Can you believe how delicious aged Malvasia Istriana can be?
Istrian Malvasia has become one of Croatia’s wine ambassadors, but rarely are Malvasia Istriana and “vintage” mentioned in the same sentence.
On March 13th, 2023, in the emerald hall of the Esplanade Hotel in Zagreb, which has hosted a considerable number of wine tastings, workshops, and festivals, a presentation of aged Malvasia was held. Has the time finally come for the wider public to recognise what connoisseurs have long known?
That good Malvasia is not just a wine for one season.
What kind of wine is Malvasia?
Just like numerous tourists and guests from around the world, as well as locals, everyone loves to enjoy the lively youthfulness of Istrian Malvasia. There is nothing wrong with that; on the contrary. However, insisting on the freshest vintage of Malvasia has become a cult with no basis in wine culture.
Regardless of vinification, Malvasia not only can be beautiful even several years after the harvest, but every good Malvasia is usually better when given time to settle and round off in the bottle. This won’t mean that it has lost its freshness, but rather that it has become a complete wine that still achieves the necessary dynamic on the palate and recognisable aroma.
The presentation showcased Malvasia wines that were vinified in how structured white wines are made. A good portion of the wines was made using several days of cold soaking after separating the stems and completing their fermentation in temperature-controlled stainless steel barrels before being aged in larger (or smaller) wooden barrels, with or without battonage.
These wines are “designed” to last in such a way that their best characteristics are achieved not years after the harvest but years after their release to the market.
What does aged Malvasia taste like?
It was particularly exciting to experience Malvasias that were not vinified for ageing. Wines that were conceptually designed as a quick sip of Malvasia, as a refreshing “clean & green” type of young Malvasia, demonstrated incredible resilience and character, in some cases even 20 years after the harvest!
However, it seems that the optimal phase of consuming regularly vinified “fresh” Malvasia is achieved 5-7 years after the harvest. Of course, if the material is of first-rate quality. The most impressive and complete wines were the 2015 vintages from wineries Anđelini and Degrassi, and the 2013 Vižinada Reserva from the Festigia line. Beautiful 2017 Moni Emvasis single vineyard Malvasia from the Meneghetti cellar is only hesitantly entering its optimal consumption phase.
33 Istrian winemakers presented mostly, two labels of their wines. One that is available on the market and vinified as a white wine for ageing and another, an older vintage, taken from their personal archives for this occasion.
Depending on the characteristics of the harvest, but mostly depending on stylistic preferences, aged Malvasias were more or less “spiced up” by schooling in wooden barrels; some were more expressed in flavour fullness depending on the length and method of maceration, while the best ones were simply beautiful, still drinkable, and achieved their full potential only time can enable.