Malta - Wine Studies

Seminar Paper, 2002

38 Pages, Grade: B+



Introduction of Malta
Country, Region, Area
Wine Origin and History
Wine Production

Grape Varieties

Winemaking in Malta

Methods of Viticulture and Vinification

The Quality certification system

Well Known Wines of Malta

Other Well Known Beverages of Malta

Maltese Dishes with Local Wines
Maltese Cuisine
Maltese dishes and wines


The Impact of Wines on the Local Economy

Ranking of Malta Wine


Introduction of Malta

Country, Region, Area

Set in the clear blue Mediterranean Sea, the Maltese islands are the most southerly European country. It is just an archipelago of islands about halfway between the coasts of Sicily and North Africa. The archipelago consists of five islands: Malta, Gozo and Comino, together with two other uninhabited islands Cominetto and Filfla. The total area is approximately 316 sq kms (Malta 246 sq km, Gozo 67 sq km, Comino 2.7 sq km). The longest distance in Malta from North West to South East is about 27 km, with 14.5 km width in an East - West direction. The Islands are only 90 km south of Sicily and 290 km from the northern coast of Africa.

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The strategic position of Malta, Gozo and Comino has made these Mediterranean islands a crossroad of history and a bone of contention. The powers of Europe's past knew it well as a stepping-stone between Europe and North Africa. Involved in Malta's history are the Stone-Age and Bronze-Age people, Romans and Phoenicians, Arabs, Normans and Carthaginians, Castilians, French and British; from whom Malta became independent in 1964. Napoleon Bonaparte did unutterable damage in an only six-day occupation; and Malta stood firm against Hitler despite massive bombing during World War II, deservedly earning the nation the George Cross medal from King George VI (April 1942) and depicting it on the left hand corner of the flag.

Wine Origin and History

Malta's viticulture, like its history, dates back thousands of years. The first Phoenician settlers introduced its cultivation in Malta. Along with improved forms of the vine they introduced their methods of cultivation which along the course of the ages have had slight variations and even today shows signs of its Phoenician origin.

Although it is assumed that vines were planted on Malta from the time it was properly settled, the foundations of today’s wine industry were laid by the Knights of St. John when they were ceded Malta by the Holy Roman Emperor, Charles V of Spain in 1530. The Knights brought with them vine-cuttings from Europe to revitalize whatever vineyards remained after two centuries of Arab domination.

In the middle ages owing to the recurrent invasions by the Arabs of Barbary, the spread of malaria, the epidemics of fevers and plague, and the emigration to Sicily and Italy, the population became greatly reduced in numbers, and the cultivation of lands in outlying districts was neglected or abandoned.

But during the rule of the Order of St. John with the return of comparative after the defeat of the Turkish invasion in 1565, viticulture once more thrived, and the Island began to produce its own wine, and even exported some to other countries.

Consequently, the production of grapes became limited to their use as fresh fruit for the table, and the manufacture of wine ceased altogether; the Island becoming entirely dependent on imports of produce from Sicily and Greece.

However, around 1870 the cultivation of vines was resumed in both Islands and as of twenty years later there were considerable vineyards at Xaghra, Nadur, Qala, Zebbug, and other places in Gozo, as well as, in the districts of Notabile, Dingli, Fiddien, Ghemieri, Gnejna, Bahrija, and Mellieha. Moreover their viticulture entered into a new period of prosperity.

Wine Production

Malta may not be renowned like its larger Mediterranean neighbors for wine production, but blessed with a congenial climate, the Mediterranean lands are known for their rich agriculture and fine cuisine. This region has in fact played an important role in the development of wine-making throughout the ages.

There are two main local winemakers in Malta – Marsovin and Emmanuel Delicata .

- Marsovin was founded in 1919 by Chew. Anthony Cassar and has since grown to be the largest wine maker on the Islands. The majority of grapes are imported from all over Europe and they are delivered to the winery in Marsa. As the grapes can vary from area to area, and gain the ripeness during the three to four week harvest, the Vendemia, only the best grapes are vinified.

The company produces very high quality wines such as: Grand Maitre, Chardonnay, Cabernet Sauvignon, Pinot Grigio and Merlot Noir. In addition high quality wines are offered such as Palazzo Verdala (White and Rose) and La Valette (Red) as well as a variety of “Specials” and “Table wines”.

- Emmanuel Delicata was established in 1947 and is the second largest wine manufacturer and also produces high quality wine in Gellewza (Red) and Green Label (White) competing in the table wines sector with their brand Lachryma Vitis.

Cheap and potent, home-made wine is generally produced from local grapes, but as its amateur brewers are unlicensed, quality and hygiene cannot be guaranteed. Most home-made wines are decidedly rustic, and taste varies from one producer to the next: some are delicious, others are little more than jumped-up vinegar.

Restaurants and bars serve all other drinks, including beer, soft drinks and spirits, such as the Maltese concoction anisette, similar to Sambuca or Turkish Raki, with the addition of bitter almonds. Farsons brew two brands of Maltese beer: the most popular is Cisk , a pleasant and relatively mild lager, and there is also the milder, sweeter Hopleaf . Locally – brewed Lowenbrau is also available, but has yet to catch up with Farsons’ brews. Farsons also produce Kinnie , a fizzy, rust – colored, bittersweet soft drink. It is popular, yet not as heavily consumed as lemonades and colas; it can also be described as a taste one either likes or very much distastes.

Grape Varieties

The grape is the beginning and the end of wine.

Although every grape variety has its unique identity, several other factors play an important part in honing a wine’s final character, en route from vine to bottle.

The quality of a wine is largely determined by climate, soil, wine-type and man. Not even a skilled wine maker can produce quality wine from poor, unhealthy grapes.

Terroir is a combination of climate, soil, and exposure to the elements. Wind, shelter, irrigation and vineyard location all matter. Generally, the best wines are produced under conditions where terroir is only warm enough to just ripen the grapes. Those conditions are met in Malta.

Most grape varieties are the same as those used in France, such as Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Pinot Noir, Cabernet Franc, Chardonnay and Petit Verdot.

Nevertheless two grape varieties dominate local wine production. Originally they both originate from Sicily. The first grape variety is the white Insolia, which is an important variety in Sicily, but known as Ghirgentina in Malta. The second grape variety is Mammolo, a red grape variety, called Gellewza in Malta.


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This grape variety produces excellent quality refreshing dry white wines with a good flavor and depth of character. This grape variety is in almost all of the quality white wines due to the bouquet and flavor it brings to the wine. An elegant grape produces excellent blends. It enriches and softens the tastes of heavier, stronger wines and produces fresh, balanced, pleasant wines.


This red grape variety produces medium bodied easy drinking red wine and award winning fruity roses. The harvest of these two typical Maltese grape varieties, Ghirgentina and Gellewza takes place in August. It is mainly grown in the Chianti DOC region of Toscany, Italy. This red wine producing grape variety is used mainly in the various blendings of this area.


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This grape variety ripens early and has a gentle flavor of cherry, honey, and sometimes mint. It has less tannins than some of its red cousins. It is soft and often has a complex texture.

Cabernet Sauvignon

The Cabernet Sauvignon grapes are red, small, and tough. They have a black currant-like flavor with a hint of mint and cedar. The body ranges from medium to heavy. The grape contains a lot of tannin, which leads to good red wine when properly aged.

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Pinot Noir

These grapes are softer and ripen earlier than Cabernet grapes. They are also extremely sensitive to various conditions. It tastes predominantly like raspberries and strawberries. Pinot Noir is also used without skins as a white ingredient in making sparkling wines

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Cabernet Franc

Cabernet Franc is mostly used as an additive to blend with other grapes. Its character has a dominant raspberry flavor with a hint of herbs. It has a subtle color and an acidic style.

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It is a fresh, fruity grape. This grape tends to taste like tropical fruits such as lemon, peach, and melon. Many have an oaky flavor. It is one of the most popular and easiest to grow among the white grapes.

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Petit Verdot

It has an intense raspberry and jam-like, stewed flavor. It is often used to blend with Cabernet Sauvignon to produce a top quality wine.

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As mentioned earlier, Malta has two main wineries which are Marsovin and Delicata. There are also many small ones all over the island, including Coleiro Wine Company, the Farmers Co-op, Caprat, and Dacoutros which all produce decent quality table wines.

Winemaking in Malta

Malta has neither mountains nor rivers to grow vineyards on or nearby; that is why the Maltese people built terraced fields in slopes, which characterize the island.

The climate is generally warm with the hottest period being from mid-July to mid-September. There are no winds and it does not snow or frost. All of which make for perfect conditions in producing great wines.

The land wine that is found in Malta is totally fragmented into pocket-sized vineyards ranging from a size of a tenth of a hectare to over 20 hectares in size. This is due to many small privately owned vine producers that exist in very little quantities, which are normally only used for individual consumption, and cultivated by part-time farmers. Those vineyards are mainly planted with the two dominant and indigenous grape varieties in Malta, the Ghirgentina and Gellewza. These two unique vitis vinifera grape varieties are planted using the guyot system and are irrigated through special irrigation systems. The white Ghirgentina grape produces excellent quality refreshing dry white wine, the red variety Gellewza produces medium-bodied easy to drink red wines and award winning fruity roses.

Some of the bigger wineries on the island have recently planted new vineyards with international grape varieties. Although these vineyards are still in their infancy, the resulting fruit and wines show great potential. Those vineyards are either owned by the winery, or run and owned by the islands oldest and most prestigious winemaker Emmanual Delicata. Currently, there is about 15 wineries within Malta and its sister island Gozo that produce wine for resale.

Methods of Viticulture and Vinification

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The Maltese wine industry however needs far more grapes and land to plant them on to meet the domestic demand. This is why some of the major wineries imported fresh frozen grapes from Italy and other surrounding countries to supplement this shortage.

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Marsovin currently has 22 hectares of vineyards spread throughout the Maltese Island which produce over 165,000 vines of noble grape varieties which yield 250 tons of superior quality grapes. These grapes are then used to produce over 250,000 bottles of exquisite wine.

Marsovin has five vineyards in Malta an one on the island of Gozo. The pruning system which they use thoughout their vineyards is the guyot system.


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Malta - Wine Studies
César Ritz Colleges  (Hotel Management School)
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Malta, Wine, Studies
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Sebastian Wagner (Author), 2002, Malta - Wine Studies, Munich, GRIN Verlag,


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