wines of malta – 2005 vintage update

VINTAGE REPORT 2005

WINES OF MALTA – THE ESSENTIAL GUIDE was published and hit the shelves December 2006. The book received lofty reviews but some discerning readers correctly commented it lacked vintage reports. At the time of going to print it was impossible to include the harvest reports of 2005 and 2006.
I hope to make up for this shortcoming in this blog. Here’s the report for 2005 as featured before in trade magazines that unfortunately might not have been available to all those that have got hold of the book.

New-wave, Malta-grown Wines
It is good to see that the choice of Malta grown wines has never been greater and keeps on growing whilst winemaking standards have never been higher. For those to whom Maltese wines are new, tasting the wines of the excellent 2005 should make the choice easier.

Vintage Report 2005
Malta’s climate is normally characterized by very hot and dry summers. But the steady rise in heat during the 2005 summer months has given way to a much slower and extended ripening period for the indigenous and international grape varieties.
In fact, the particular cold and relatively wet winter was followed by a cooler than normal summer with lower night and day temperatures throughout June, July and August.
This resulted in a delay in bud burst and a further delayed grape maturation. With little irrigation needed, the longer maturation period has given the fruit a steadier rate of ripening. Another positive factor over the normally dry vintages is the fair amount of rainfall that occurred. Similar amounts of precipitation as in 2004 made it a relatively less dry season which has resulted in much healthier vines bearing healthy fruit.
This has lead to grapes with more aromas and varietal characteristics. High natural sugar levels were also achieved for the 2005 international grape varieties as good wines dictate. The 2005 crops were generally harvested one week later than in 2004.
The average yield per vine recorded by the leading wineries was just less than 1 kg which safeguards quality. The conditions were ideal for the production of structured white and red wines of character with good potential for aging in bottle.

Major Vintners Record
Marsovin publicly announced a good quality harvest from its private estates and 286 independent grape growers which was lower in tonnage than in the 2004 harvest. Newcomer Camilleri Wines issued a statement saying that they harvested higher quantities of international varieties, including some experimental cultivars. Delicata, however, has more land under vine than any of the other vintners thanks to their ‘Vines for Wines’ project, which was launched in 1994. It set a target of 260 hectares to be planted by the end of 2008. In 1995 expert viticultural consultancy and supply partnerships were established and the first vines planted in 1996.
Each and every year since then Delicata has planted more and more international grape varieties in vineyards which now total 328 vineyards covering 140 hectares planted with 752,000 vines. The vineyards planted in 2004/2005 have produced no fruit yet. According to a spokesman, Delicata planted 40 hectares this year, and has secured a similar amount of plantings for 2006. If the same rate continues for 2007/8 Delicata’s target should be realised.

The Wines
The wines of the 2005 vintage show greater varietal characteristics and are more aromatic. The Chardonnays tend to be more buttery than citrus-like on the nose and rounder on the palate with good weight and length. Unlike previously, the Sauvignon Blanc is expressive in the Kiwi-style and also rather fat.
Good colour extraction has been achieved for fuller bodied red wines made from Bordeaux varieties. Merlot seems to be the tastiest grape variety of the 2005 vintage. Syrah examples are deep, purplish in colour and rather meaty in a similar style to the better Rhone examples.
Whilst most red wines will benefit from 3 to 8 years of bottle ageing, the lighter, crisp whites made from the indigenous Girgentina and the light-bodied reds from the native Gellewza as well as the aromatic and well-structured, fleshy rosés from Grenache Noir are now showing at their best.
Overall the 2004 vintage was spectacular in quantity terms whilst the 2005 grape harvest has resulted in some of the most spectacular quality Malta grown wines ever.

© Georges Meekers – July 2005

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