THE 2008 MALTESE VINTAGE REPORT
A Nice Mixed Bag
Vintage Report 2008
The 2008 vintage didn’t see any real peculiarities which can compromise crops. There were no heavy downpours but regular precipitation. This was very beneficial since the rainwater helped to flush down the accumulated salts (from fertilisers and irrigation)to the surrounding sea.
Malta’s climate is normally characterized by very hot and dry summers. This year’s coldish and relatively wet winter was followed by a cooler than normal summer with lower night and day temperatures. The gradual rise in heat and absence of heat waves during the 2008 summer months has given way to a much slower and extended ripening period for the indigenous and red international grape varieties especially. This has lead to grapes with more aromas and varietal characteristics.
Another positive factor over the normally dry vintages is the fair amount of rainfall that occurred. Similar amounts of precipitation as in 2004 and 2005 made it a relatively less dry season which has resulted in a more abundant crop.
High natural sugar levels were also achieved for the 2008 international grape varieties as good wines dictate. The 2008 crops were generally harvested one week later than last year and Delicata pioneered with prolonged hang time for reds and the naturally sugar deficient indigenous grapes.
The average yield per vine recorded by leading wineries was under the maximum D.O.K. and I.G.T. limits which safeguards quality. The conditions were ideal for the production of structured white and red wines of character with potential for the making of the country’s first ‘Reserves’ ever. Expect to see (more) ‘Superior’ wines of increased alcoholic strength.
Major Wineries Record
This year the wineries went on record stating the tonnage they crushed respectively. The amounts are small and the resulting wines unique in that the Republic of Malta features at the top of the list of smallest independent wine and grape producing countries in the world. The production of Maltese wines made from locally grown grapes of all the wineries is only about 3 million bottles per season, or less than 0.01 France’s output.
It is unclear if by now the industry’s target of circa 1000 ha of land planted with vines has been reached. Information from official sources such as the Ministry for Rural Affairs and the Environment has been solicited in vain.
Main grape varieties:
The indigenous Girgentina (white) often blended with Chardonnay gives crisp white wines; and the other native grape Gellewza (black) is used for mainly rosés and occasionally easy drinking reds blended with Syrah, Merlot and Cabernet. Other international grape varieties include Sauvignon Blanc, Vermentino for the production of aromatic and Viognier for fruitier white wines. Besides the Bordeaux varieties, plentiful Syrah is grown as well as Carignan, Grenache Noir and pockets of Tempranillo.
New regions / varieties:
The most promising grape is perhaps Sangiovese. Merlot is coming into a class of its own as a mono-varietal. So is Moscato or Zibibbo sometimes vinified as a sweet dessert wine; occasionally as a crisp dry white by Delicata.
Most important regions of production:
The appellation system has been introduced only as recent as of the 2007 vintage and is a major step forward for the 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. To guarantee impartiality D.O.K., samples are sent abroad to Italy for organoleptic testing. Wineries have been complaining about the bureaucratic system since it causes delays in releasing their wines of the new vintage.
Recent changes in ownership:
Dacoutros winery and the state’s Farmers Wine Co-operative Society both folded.
Domestic market vs. Export:
An estimated 1% of the output of wine is exported. Modern wineries won medals and awards at MUNDUSvini, Chardonnay du Monde, Vinexpo, Brussels Wine Expo. The share of the UK market is negligible. There are few export success stories such as a luxury BOB of the indigenous Gellewza grape in Sweden.
© Georges Meekers – February 2009