A feeling of optimism prevails in the cellars of the Delicata winery now that the entire crop of the 2017 grape harvest is picked and safely in tank.
Whilst the cumulative impact of two successive years of harsh weather conditions have kept the heft of the crop per hectare of most varieties on the low side, this year’s grapes were generally very healthy and full of varietal aromatics and desirable natural grape sugars, and of very good quality.
Winemaker Matthew Delicata crushed his first bunches of the 2017 vintage on Monday morning 7th August. Chardonnay and Sauvignon Blanc were the first cultivars to make their way swiftly from the vineyard to the winery.
The 2017 harvest ran its long course for almost seven weeks to reach its end on 20th September, when the last tonnes of excellent Cabernet Sauvignon grapes were met with a final sigh of relieve. Weeks of suspense and fear for adverse weather finally gave way to thoughts of making more great medal-winning Delicata wines.
In total 25 different grape varieties were harvested, including the native varieties Girgentina and Ġellewża, and all grapes were carefully picked by hand as is the rule in the Delicata domain of over 300 family-run vineyards.
Thanks to the company’s ‘Vines for Wines’ scheme, a long-standing professional collaboration between the Delicata winemaking family and the grape-growing farming community, enough grapes have been secured to maintain last year’s overall production levels.
However, the challenge for the winery and Malta’s grape growers is to prepare for the increasing demand for well-made Maltese wines in a growing economy by a larger group of consumers with discretionary income and who have started to take to exciting home-grown wines that keep getting better vintage after vintage.
The ultimate day of crushing also saw two coinciding visits at the Delicata winery where now all eyes have turned to quality-oriented work in the cellar. In a few months’ time, it should more than pay off with fragrant whites, interesting rosés and deep reds.
Parliamentary Secretary for Agriculture, Fisheries & Animal Rights, Mr Clint Camilleri, officially toured the Delicata winery and witnessed the winemaking process in the main hall prior to inspecting the customised cooled chai, a temperature controlled building that houses white wine fermenting and storage vessels as well as different types of oak barriques.
A varied range of interlinked topics was discussed with managing director George Delicata such as climate change, field water distribution and the prospect of incentivising the farming community to plant more much-needed new vines.
The exchanges were based on the understanding that the Maltese wine industry produces high-quality wines in a sustainable and environmentally friendly manner and generates income for many families and revenue which is retained in the country’s own economy.
Winegrowing, of course, also contributes to Malta’s appeal as a popular travel destination attracting many travellers such as the winery’s second visitor of the day, namely globetrotting wine critic Jean-Baptiste Ancelot from France.
Mr Ancelot is the founder of the unique project called ‘Wine Explorers’. He is travelling to every single winemaking country in the world to discover new terroirs and rare wines he then reports on in Le Figaro and the website www.wine-explorers.net. Malta is the 57th wine region in his itinerary. Ancelot tasted a lengthy flight of wines from the current inventory in anticipation of this summer’s new vintage.
The 2017 harvest is best summarised as a quality-conducive growing season with all grape varieties arriving in time but low yielding. Whilst of certain labels there might not be as many bottles to go round as enthusiastic wine lovers would have hoped, the result will be some great Maltese wines.
This article by Georges Meekers appeared first in the Times of Malta, 29th September 2017.