After discovering the hard way that Malta’s famous Azure window arch had fallen into the sea a year prior, my husband and I were stood on the Maltese island of Gozo with no plans, limited cash and baffled looks on our faces. My solution, (which I’ll confess is the same in most scenarios), was to look for the nearest place to get a glass of wine.
Google showed a vineyard on the north of the island. We didn’t have high expectations, I’d never heard of Maltese wine; and it isn’t even mentioned in Hugh Johnson and Jancis Robinson’s ‘The World Atlas of Wine’ (7th edition). Still, the vineyard was on dry ground and only a short bus trip away, so off we went to the Ta’Mena estate.
Stepping off the bus, we immediately fell into the vineyard. We were greeted with rows and rows of trellises which gently guided the heavy leaf canopy as it provided shelter for the growing grapes from the hot Mediterranean sun. The proximity to the sea means the vineyards benefit from some cooling influences to the long hot days, but canopy management is clearly important here.
We were warmly welcomed to the family run Ta’Mena estate and were invited to try their wines in a charming rustic farm shop, which, due to the historic ties and proximity of the two islands, was filled with gorgeous Maltese and Sicilian produce. One of the wines they eagerly and proudly poured us was a barrel aged San Antonin Syrah, which was certified as GOZO D.O.K (their highest classification, indicating all the grapes were grown on the island of Gozo). It was wonderful. A very intense red wine with flavours of berry and pepper, and a delicious chocolatey after taste. I was beyond impressed. We purchased some Gozitan pies and sat outside amongst the vines to enjoy the wine and soak it all in.
I learnt there are two native grapes grown in Malta; Girgentina (a white skinned, crisp and fruity variety) and Ġellewża (a plummy, violet red skinned grape), as well as the international varieties which these native grapes are often blended with. Yet, Maltese wine is a Mediterranean treat which they keep to themselves. The little island doesn’t produce wines for export, and the best way to get your hands on it is to go there. However, given the quality and the passion for the wine I serendipitously experienced on the island, it might be time for Jancis and Hugh to update their World Atlas…..
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