The Malvasia Bianca grape

Today’s article is about a wonderful fruity grape varietal Malvasia Bianca (pronounced Mal-va-ZEE-ah Bee-AHN-Kah), again from Italy.  Malvasia is genetically the same as the more commonly known Muscat Canelli or Muscat Blanc grape.  Styles of this wine can vary from lightweight to full-flavored, dry to sweet, low to high alcohol. It is sometimes made as a sparkling wine.

In this article we will discuss one of these newly emerging Italian varietals in Temecula Valley Wine Country.  Malvasia Bianca is a member of an ancient, highly esteemed Greek family of grapes vinified in a myriad of styles throughout Italy. Malvasia Bianca is one of the most widely planted, light-colored grape varieties in Italy and the world. On the islands of Sardinia and Sicily, it makes rare, rich and wonderfully aromatic passito wines.

Whether sweet or dry, Malvasia Bianca offers delightful aromas and flavors of honey and ripe Bosc pears with hints of allspice. Round, lushly fruity flavors and a plush texture lead to a finish that is determined by the degree of residual sugar and the cellar treatment. The lightest versions offer a clean, crisp finish, while those aged in small barrels may display light tannins and a hint of vanilla. Sweeter, more opulent versions linger on the palate.  Pair Malvasia Bianca with pork, rich cheeses or enjoy by itself.  Other interesting food pairings with this wine are Seafood antipasta dishes (shrimp, scallops, and calamari dressed with oil and lemon) and grilled vegetables for the lighter wines.  Grilled fish with light provencal-style sauces pairs well with the fuller wines.  The dessert wines need only a simple almond biscotti (no chocolate please) to dip in the wine, real Sicilian cannoli or an apricot or plum tart with a marzipan pastry crust.

Malvasia is planted widely in Italy and around the world.  It performs best where it gets good exposure to the sun and where the soils drain well.  Other than the dessert wine variations, Malvasia wines do not age well and should be consumed quickly.

In Temecula Valley, Malvasia Bianca is available as a 2% Residual Sugar (amount of sugar left in the wine after fermentation is stopped) at Cougar Vineyard & Winery located at 39870 De Portola Road.  This winery resides on the De Portola Wine Trail of Temecula Wine Country.  Cougar Vineyard & Winery also has 3 year old vines planted on the winery property in Temecula Wine Country.  Wein’s Family Cellars has a similar styled Malvasia Bianca.  Weins is located at 35055 Via Del Ponte off of Rancho California Road also in Temecula Wine Country.

Cougar Vineyard & Winery is planted in entirely Italian varietals with 2,000 of the 8,500 vines being Malvasia Bianca.  We will be discussing all of these other varietals being grown by Cougar in upcoming articles about the Italian grape varietals planted in Temecula Wine Country of Southern California.