wines of malta – 2007 vintage update


The Historic 2007 Vintage


The 2007 vintage was the very first – and therefore ‘historic’ – harvest which needed to comply with the newly introduced Maltese appellation system, which is of course a major step forward for the Maltese wine industry.
It recognises designations for the production of Q.W.P.S.R., namely D.O.K. Malta and D.O.K. Gozo, which is the most northern zone, besides the wider region named I.G.T. Maltese Islands.

In the end, the 2007 grape harvest finished to the delight of some, the relief of others – and the dismay of an unlucky few. Good, quality-oriented work in the vineyards more than paid off this year.

Whilst the Maltese climate and weather are year after year consistently benign, in 2007 unusual, somewhat difficult weather conditions, pests and disease plagued some of the vineyards. For the most part, though, the principal impact was on yields. Many producers predicted early on good-quality wines but much lower volumes.

The winter following the plentiful 2006 vendemmia, was one of the mildest in forty years delaying the restorative dormancy for the tired vines. This forced the vines to exhaust their low reserves of carbohydrates and essential nutrients which are critical for optimum vine performance and profitable grape production.

Careful pruning was carried out as late as possible around the end of January and throughout the beginning of February followed by an early bud break at the beginning of spring. But, although cluster counts were high, fruit set was inconsistent, leaving loose bunches in many cases, and small berries. This was partially due to hail, strong winds and heavy rainfall during flowering in the spring when temperatures were uncharacteristic low. This caused sporadic attacks of downy mildew. Yields were further reduced by poor berry formation due to more heavy precipitation in May and June.

From then onwards the growing season proceeded in quite uneventful manner. But, growers reported uneven results. Yields for certain grape varieties were reduced up to 50 percent on last year’s bumper crop.

In neighbouring Sicily, grape quantities were reportedly down too; some vignerons recording a 40 percent dip in production levels – and as high as 55% in the Trapani area.

After a troubled start to a listless growing cycle slowed down by cool weather in spring, the heat returned with a vengeance in summer at the peak of the ripening period. After two short but intense heat waves (typical for the period from 20th July to 15th August), it stayed fine.  Temperatures stabilised, and persistent high pressure was conducive to a fine vintage with no further rainfall.
The red grapes got ample time on the vine and developed mature tannins and clean flavours. Yields were down and although they would ideally have liked higher volumes, yet winemakers were pleased with the small clusters, tiny berries and great concentration of ripe fruit flavours. Thicker-skinned red grapes mostly stood up well to the early, adverse weather conditions

The wines

 2007 was not the year of the rosés. The whites were generally on cue. Judging by the white wines that have been awarded the D.O.K. status, the amount of alcohol in a finished wine of Maltese origin of the 2007 vintage seems to have crept up with one to sometimes almost three per cent from a respectable average 11.5 – 12.5 % vol previously. Chardonnay and also the indigenous Girgentina produced weightier, yet aromatic wines as did newfound blender Vermentino.

The red wines are of good quality across the board. Sangiovese and Tempranillo based wines are fair examples of the vintage. The 2007 Syrah is more concentrated with upfront fruity flavours – more so than in previous years – but the real corkers are soft, well-structured reds made from both Cabernet Sauvignon and especially Cabernet Franc. Wines made from these varieties show typical varietal characteristics and will keep on improving in bottle for a few years (up to 5 years).

To summarise the 2007 vintage: for once in a long time, Mother Nature was unpredictable, and somewhat annoyed with Malta. Therefore, ‘historic’ maybe, but ‘excellent’ the  fairly tricky 2007 vintage was not. 2007 is a good ripe year with a few outstanding bottles here and there.

© Georges Meekers – January 2008

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