Looking for a bottle that will turn your idea of white or red wine on its head? Sit back and pour yourself a glass of Malvasia.
What Is Malvasia?
Whether you call it Malvoisie, Malmsey or Malvasia, this is a type of wine that's unlike any other. That's because Malvasia is more than just one type of grape. This name actually refers to an entire family of grapes, which includes both white and red fruit.
As a result, most varieties boast unusual colors. White varieties, or Malvasia Bianca, tend to be much darker, and they often have a brownish tone. Red varieties, or Malvasia Nera, tend to be on the light side, and some are pinkish. All tend to be heavy-bodied with a fat mouthfeel. There are almost 90 varieties of Malvasia, though, so you can expect more than a few differences from bottle to bottle.
Where's It Produced?
The Malvasia family is native to the Mediterranean and dates back an impressive 2,000 years. Most originally hail from Greece, but today it's produced in Portugal's Madeira region, Italy's Piedmont region, Spain's Ribera del Duero region and about a zillion other places. You can still score bottles of Greek Malvasia, and you can also get varieties from Australia and the U.S.
What's It Taste Like?
Take your pick. You can find dry bottles of Malvasia just as easily as you can find sweet versions. No matter which bottle you choose, though, you'll notice a heavily floral nose. Don't worry, though. Most bottles have interesting notes of orange or smoky undertones, but few taste overly sweet.
Why You'll Love Malvasia:
If you love experimenting with wine, you're going to love Malvasia. Since there's such a wide variety of grapes in this family, there are tons of different types to choose from. For instance, bottles from Madeira tend to be some of the smokiest, while some are designed to be dessert or sparkling wines.
Malvasia can take so-so grapes to the next level, too. Look for blends that feature Trebbiano, Negromano or Chianti grapes to get a feel for what this diverse grape family can do.
Great Food Pairings for Malvasia:
Thinking savory? Try a glass of a fruity Malvasia Bianca with a plate of Italian antipasti loaded with salty parma ham and sweet figs. Malvasia also pairs well with rich barbecue flavors, sweet and sour pork and Thai flavors.