Hidden Gems of Malta
Indigenous White Olives and Maltese Wine
Located in the heart of the Mediterranean, Malta has established itself as a flourishing wine scene. Maltese vintages are not as renowned for wine production as its Mediterranean neighbors but are more than holding their own at international competitions, winning several accolades in France, Italy, and further afield.
International grape varieties grown in Malta include Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Syrah, Grenache, Sauvignon Blanc, Chardonnay, Carignan, Chenin Blanc, and Moscato. Indigenous varieties include: Gellewza (a red-skinned variety for reds and rosés) and Girgentina (for white wine production), are producing some excellent wines of distinct body and flavor.
Malta and its sister island of Gozo, an archipelago in the Mediterranean Sea with year-round sunshine, make it the perfect climate for producing exceptional wines. The lack of rain-fall in the Maltese Islands is counterbalanced by a system of irrigation. The grapes are grown with exceptional tannins and a firm acid structure due to the soil’s high PH level. This results in white and red wines that both have high aging potential.
History of the Indigenous Maltese White Olives
From 1530 to 1798, when the Knights of the Order of St. John held control of Malta, these white olives were known as perlina Maltese (Maltese pearls) all across Europe. Bajada trees enhanced the gardens of wealthy knights and their fruit was used in one of the country’s signature recipes – rabbit stew. They have historically been valued ornamentally and even religiously.
Varieties of Maltese olives, like the bajada and bidni, had nearly disappeared after thriving for several thousand years on the islands. In 2010, the number of trees was down to just three. A batch of 120 new olive trees was planted in Malta as part of an initiative by the Mediterranean Culinary Academy to produce olive oil from olives purely native to the Maltese Islands. The ‘Bidni’ olive, which also lends its name to the resulting olive oil, is found only in Malta.
Researchers who have studied the white olive say that its unique pale color is simply a quirk of nature. Oil from white olives is similar to that of black and green olives, yet it has a short shelf life due to low levels of bitter-tasting antioxidants that also makes for a natural preservative. Hence, the sweeter taste of white olives.
Tours and Tasting
Tours and tastings can be arranged at select wineries. Depending on the season, tours cover the entire production from the initial fermentation through to the aging process. They also include wine history museums and opportunities to taste and buy a variety of vintages. Wine-tasting and vineyard tours are also organized by specialized local agents such as Merill Eco Tours.
- Meridiana is located in central Malta, and their wine cellars are four meters below sea level.
- They produce internationally acclaimed wines made from wine-grapes exclusively grown in Maltese soil.
- Winery Tours followed by a wine tasting on one of the scenic terraces are organized by appointment either via e-mail [email protected] or by calling the Estate at 356 21415301.
- The wine cellars are situated in a building dating to the Order of St. John, home to over 220 oak barrels used for premium red wine aging. The Marsovin estates and cellars are a testimony to Marsovin’s commitment to the culture of wine.
- The Marsovin cellars represent four generations of wine-makers and expertise of 90 years.
- The wine is aged in imported barrels of French or American oak, which imparts specific qualities to the nature of the wine and its aroma.
- For over 100 years, Delicata has remained family-owned in the Delicata family.
- Delicata’s portfolio of wines has scored with over a century of international awards including Gold, Silver, and Bronze medals in Bordeaux, Burgundy, and London.
- Tasting sessions are held only by appointment for members of the wine trade and food and wine journalists.
- Their Vines for Wine Project launched in 1994 to encourage landowners to grow quality grapes for the winery. Delicata’s team of viticultural experts has helped the farming community to plant hundreds of vineyards throughout Malta and Gozo with this project.
- A small winery in Gharb on the Maltese islands, yet the only one that produces high-quality wines made from grapes grown without the use of herbicides.
- Events are organized on request by booking and limited to groups of between 8 people and up to 18 people. All meals are cooked on-site by a private chef and during the meal, the winemaker presents every wine and explains how best to appreciate them. For more information, email [email protected]
- The Estate is situated in the picturesque Marsalforn Valley between Victoria and Marsalforn Bay. It includes a fruit garden, an olive grove with about 1500 olive trees, an orange grove, and over 10 hectares of vineyards. It enjoys the panoramic views of the Gozo Citadel and the surrounding hills and villages.
- At Ta’ Mena Estate they organize different activities such as guided tours around the estate followed by wine and food tasting, lunches and dinners, barbecues, snacks, cooking sessions, full/half day activities, etc. Also, they offer agricultural experiences including fruit picking, wine-making, olive-oil pressing, and more.
The sunny islands of Malta, in the middle of the Mediterranean Sea, are home to a most remarkable concentration of intact built heritage, including the highest density of UNESCO World Heritage Sites in any nation-state anywhere. Valletta built by the proud Knights of St. John is one of the UNESCO sights and the European Capital of Culture for 2018. Malta’s patrimony in stone ranges from the oldest free-standing stone architecture in the world, to one of the British Empire’s most formidable defensive systems, and includes a rich mix of domestic, religious, and military architecture from the ancient, medieval, and early modern periods. With superbly sunny weather, attractive beaches, a thriving nightlife, and 7,000 years of intriguing history, there is a great deal to see and do. For more information on Malta, visit www.visitmalta.com.