THE 2012 MALTESE VINTAGE REPORT
A Good Year For The Rosés
Harvest. For winemakers no other word is loaded with more potential and anticipation. And, Malta’s 2012 vintage lived up to their expectations. It rendered very good to excellent grape quality of nearly all grape varieties. Yet, the 2012 vintage could become memorable more so for the industry developments that are left in its wake than the actual crush itself.
The 2012 harvest didn’t experience any real peculiarities and diseases which can harm the quantity or quality of crops.
Winter, which can be too mild for vines in Malta, saw a welcomed cold spell during the first three weeks of January which extended into a cooler than usual, cloudy and clammy February. This pattern helped the vines to remain dormant and keep reserves stored for vegetative growth.
A mild spring quickly followed and led to good and even fruit set. In fact, there was no premature bud break. Cool humid conditions and high dew points encouraged steady pollination. This has probably been the main reason for fair average yields across the gamut of varieties in comparison to the smaller 2011 crop.
From May onwards there was hardly any precipitation. A warm spell from the second week of June until the last week of July, free from undesirable heat waves, helped the formation of polyphenols in red grapes. Damage from sunburn didn’t occur despite the lack of hardly any cloud coverage. All the fruit enjoyed a long, unhurried ripening period.
After a lengthy growing season of incessant labour in the vineyards crunch time came.
The grape harvest started in earnest around the 8th of August, although a few tonnes of Chardonnay were picked earlier for sparkling wine production. The bulk of Chardonnay and the majority of about twenty other grapes varieties were picked ahead of the torrential rainstorms on 2nd and 3rd September. The small quantities harvested afterwards may have ended up a little diluted having relatively lower natural sugar levels. This is probably the case for the native white grape variety Girgentina and some blocks of Cabernet and Syrah but less so for Merlot.
Aware of the fact that grape flavourants may diminish in the fruit that is left on the vine after heavy rainfall, winemakers were quick to get the remaining ripe crop picked after the torrent. The pressing stage came to an end around 20th September with the final crush of Malta’s late-ripening indigenous white grape variety, Girgentina.
Major Wineries Record
Marsovin went on record stating to have harvested circa 1200 tumoli of land under vine, which is equivalent to approximately 160 full-size football pitches.
For Delicata, too, the 2012 vintage has been a bountiful year surpassing the one-million-kilo threshold of 20 different grape varieties, all grown and hand-picked in selected vineyards cared for by about 350 contracted vignerons.
To put today’s Maltese vinescape into perspective, if all vines were lined up, they would stretch from Valletta to Brussels (about 1800 km) or circle Malta (137 km) over thirteen times.
2012 provided plenty of gorgeous grapes for potentially outstanding wines.
Red winemaking vines previously regrafted with white fruiting varieties came online this harvest. This has helped winemakers to try and satisfy a relatively higher demand for white wines in the domestic market.
Vermentino and Moscato are more expressive than Sauvignon Blanc this year. The best Chardonnays are better than ever before; they tend to be complex, more buttery than citrus-like on the nose, and rounder on the palate with great length – rivaling the better French examples.
But this must be called the year of the rosés. Some are less fleshy but extremely flowery, others very savoury and without any heaviness. Ġellewża as well as the aromatic and well-structured pink wines from Grenache Noir and Syrah will entice.
The saturation of colour for some tank samples of red wines is notable and they are ladened with sweet tannin and not drying at all. Indications are that Bordeaux varieties will be dark in colour and age-worthy, inviting comparisons with 2009. Bottled wines may taste slightly more herbaceous than otherwise and offer less red fruit aromas and flavours. Look out for softer tasting reds by Delicata who have deployed their newly installed state-of-the-art Ganimede fermenters.
Like never before, the Maltese wine industry has verged into a dichotomous competitive model. Small producer Meridiana Wine Estate had already become absorbed (for four fifths of its ownership) in the Antinori conglomerate and the 2012 summer harvest cast a shadow over the future of third player Camilleri Wines. Now that Marsovin is rumoured to be taking up a subservient operational role, it is the Delicata team that can pride themselves officially on successfully operating as Malta’s largest, independent, self-reliant family-owned winery.
© Georges Meekers – February 2013