Posted by: tomciocco | November 13, 2010

MALVASIA – THE GRAPE FROM EVERYWHERE

Malvasia Bianca, Malvasia Gialla, Malvasia di Candia, Malvasia Puntinata, Malvasia di Casorzo… These are just a few of bthe names of the  sub-types of this ancient variety planted around the Bel Paese. And being that the wine on the test bench today is Italian, and (big surprise) a Malvasia (mal-va-ZEE-ah), I thought this a compact way to characterize the nature of this grape…

The most commonly accepted origin theory for Malvasia goes back to the the ancient southern Greek port of Monemvasia that lent its name to the grape that long ago became known as Malvasia. Whether the grape was actually developed there, or if the grape took its name from the port’s name, though it was grown and vinified elsewhere (though likely only in some other part of the Peleponnese) is still unclear, but what is clear is that it hails from somewhere in the southwestern Agean.

As I alluded to above, Italy is just one (though arguably the most important) place where Malvasia has found a home. At least one form of the variety is also grown in Portugal, Spain, France, Slovenia, Croatia, and the list goes on…

So this Italian Malvasia comes from waaay up north in southern Lombardia (hundreds and hundreds of miles from Monemvasia) where there is a long tradition for growing Malvasia. The Fugazza sisters that own and run Castello di Luzzano have identified their particular Malvasia sub-variety as Malvasia di Candia Aromatica (“di Candia” means “from Crete” in Italian, but let’s not go there…) and the love they have for this often troublesome variety shines forth brightly in this wine…

I matched this big-boned white with a tomato/olive/caper/fish sauce over linguine, and then a main course of a classic toasted almond crusted flonder filets, with oven-roasted fennel. 

Castello di Luzzano Colli Piacentini Malvasia “Tasto di Seta” 2009

Limpid golden yellow color. Evolving aromatic nose of cooked corn, pear nectar, herbs, honeycomb, tropical fruit notes, and shoe polish. The wine in the mouth is fat and and fairly viscous and pulpy in texture with big flavors of fresh ginger, vanilla bean, apricot, and hazelnut that are fairly well balanced by a suitable acidity, that also heads off any encroachment of heat from the 13.5% alcohol. The wine finishes with a bold bitter-herby quinine finish.

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