The grape Malvasia goes by many names, from Malmsey in English to Malvasier in German to Malvasijiein in Croatian. Legend holds that this grape was disseminated from the Greek island port of Monemvasia, a trading hub for the wines of the region. However, recent DNA testing has revealed that not all grapes called ‘Malvasia’ are related, though they are widespread through Europe and often yield dry, floral wines.
67 Wine sells a full spectrum of Malvasias, with standouts such as the Los Bermejos Malvasia Seco 2010 from the Canary Islands, La Stoppa Ageno 2007 — an orange wine from Emilia-Romagna — and New York Malmsey, a Madeira from The Rare Wine Co. We also offer Quinta das Maias Malvasia Fina 2011, a wine I first encountered a year ago during a tasting with Luís Lorenço at his winery in the Dão. I knew then that I wanted to offer it at 67 Wine, and it’s finally arrived.
In Portugal, wines are often a field blend, so Luís Lorenço is unique in that his best wines are monovarietal — but also quite graceful. This wine is 100 percent Malvasia Fina, which has been cultivated in the Dão since Roman times. Lorenco’s Quinta das Maias vineyard lies at the foothills of the Serra da Estrela mountains, which block the region from the Atlantic; here, the soil is granitic. Lorenco expresses this terroir with low-intervention winemaking: first, he partially destems the grapes, then crushes them via a soft pressing in an automatic press. The must is clarified by gravity and decantation, and fermentation occurs in stainless steel vats. To the final blend, he adds roughly 10 percent barrel-fermented Malvasia Fina to impart a bit more structure and complexity.
In the glass, the Quinta Das Maias Malvasia Fina is a pale-straw color with a floral, lemon-lime bouquet. The wine in quite dry and fresh on the palate, with an impressive depth of character and intensity of flavor. Balanced minerality and acidity keep this Malvasia round and upbeat, and it has a long, graceful finish. 2011 is the first year that Quinta das Maias is fully organic certified.
When I caught up with Luis to find out what dish he might serve with this wine, and he gave me his sea bass recipe (below). With this wine finally available, I took home a bottle to enjoy and tested out the recipe. Sea Bass wasn’t available, so I went with what was fresh, wild, and local — which happened to be porgy. The recipe was easy to pull off, and indeed, an excellent pairing.