wines of malta – 2010 vintage update


A Top Year for Fragrant Whites and Deep Reds

Malta’s 2010 grape harvest was small and yielded less fruit for the third consecutive year. In fact, Malta has had a number of moderate to light crops since the fairly huge, bumper crop of 2006.

In contrast to the drop in quantity, this year’s excellent grape quality allowed for the crafting of fragrant whites and deep reds. Thus all eyes turned to quality-oriented work in the cellar which should more than pay off.

Chill Time

The 2010 vintage is best summarised as an uneventful growing season and a crush with all grape varieties arriving well in time before the thunderstorm on 14th September with rain and hail. The result is some great wine of which, however, there will be less to go round.

Crops of the last few years are consistently smaller and, coincidentally or not, consistently of better quality because of a combination of factors which actually have an adverse effect on the vegetative growing cycle of the vine.

The winter following last year’s 2009 harvest was very mild delaying the restorative dormancy for the exhausted vines. In fact, dry, warm January and February months with dusty southerly winds bringing African air over the central Mediterranean felt more like spring time than winter. This pattern exhausted the vines’ low reserves of carbohydrates and essential nutrients which are critical for optimum vine performance and profitable grape quantity production.

Their reserves might have been low as a delayed side effect on the plant caused by green pruning in previous years for D.O.K. and I.G.T. certification (which has become the norm since the 2007 harvest), resulting in poor grape vine flowering and productivity.

Especially grape growers conscious of costs (at a time when the world was experiencing an economical downturn) and who cut down on post harvest care saw their yields being reduced despite moderate and continuous rainfall throughout March.

Early grapevine bud-break during a warm spring with wind and heat during bloom caused wide variability in berry set and crop load and indicated that 2010 was going to be an advanced growing season.

However, a very wet May with cool daytime temperatures slowed down

A Summer’s Breeze

The 2010 harvest year will be remembered as disease free and one of the healthiest ever. The maturation period was characterised by cooler than usual summer months without any heat waves. Although night temperatures were average during June and July, many days the med office registered the coolest day temperatures on record.

Ripening of the late ripening varieties was steady and paced throughout the month of August with cool nights and cool northwest sea breezes. Diurnal temperature variation was normal producing desirable acid and high natural sugar content in grapes. The weather throughout the growing cycle and ripening time has been generally favourable for phenolic ripeness.

Industry Progress

To maintain the momentum of Maltese wine, winemakers and other industry stakeholders should expand communications to consumers and public policy audiences about the unique and positive aspects of Malta’s quality wines. A ‘Think & Drink Malta” campaign could convey messages about how the wine industry produces high quality wine in a sustainable manner, generates and retains revenue in the country’s economy, and contributes to Malta’s appeal as a popular travel destination. In this respect is reassuring to witness that recent research in the field of genetic variability of vine varieties strengthens the thesis that the commercially viable grape varieties Ġellewża and Girgentina are ancient coastal varieties unique to the Maltese Islands.

The Vines and Wines

The Maltese wine industry continues to produce wines of a flavour profile and a price point that consumers like and accept in a market place flooded with extremely cheap imported wines.

Though producers are dealing with the current challenges of an adverse economy, the long-term challenge will be to prepare for the growing purchase of wine by millennial consumers.

The lack of new plantings has further eliminated excess supplies and the industry’s inventories are in a relative quantitative equilibrium although there might be a need to re-examine the partly imbalanced partition of white and black-fruited varieties in view of the preferences of today’s consumers in the domestic market.

© Georges Meekers – March 2011

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