“La” Malvasia... I can only imagine this soft and soothing wine as a feminine entity. The feminine (linguistically speaking) nature of the name came about purely by chance. It is said to come from an ancient locality in Greece, and was brought by the Venetians to Friuli and to Istria, from where the adjective “Istrian” derives, and which distinguishes the variety from many other types of Malvasia found in Italian vineyards which even among themselves are very different. I like this vine simply because it is so attractive. Some people may find this odd, but anyone who has spent any time working with it in the field will understand. I love the leaves, wide, shiny and smooth with a fleshy consistency, a soft shade of green, an upright bearing and not too luxuriant in growth. The wooden parts are nice too, with their short internodes and the wide nodes which confer a wavy, sinuous quality to the stalks. And the colour of the wood…a highly eloquent light brown tending toward tones of mustard. The shape of the leaf scars; big, especially when in the awakening of spring they open among their fine coating of downy hairs up to reveal the faint green flash of the buds shining among the dewdrops.

I love the shape of the grapes and that of the bunches which, when the vines are managed in a balanced way, have a gracious outline, a little irregular, bevelled into the form of a wing, and which bear fat grapes which when ripe take on a golden colour with pinkish striations. When ripe, these grapes are enticing; they’re even nice to eat unlike many other wine grapes. The vine is wild and requires little to prosper. When it reaches a certain age, and if the pruner has treated it kindly, the plant takes on a graceful shape, like a small tree. I love growing these vines; if at one time it was dying out in these hills, there were obviously more people who wanted to rip them out than to take care of them. Happily, today, it is being planted once more. It’s a soft wine which you get, and it must be said that it’s an awkward variety, sensitive to the conditions of each year. But when the conditions are right, the wine takes on aromas which are both pronounced but delicate. When it is young, it has notes of roses, which on aging tend to disappear, being replaced by piquant notes which are reminiscent of spices, particularly of white pepper. When you make Malvasia it’s a bit like working in the dark, rather like when I was a boy, I used to paint clay at my aunt’s house; its colours before and after firing are different. Its flavour is gracefully wreathed – it has a long finish without being overpowering. Of all the wines I make, it is perhaps the one which most suits its natural matchings with food. You have to watch out because it can sometimes be full-bodied and have a strong personality, but it doesn’t overpower the food. Maybe it has its origins in the Aegean area, and should probably go well with kinds of fish which bring the flavours of the sea intact to the table after cooking, yet it could probably go well with other dishes too. 

Malvasia from Borgo del Tiglio is obtained, in those years which permit it, from a brief cold maceration of the pressed grapes to allow the extraction of aromas from the skins, and after pressing the must is fermented in small wooden barrels generally on their second or third cycle. In good years, from the oldest vines, we make a selection we have chosen to call Italo & Bruno, after the two now deceased brothers who used to own the land.

Nicola Manferrari