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home > food & wine dictionary > Malvasia

Food and Wine Dictionary

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 Malvasia    [mal-vah-SEE-ah, mal-VAH-zha]

Grape that has existed for about 2,000 years. It's believed to have come from the area around the Aegean Sea, possibly from what is now the southwestern area of Turkey and the islands between Turkey and Greece. Malvasia is primarily a white-wine grape, but it has many known subvarieties, including a red version called Malvasia Nera. The red grape is chiefly grown in Italy-around Piedmont in the north and Puglia in the south. It produces very PERFUMY wines and lends a delightful fragrance to some Italian red wines. The white variations are better known, the most recognized strains being Malvasia Bianca del Chianti, Malvasia del Lazio, Malvasia delle Lipari, Malvasia di Candia, Malvasia di Sardegna and Malvasia Istiana (or Malvasia Friulana). These white varieties are grown all around the Mediterranean in one form or another. They produce golden, perfumy, flavorful wines with hints of apricots, musk, and almonds. Unfortunately, Malvasia is not an extremely high-yielding vine and is being replaced by better-producing but less-flavorful grapes such as TREBBIANO in Italy and Viura (MACABEO) in Spain. Malvasia is made into a variety of finished wines-DRY, sweet, FORTIFIED, and SPARKLING, but probably is best known for its sweet fortified products. On the island of MADEIRA, the Malvasia variety is called Malmsey and is combined with TINTA NEGRA MOLE and VERDELHO. The sweetest and richest style of Madeira wine is also often referred to as MALMSEY. In Portugal some port makers use Malvasia grapes in their WHITE PORT. The VERMENTINO grape, grown on CORSICA and SARDINIA, is thought to be related to Malvasia as well. Malvasia Bianca is also grown in California, mostly in the CENTRAL VALLEY, and is used primarily in sweet fortified wines. Malvasia is also called Blanca-Roja, Früher Roter Malvasier, and Malvoisie, as well as a host of other names beginning with "Malvasia."

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Material adapted from the The New Food Lover's Companion

© Copyright Barron's Educational Services, Inc. 1995 based on
THE FOOD LOVER'S COMPANION, 2nd edition, by Sharon Tyler Herbst.

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