Like in all Mediterranean countries and regions, in Croatia and Istria winegrowing runs through veins of native people. Grape vine is one of the most typical breeding cultures that succeeds on this heart-shaped peninsula for centuries. Winegrowing started to grow rapidly here back in Roman times and one of the most significant descriptions of Istria dating all the back from year 1650 comes from Novigrad’s Bishop Tommasini who mentioned even 15 Istrian sorts of grapes, among which the most important ones are prosecco, muscat, rebula, refošk, teran, hrvatica, trebijan and malvasia.
Malvasia is a common name for a number of different or related sorts which have been present in Mediterranean vineyards from ancient times. Depending on the color of soil from which malvasian sorts are being grown, malvasia can be divided on blanc (white), rose (rouge) and nero (red). They differ by various characteristics including fruitfulness, period of maturation, disease resistance and ambient affinity.
Wine under the name „Malvagia“
Curiously, there are even fifty cultivars under this name, and even eight of them have been registered only in Italian national register of wine sorts. That makes Italy a home for most of the malvasia cultivars with biggest prevalence of soil covered with this sort.
Malvasia is being grown as well on Spanish Canary Islands and Portuguese Azores, but also on the continental parts of these countries. Further, it has significant place in France, Slovenia, Montenegro, Albania, California and Greece. According to many, Greece is home of its name. “Malvasia” is closely connected with Venetian Republic and its wine trade from Greek harbor Monemvasia from Peloponese, which in translation means a harbor with one entrance, to Venetian properties and other markets on continental part of Europe. Greek Malvagia was being sold in Venice already in 14th century, and premises where sale was being conducted were called “Malvasie”. Still, according to some information, malvasia dates all the way BC.
New revival came after 1990
In Croatia there are two known sorts – Istrian malvasia and Dubrovnik malvasia. Istrian malvasia firstly came with Venetians, however only at the end of 19th and beginning of 20th century after phylloxera infection it became peninsula’s main sort of grapevine. Before malvasia, lead position was held by teran and refošk.
More extensive researches about Istrian malvasia were conducted after 2nd WW and results confirmed the authenticity of this Istrian sort of grape. Its new revival came after 1990 with intensified quantity and quality production. From then to this day small wine cellars appear throughout Istrian peninsula offering excellent wines of this sort, thus establishing Istria recognizable in respectable world’s wine guides and commended by wine experts such as Steven Spurrier and Oz Clarke.
Rounded and harmonic wine
Malvasia is a mid strong white wine which contains between 11,5 and 13,5 vol.% of alcohol. Experts describe it as full, rounded and harmonic wine with significant flower-frutish bouquet potential. Its specific taste reminds on acacia flowers and most dominant fruit aromas are apple, plum and apricot. In ripe wine one can also experience slightly bitter almond taste.
For many years Istria is a home of several wine manifestations dedicated to this sort of grape and wine. Competition “World of Malvasia” provides yearly insight to international scene of these wines right before Vinistra, the biggest Istrian wine exhibition that takes place every May. The goals of the “World of Malvasia” are to gather as much as possible sorts of this wine in one place, to promote specificity and quality of different sorts, to present new trends in production and to award best wines.
Istrian Malvasia Festival
Wines are being awarded by top Croatian and international experts according to strict competition rules harmonized with regulations of International organization for grapevine and wine (OIV). Through this manifestation Istria wants to position itself as a central place for winemakers, consumers and experts interested in this sort.
Unavoidable site for every malvasia lover in Istria is a small place Brtonigla near Buje, from where the very top bottles of this wine are coming. Every year in June Brtonigla organizes Istrian Malvasia Festival where guests have a chance to visit local wine cellars, taste top quality wines of this sort and have a conversation with respectable winemakers. At the same time degustation guided by experts are being held so wine lovers can find out more about flavor, bouquet, and characteristics of the queen of Istrian wines.