Wine can be seductive.
Visions of crystal glasses swirling against a backdrop of lush, green vineyards can have a powerful pull on one’s imagination.
When smooth jazz or classical music blends with bouquets of honey and crisp apple or cherries and cinnamon, the allure of wine tasting can prove irresistible.
Unlike many wineries elsewhere in the world, tastings in Malta usually require a reservation. However, if you’re looking for an elegant opportunity to learn more about Maltese wine, then a private tasting is the perfect way to go.
Meridiana Wine Estate
Meridiana wines have a unique story. Founded by Mark Miceli-Farrugia in 1985, the winery planted its first vines in 1994.
While Meridiana’s vines are relatively young, they are guided by the financial support and winemaking experience of the Antinori family of Tuscany — descendants of Giovanni di Piero Antinori, who joined the Winemakers Guild of Florence in 1385.
Nestled below the walls of Mdina, Malta’s first hilltop capital, Meridiana was built on a 19-hectare plot of land that was a former World War II airfield. Built in 1996, the winery is housed in a Maltese-style hacienda of golden limestone.
Meridiana produces several varietals of white, red, and rosé. Their total production is about 140,000 bottles a year. However, there is one wine that stands out among the rest.
“Our most popular wine is definitely our Isis DOK Malta,” says Karl Chetcuti, Meridiana’s Estate Manager. “Named after the Phoenician Goddess of Sailors, it’s a completely unoaked 100% Chardonnay.”
In production since 1996, the Isis Chardonnay is Meridiana’s first white wine. They sell roughly 58,000 bottles a year.
“This wine is best paired with grilled fish, fried calamari, octopus, pork, fried rabbit and poultry,” says Karl.
Karl credits the winery’s close proximity to the sea and warm climate for its unique flavors and higher minerality.
Wine tastings are held on the terraces overlooking the vineyard and can be reserved by contacting Meridiana directly.
Founded in 1907 by Eduardo Delicata, the Delicata winery is Malta’s oldest family-run establishment.
In the years before World War II, Delicata wines were sold in barrels to neighborhood wine shops. Locals would need to bring their own bottles to fill up.
Today, Delicata offers a wide selection of wines in their own bottles. They are branded with quintessentially Maltese names, including Gran Cavalier, Maltese Falcon, and Victoria Heights.
However, according to their website, in order to sample a flight of Delicata wines at their winery on the waterfront of the Grand Harbour, you must be involved in the wine trade or be a journalist.
If you’ve misplaced your press pass, Delicata offers a summer wine festival where they pop corks on a few of their local varietals. The event is held in the Upper Barrakka Gardens in Valletta, offering a commanding view of the Maltese skyline.
After the Great Siege of 1565 when the Knights of Saint John repulsed an invasion by Ottoman forces, Malta became a strategically important archipelago in the center of the Mediterranean.
Over the next couple of centuries, massive amounts of supplies were imported to reinforce the islands against future attacks. These supplies needed to be sorted and distributed.
In the 1600s, a large honeycomb of rooms were carved out of the limestone along the Grand Harbour to manage incoming supplies.
Today, these rooms make up the Marsovin Cellars, where over 100,000 bottles and 220 oak barrels are used to age their premium wines.
Marsovin produces a number of white, red, and rosé varietals, including a few made from two special grapes: girgentina and ġellewża. These Maltese wine grapes are indigenous to Malta and have a long history dating back over 1,000 years.
Scheduled tastings and tours at Marsovin can be arranged via their website. However, due to seasonal demand, it is recommended that bookings are made well in advance.
Marsovin also holds a wine festival each year in Hastings Gardens atop Valletta’s imposing stone walls. Here you’ll have the opportunity to swirl and taste in your very own commemorative glass while listening to live music and nibbling on Maltese cheeselets.
Ta’ Mena – Gozo
The island of Gozo, with a population of over 30,000 people, is considerably less dense than Malta, which has 400,000 residents. As a result, agriculture still represents a significant part of Gozo’s economy.
Historically, the island’s agriculture focused on tomatoes and dairy. However, the amount of wine production is increasing.
With its prime view of the imposing stone citadel in Gozo’s capital city of Victoria, Ta’ Mena is a rising star in the local wine scene.
Founded in 2002 by the Spiteri family, Ta’ Mena Estate has grown from an initial two-hectare fruit and vegetable garden into 25 hectares of grape vines, tomatoes, capers, olives, lemons, and prickly pears.
Ta’ Mena produces a selection of wines, including a group they have named the “Ancient Gods,” with names like Aris, Juel, Arion, and Zelus. They have named a second group after the strong Mediterranean winds that blow over the islands.
Wine tastings at Ta’ Mena can be arranged via their website’s contact page. If you’re lucky, depending upon the time of year, you might even find yourself roped into helping harvest one of its many delicacies.
Maria Rosa Wine Estate
The Maria Rosa Wine Estate was founded in 2006 by Joseph Fenech. Their limited production of almost 20,000 bottles helps ensure quality and exclusivity.
The estate produces their wines from three different grapes: cabernet sauvignon, syrah, and a red-skinned grape from nearby Sicily called Nero d’Avola, or “the black grape of Avola.”
Avola is the name of a city near Syracuse in the southeastern corner of Sicily. The grape has historically been dubbed “Sicily’s most important red varietal.”
The Maria Rosa Wine Estate produces a red, rosé, and white wine from Nero d’Avola under the label “Speranza.” They also produce a reserve from the grape under the name “Sirakuzan” — a nod to its Sicilian heritage.
Tours of their 4.2 hectare estate, which include olive trees for olive oil production, can be made via their website.
Mar Casar winery describes itself as La Maison du Vin Naturel — The House of Natural Wine.
Winemaker Mark Cassar distinguishes his natural wine by using two different techniques: qvevri and biodynamic.
Qvevri is an ancient form of winemaking practiced in the Republic of Georgia in the Caucasus Mountains. The process involves filling large, oval-shaped clay pottery with the juice, skins, and seeds of the grape.
The clay vessels are then sealed and buried underground where they ferment into wine.
When asked about why he decided to use qvevri, Mark replied philosophically.
“I did not seek out qvevris,” said Mark. “They chose me.”
Mark ages his wines in qvevri for two years, and then for another year in bottles stored at 18°C. He produces about 15,000 bottles a year.
Mark also follows the principles of biodynamics in his wine production.
Biodynamics is defined as, “a holistic, ecological, and ethical approach to farming, gardening, food, and nutrition.” This pesticide-free system was developed by Austrian philosopher Rudolf Steiner in the 1920s.
“I use a modified Steiner system of Biodynamic with wild plants taking care of the pests,” says Mark.
Mark employs biodynamic methods to produce an amber chardonnay and a red wine blend of 10% petit verdot and 90% merlot.
Tours and tastings of Mar Casar winery are offered from July until September.
Founded in 1999, Camilleri produces a wide variety of wines, including viognier, syrah, cabernet sauvignon, and vermentino. While there isn’t a tasting room publicly advertised, you can find a bottle of Camilleri to taste in restaurants, wine bars, and wine shops around the island.
Tal Massar — Gozo
Located just outside the medieval village of L-Għarb on Gozo, Tal Massar offers evening wine tastings and talks in their gazebo next to the vineyards.
The winery produces a number of different reds, whites, and rosés, with names like Garb, Manzara, and Tanit.
Tours and tastings are available upon request.
The Montekristo Estate produces a variety of different wines, including cabernet sauvignon, merlot, and chardonnay.
Located next to the airport in Ħal Luqa, the estate has a number of different venues where their wines can be sampled.
A Luxurious Touch
Wine tasting in Malta is a sophisticated experience best enjoyed when you don’t have to drive.
If you’re planning on swirling and tasting the finest Maltese wine, move about the island in luxury and style with a personal driver and car.