Over the last few years, there has been a noticeable change in both the style and quality of Maltese wines. This is mainly due to the viticultural revival that has happened over the last decade. The confidence to invest in this grape-growing revival by leading Maltese winemakers like Emmanuel Delicata was encouraged by the consumer confidence shown in their range of quality varietal wines produced from imported Italian grapes. The importation of these grapes was an inspired solution as the winemakers of the day had very few grapes being grown locally and a bottle of wine was selling for only a few cents. This inStant access to quality grapes (albeit not Maltese) was a shrewd move that gave the winemakers quality raw materials to make a quality wine without the heavy investment and time constraints the viticultural development would need.
Just five years later, thanks to the demand for these wines, investment in Maltese viticulture Started. At present, the wine industry is about one third self-sufficient in locally- grown grapes and is aiming to be fully self-sufficient by 2010. Now, there are wines on the Maltese wine market produced by Maltese winemakers, both from Malta-grown grapes and imported grapes. The quality of the wines is good but obviously the wines made from the Maltese or Gozitan grapes have their own unique characteristics because of the climate and soil, whereas the wines made from the Italian grapes reflect the 'terroir' of the region where they were grown.
The majority of producers making these wines from imported grapes adhere to EU legislation and the label on the back of the bottle clearly states: 'wine made in Malta from grapes harvested in Italy'. More often than not, this is then supplemented by some details of the region where the grapes where grown, ego Friuli etc, and a description of the wine. Grape varieties and vintages can also be mentioned according to EU legislation.
The wines made from Malta- or Gozo-grown grapes are also clearly marked on the label, although the introduction of a 'national' quality wine from a defined geographical region (D.O.K) is still to be introduced. Hopefully, once the majority of vineyards have been planted and the results to determine the 'designated' regions which make a difference are defined. But for the time being, individual wine producers are labelling these wines made from 100 per cent locally-grown grapes their own way under their preferred brand names. These wines, however, should be the only wines with the term 'Product of Malta' (or Gozo) on them. The more discerning wine producers are giving clear and honest indications of the wine's provenance and this can be seen on both their front and back labels. The legislation for grape varietal naming and vintage statements is in line with that of other member states in Europe.
Emmanuel Delicata, Malta's oldest winemaking company, leads the way viticulturally and has nine Malta- grown and two Gozo-grown wines: Gran Cavalier Syrah, Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc and Cabernet Merlot, Medina Vineyards, Chardonnay Ghirgentina, Rose Grenache, Cabernet Sauvignon and a blend of Syrah, Grenache and Carignain; (Gozo-grown) Victoria Heights Merlot and Chardonnay; and a semi sparkling rose wine made from the unique indigenoes Maltese red grape Zarina Gellewza frizzante.