Among many other things, today’s Istria is recognizable for its indigenous grape variety, Istrian Malvasia. Malvasia is not the name of only one variety - it includes a large number of similar varieties, mostly grown in the Mediterranean.
History of Istrian Malvasia
Malvasia is believed to have originated in ancient Greece and owes its name to the Italian pronunciation of the Peloponnesian city of Monemvasia, from where Greek wines were transported to Venice in the Middle Ages. There are more than 50 types of Malvasia, and one of the most famous is certainly the Istrian Malvasia.
Although this variety has been grown in Istria since ancient times, there is no information about the beginnings and history of its cultivation. Although the Austrian chronicle from the 13th century mentions some grape varieties grown in Istria, including Istrian Malvasia, the first official data on this variety is from 1891 when Istrian winegrowers presented it at a wine exhibition in Zagreb.
Many faces of Istrian Malvasia
Istrian Malvasia is mostly grown in the sub-region of Croatian Istria, where it accounts for more than 80% of total grape production. This is a variety of great possibilities that gives a high-quality, pleasant fresh wine, medium strong, with alcohol content between 11-13% ABV. Its taste is rounded and harmonious, the scent is fruity-floral, with tones of acacia flowers. The fruit aromas are dominated by apples, plums, and apricots, while in more mature wines the aroma of almonds can be found.
As Istrian Malvasia tolerates aging very well, part of the Malvasia grapes is stored in acacia or oak barrels, creating stronger and more complex wines, with a more pronounced aroma. Some winemakers, if weather conditions allow, leave the grapes on the vine even after the usual harvest time. These grapes have a greater sweetness, so they give golden yellow, almost orange wine. This high-quality wine has a high level of alcohol (13.5-15 % ABV), a unique balance of acidity and sugar, and a specific aroma with notes of honey or caramel.
Where can you drink a glass of Istrian Malvasia?
Thanks to the quality and diversity of Istrian Malvasia, everyone who has visited Istria has certainly tasted its famous wine. Along with other indigenous wines, over the years Istrian Malvasia has become an essential part of the tourist experience of the region.
If you take the wine roads of Istria, you will discover a beautiful landscape with vineyards. You'll meet winemakers who will offer you their wines, give you a tour and tell you stories about wine production in Istria and its history, which is inextricably intertwined with the history of region. A crucial part of such visits is the enjoyment of local specialties, with which Istrian Malvasia pairs perfectly - especially with fish, seafood, and Istrian pasta.
Wine festivals in Istria
If you're not sure where to start your wine tour from, we can recommend one of the wine festivals that take place throughout Istria almost all year round. There are so many that it is difficult to count them. Below are just some of them:
- Easter Monday: Wine Festival in Gračišće
- May: Open Wine Cellars Day
- May: Vinistra (Poreč) within which the World of Malvasia is held, international competition of Malvasia
- June: Istrian Malvasia Festival (Brtonigla)
- July: In the Empire of Muscat (Momjan)
- July - August: Wine City (Pula)
- September: Grape Festival (Buje)
- Beginning of autumn: Istria Wine and Walk (Novigrad)