The Grape Count

In Vino Veritas- "In Wine there is Truth"
Grapes to try to date: 200

Grapes tried: 104
Grapes to go:

Saturday, December 11, 2010

#44- Malvasia

The makers of the wine describe her initial impression on you as- bony dry, crystalline and clear. And boy, they couldn't be more right. This is a very dry wine that leaves a "dry" impression upon you that lasts for days and days. An American wine, the Malvasia grape is used in the Birichino Malvasia Bianca wine from the Birichino Amici winery in King City, California. It is a grape originally from Greece. It's also known as Malmsey. I'd link to the website listed on the page, but it doesn't seem to work. Nice.

I didn't like this wine. The dryness of the wine was just too overwhelming for me. It had almost tasted as if the wine was dehydrated and concentrated. The alcohol taste was just a tad much. I did drink a couple of glasses to be sure but I just didn't catch on to the wine at all. I had a lot of trouble pulling any scent or taste from this wine and reading the back of the label, I now see why.

The tastes are your typical tastes or really any that I've managed to describe over the last year. Maybe if I was actually more than an amateur wine connoisseur, I'd have been able to pull out the hints of jasmine, lime blossom and elderflower (honestly, I can tell you I know what Jasmine smells like and perhaps lime blossom- wild guess- is lime but elderflower? For real? Anyone?).

I paired this wine with a lovely homemade meal of Swiss Chalet! I went with the two white meats to go along with the white wine- chicken and pork. The sauce is nice and tangy but it seemed to compete with the intense flavours of the wine.
Overall, I wasn't impressed by this wine and if I had a choice, I'd take a pass on it if it were offered to me again. Actually let me revise that, I'll try another Malvasia but I'd certainly look for a different flavouring- let's say coffee and caramel. Now that's more my style...!


  1. Hello there -

    I have no idea about blog protocol, so pardon me if I commit a faux-pas in the e-realm by responding to your post, but here goes:

    I am the owner and co-winemaker of Birichino, responsible for the Malvasia Bianca you reviewed on your blog. I thank you for your comments, and though of course I feel quite differently about the wine we made, to paraphrase Lincoln, you can’t please all the people all the time.

    We make wine to please ourselves, first and foremost, because making it to please a market focus group or a particular reviewer is never going to provide us with a distinctive vision for our winery. Hell is other people.

    We personally prefer wines that are a little “on the edge”—searingly mineral, crunchy rieslings from Alsace, honeyed, waxy chenins from the Loire, crazy white wines from Italy made with months of skin contact and fermented in clay amphorae buried underground. Sparkling wines from Jura, dry, tannic sparkling red wines from brachetto. Zweigelt from Austria, freisa from piemonte. We like a little stinky horse sweat in our Northern Rhône reds and a little horse $hi# in our Burgundy, and run screaming from the New Wood Order—the “international” style of highly polished, low acid, high pH jammy, concentrated fruit bombs that please the ripe-fruit seeking primate in our genetic code, but after more than a glass bore us silly. We are unrepentant wine geeks, looking for the carnival ride experience from our glass: winemaking without a net. I am certain that had we chosen to include a bit of residual sugar, that it probably would’ve pleased a wider swath of consumers, and perhaps you. We make wine we enjoy, and so we push the edge- going for the crazy, phenolic explosive aromatics of this particular clone of malvasia. It is unrepentant, and, yes, to us, does suggest jasmine, lime blossom (a slightly milder, sweeter, and a touch thicker, more tropical aspect that lime juice FWIW) and, and elderflower (really similar to jasmine in my humble opinion, but with slightly LESS intense heady tropical perfume, and a touch soft melon-like fruit qualities.)

    Describing wines is certainly subjective, and, one hopes, requires the exercise of a bit of poetic license, but these descriptors are rooted in the presence of the flavors that one does find across a wide range of fruits and even herbs and flowers. At a molecular level, then, there are components such as thiols naturally present in both citrus fruit (like thioterpinol) and wine grapes in varying combinations and quantities. As such, using descriptors derived from other fruits or flowers to describe something one detects in wine isn’t at all far fetched. Certainly, we don’t ALL perceive things the same way, and taste is no exception. To wit, a review from Dec 1,2010 from Editor Steve Heimoff of the Wine Enthusiast of our 2009 vintage of the same Malvasia Bianca wine:

    Malvasia is an aromatic variety, like Riesling or Muscat. This wine is bone dry and brims with mouth-cleansing acidity. Flavorwise, it’s all oranges and tangerines, with hints of honeysuckle and white pepper. There’s something tangy and layered that makes it terrifically interesting. Try as a refreshing alternative to tart wines, like Sauvignon Blanc or Pinot Grigio. - S.H. (12/1/2010) - 90 points, Best Buy, Editor’s Choice.

    Clearly he enjoyed it, and he’s using similar, but not identical, descriptors, to describe it, compared to those I chose.

    I’d suggest one serve our wine at 13 C or even a touch warmer, and with different foods than whatever “Swiss Chalet” was-- seafood- shellfish like scallops, goat’s or sheeps milk cheese, pesto, thai or Vietnamese spicier fare. Too cold and it shuts down, thins out, and with any sort of cream or mayo creamy cow’s milk, it can be a train wreck.

    FWIW Since you are interested in unusual grape varieties, I highly recommend Jancis Robinson’s Vines Grapes and Wines, which goes into great detail on so many different varieties.

    Alex Krause
    Birichino Wines, Santa Cruz CA

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