monemvasia
Parentage of the grape: thought to be indigenous to Greece
History of the grape: Malvasia is one of those rabbit-like vines that likes to procreate, often spontaneously. For this reason, there are dozens of clones and subspecies derived from the original, and it comes in both red and the much more common white. It is believed to have originated in Greece as Monemvasia, and was brought to Italy by the Romans, from where it spread most notably to Spain, France, Portugal and Croatia.
In most places in Europe, it has an often unbilled role in blends and bulk wines, though some more sophisticated productions exist and are worth looking out for. In Italy, it is vinified in the north as a single varietal in dry white wines as Malvasia Istriana. It is also one of the grapes used in Vin Santo fortified wine.
The British started calling the grape “Malmsey” when they established their longstanding relationship with Portuguese viticulture. It is one of the main wines in Madeira, the famous “cooked” fortified wine from the island, which has been produced in some form as far back as the 15th century. It used to be stored in ship ballasts and warmed on purpose during the journey back and forth to the Americas until someone figured out how to process it more elegantly in a stationary cask later on. It was supposedly the foil for the Duke of Clarence, Brother of Edward VI, who died drowning “in a butt of Malmsey wine.” And there are references to it in many of Shakespeare’s plays. For more information, please see: Madeira
Madeira was imported to the American colonies, and is said to have been the wine used to toast the Declaration of Independence. But the vines also made their way to the New World for planting, where it is often a blending grape in jug wines in both the US and Australia. More recently, vintners are appreciating its aromatic qualities and releasing it in more distinguished bottlings.
Characteristics of the grape: the white species is medium-bodied, aromatic, white peaches, white flowers, white pepper, fresh thyme. As fortified wine, it takes on more nutty, toffee-like properties, with flavors of dried and fresh dates, figs, apricots, almonds and burnt sugar, with a mineral backbone.
Regions where the grape is currently important: Portugal (and most especially Madeira), Italy, Spain, Croatia, Slovenia, Corsica, California, Australia and Brazil.
Type or types of wines the grape produces: dry white, sweet late harvest dessert, fortified (Madeira, Vin Santo)
Description 2 of 2
Malvasia is a group of grapes traditionaly grown in the Mediterranean regions and Madeira island. Malvasia is a variety that has now spread through out the world and can be found in many wine regions. We know different types of Malvasia; Malvasia Candida, Malvasia Fina, Malvasia Nera, Malvasia Istriana and many more. Research has show that Argentine variety Torrontes is also related to the Malvasia family. Malvasia Istriana is as the name includes home in the Istrian penninsula (Croatia, Slovenia, Italy) and is a fresher wine with balanced acidity and mineral taste. It is one of the more interesting wines for pairing with sea food and fish.
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