Malta may not be an obvious destination for a wine tasting holiday, but the archipelago is rapidly becoming one of Europe’s most promising emerging wine regions. While the island’s wine producing traditions stretch back more than 2,000 years, recent years have seen a real boom in quality, thanks to the Mediterranean climate, rich soils and the work of local wineries like Delicata and Marsovin. With so many varieties on offer, the major challenge is prising them away from the locals. We speak to Delicata’s Georges Meekers, a wine expert and author of award-winning book, Wines of Malta – The Essential Guide about what makes Maltese wine so special.
Malta is enjoying increasing international attention as an emerging wine region. Why do you think this is?
Malta’s modern-styled wines are not only enjoyable to drink, they also carry an enormous curiosity. Firstly, they are scarcely available. Malta is the smallest independent wine-producing country in the world; the Maltese archipelago makes a droplet of the global wine ocean. What’s astonishing about Malta is that for the island’s small size, there’s an enormous selection of white, red and rosé wines to choose from, as opposed to just one or two wines, which is the norm in other larger wine regions overseas. There’s diversity and a Maltese wine for each occasion.
Delicata is one of Malta’s foremost wineries. What makes its wines stand out?
The international success of Delicata is testament to the fact that Maltese wine has transformed and is poised on the brink of success. Delicata has long advocated that Malta has a unique story to tell with its two native grape varieties. The winery also manages to craft fresh and modern-styled wines ranging from Chardonnay, Vermentino and Viognier to Sauvignon Blanc – which is particularly complicated to grow. The Delicata winery produces a selection of over 30 different Malta-grown wines in various styles to cater to preferences of foreign visitors and quality-conscious drinkers. A good number of these wines are in fact gold-medal winning red wines.
Can you tell us about the two native grape varieties grown in Malta?
The two indigenous grape varieties that are unique to Malta and Gozo have a lot of wow-factor thanks to their individuality. Both Girgentina (for white wine production) and Ġellewża (a red-skinned variety for reds and rosés) are Phylloxera resistant coastal grape cultivars. The vines are of indeterminate age, probably around 50 years old, and are often still dry-farmed and grown in the traditional bush method.
What would you say is Malta’s signature wine?
In earlier days, some were quick to single out Syrah as Malta’s red signature wine. Local Merlot is perhaps even more intriguing because of its undeniable delicious and special savoury quality. Then again, how about Maltese Sangiovese, Cabernet Sauvignon and Franc, or perhaps you could favour Carignan and Grenache, which are often found together in blends.
Can you recommend a couple of wines that are particularly special?
Malta’s quality wines are boutique wines. They are ready for prime time and produced in extremely small quantities that are hard to prise away from the archipelago. If forced to choose, I would recommend two wines made from the native Ġellewża grape variety, which is extremely rare and underrated. Delicata’s latest red wine specialty, released under the Medina brand, might gain fame as ‘the Pinot Noir of Malta’ one day for its nose of violets and broad palate of plum and cherry fruit, with an intriguing touch of liquorish. The other would be a delicately sparkling pink wine labelled as Delicata’s Ġellewża Frizzante, which brims with strawberry flavours and plenty of zing.
Delicata is not only Malta’s oldest winery, but it’s also family run. What are the values that drive the company?
Making great wines requires passion, perseverance and investment in craftsmanship. That’s the commitment of the Delicata family. The Delicata winery has made strides forward, which have not gone unnoticed by some of the world’s foremost wine critics. Perhaps it’s because Delicata is deeply rooted, or the fact that the team is always listening to stakeholders and customers. Recently, fourth-generation winemakers Mario, Michael and Matthew joined their father George Delicata at the winery’s helm. Together, they are poised to keep the Delicata legacy of crafting fine Maltese heritage wines alive.