In November of last year, following the 2009 harvest period, Stuart Walton, who according to Tom Cannavan’s wine-pages is “one of Britain's most gifted, but also most controversial wine writers”, visited Malta. During his stay, he visited the Delicata winery amongst others, and tasted some of the company’s wines. Stuart, who is working on the fourth edition of his World Encyclopedia of Wine, was given a guided tour of Delicata’s brand new grape receiving area and winemaking facility and was given a tasting of the new 2009 vintage wines straight from the fermentation tanks and finished wines from the previous vintage.
His recently released article on the whole visit, entitled ‘MALTA BENE’ can be read on http://www.wine-pages.com/guests/stuart/wine-malta.htm
In his article, Stuart’s tasting comments regarding the Delicata wines and the winery itself are very favorable indeed. Here are a few extracts from his article referring to his visit to Delicata….. “Over on the harbour-front in Paola, a spigot's throw from the clangorous din of the Malta Shipbuilding Company, stands the old Maltese family firm of Delicata, its frontage now a captivating shade of plum. Here, a mood of ambitious experimentation is in the air, appreciable in the rainbow palette of international varieties going through the presses. Sangiovese, Grenache, Vermentino, Zibibbo and Viognier supplement the usual suspects, and the company, which owns no vineyard land, draws on the hawkishly monitored produce of 300 contract growers. Many of Delicata's winery installations are brand-new, allowing for smaller-batch fermentation of varieties from individual sites, and it's hard not to be struck by the fervent excitement Bill Hermitage displays for an industry taking its very first steps”.
“Tasting from tank (never the intrepid reporter's favourite occupation) is revelatory. A Chardonnay from Malta's second island, Gozo (Victoria Heights), is brimming with buttery, peachy class, the Gellewza rosé from a local grape is teeming with cherry-ripe exuberance, while both Merlot and even a distinctly Rhône-like violetty Syrah are already clearly identifiable. Among the earlier vintages, a strikingly aromatic Medina Vermentino-Zibibbo blend is full of jasmine and apple, with nipping, delicate acidity, Pjazza Regina is a dry, beautifully expressive blend of Syrah, Merlot and Sangiovese, and the big reds, such as the flagship Gran Cavalier Merlot, aged in Bordeaux barriques, are sturdy, serious wines that will need around five years in the bottle to open out”.
In a footnote he concludes his article with brief comments on Malta's wine classification system introduced from the 2007 vintage. “Modelled on the Italian system, the principal tier of classification is DOK (Denominazzjoni ta' Origini Kontrollata), one each for Malta and the tranquil neighbouring island of Gozo, 20 minutes by ferry to the northwest. Minimum alcohol levels and maximum yields are specified for DOK wines. For the time being, these wines must undergo a faintly ridiculous excursion to Siena, to be approved by Italian tasting panels, a procedure that will soon become ripe for reform.
Below that is the Maltese Islands IGT (Indikazzjoni Geografika Tipika), the broader regional designation for wine from either island, but which is in reality mostly Maltese”.