Enjoying Malvasia Wine with Chocolate in the Company of Royalty (Sort of) At Vega de Ribes

20 08 2009

Wine tourism in SpainMalvasia has a place in history, Shakespearean literature and Vega de Ribes, as I learned on a recent trip to the winery. Legend has it that the Duke of Clarence, brother to King Edward IV, chose to die of drowning in a cask of malvasia when sentenced to death for treason. Napoleon supposedly brought malvasia wine with him to enjoy in exile in St. Helena. Shakespeare makes several mentions of malmsey, the English term for malvasia wine, in his plays; in “Henry IV”, the Prince of Wales is accused of having sold his soul for a glass of malmsey (“an absolutely penetrating wine”) and a chicken leg. At Vega de Ribes, malvasia is their featured wine. Twenty years ago the Bartra family began growing the grape, which was taken from the only other vine in the region (at the Hospital Sant Joan Baptista in Sitges).

The family’s ownership and involvement on the land, however, dates back Family tree Vega de Ribescenturies – specifically, the 16th century A.D. In the tasting room, Enric Bartra proudly showed us the family tree drawn up in 1869, which traces his ancestors and the property back to 1540. Just as impressively, some parts of the house though are from the 13th century when a castle and its fortifications stood on the land. While we strolled through the vineyard and winery, Enric pointed out some examples of the history that visibly remain: the dry stone walls still standing, the carob trees that are hundreds of years old, and the old and “new” wine cellars. The new cellar is Cellar Key Vega de Ribesunlocked by an oversized key that could be used in a movie set in the Medieval Ages. Engraved on the key is the year the new cellar was built – 1766. He estimated that the old cellar, still functioning and in use, is from the 15th century.

Vega de Ribes produces several other wines besides malvasia, including a sauvignon blanc, a merlot and syrah. Wine Pleasures was lucky enough to try their newest wine, a sparkling malvasia (likely the only one on the market so far). The 100% malvasia bubbly is less than a year old, undergoes only one fermentation, has no added sugar, and derives its bubbles naturally from the pressure built in the bottle rather than artificial injection. As Enric said, the best way to judge it (and the only way to enjoy it!) is to taste it. Sadly, for those of us not in Northern Spain, due to limited production the sparkling malvasia will be available only at the winery for the time being.

The Bartra family still lives on the land today and grows a large variety of chocolate tree Vega de RibesMediterranean fruit trees and aromatic plants. Aside from producing grapes for wine, Enric spoke of the family-pressed olive oil used at family dinners and the fruits picked and enjoyed during the warmer seasons. All plants are grown organically as a result of the family’s respect for and sustenance from the land. The family also appreciates their history and place in the local community. In fact, the Slow Foods Foundation for Biodiversity has awarded Vega de Ribes with its Presidium title for the cultivation of a local grape to accompany locally grown foods.

Anne Shih Wine travel writerOn offer at Vega de Ribes are several options for touring the vineyard and learning more about the estate or wines. Each tour is five euros and lasts approximately one hour. The tours range from wine tasting (a general tasting of their wines, or a tasting of their malvasia paired with chocolate “Malvasia de Sitges Tour”) to bird watching (“vineyard Birds Tour”) to specific vineyard tours (“100 Vineyards Tour”, “Centennial Carob Tree Tour”, “Dry Stone Walls and Cabins Tour”, “Mediterranean Aromatic Plants Tour”). Additionally, the property is wheelchair accessible. And of course, the only way to try the sparkling malvasia wine is to visit the winery!

Anne Shih, wine travel writer for Wine Pleasures

Enric Bartra tells us about the Malvasia de Sitges grape variety:

Tasting Vega de Ribes wines including the famed Malavasia:


Poggio al Santino (Toscana) to participate in the Wine Pleasures Workshop Buyer meets Italian Cellar

3 04 2009


Today we begins our lead up to the 1st edition of the Wine Pleasures Workshop Buyer meets Italian Cellar (18 – 20 May 2009). We will be publishing features on both participating producers and importers.

poggio-al-santinoPoggio al Santino di Perini Laura. The territory of the province of Grosseto, in the south of Tuscany on the border with Lazio, is best known as Maremma (from the Spanish “marismas” – morass). Maremma is a land of sea and pinewoods, of bog and Mediterranean scrub, of sun‐drenched plains and blue hills: a harsh and wild land, shaped more by contrast than by continuity, the contrast between impenetrable swamp and tilled field, between rolling hills bearing signs of Man’s labours and jagged mountainous heights. Whichever way you turn, the gaze takes in the charm of a land where Man has shown himself able to live with Nature.poggio-web

The call of wine production in these lands is very ancient and has been widely practiced since the Etruscan‐Roman era. The ancient commercial traffic in the Tyrrhenian Sea always paid special attention to this part of central Italy because of the importance of its wine production. The Etruscan archaeological finds, in fact, confirm that the wine trade has been present here since antiquity.

Our lands are located in a hilly zone at the heart of Maremma, on a total land surface of 40 hectares, almost all given over to vines and olive groves, turned towards the south to soak in the positive influence of the climate, owing to its proximity to the sea (therefore sun, wind and the absence of humidity), with its mild autumns, which allow the grape to mature gradually and fully, giving the wine its soft, full‐bodied strength.

The vines of our company: Those of the black grape, first and foremost, the Sangiovese and then the Cabernet Sauvignon and Ciliegiolo, Malvasia, Merlot and Aleatico.

The Poggio al Santino company produces extra virgin Olive oil and white and red IGT and DOC wines. The production follows the very highest standards of quality in order to offer a wine that is conquering summits of excellence, assuming its rightful place, in silence, with reserve, playing a vital part in opening a window on the land which gave it life.

If you would like to get in touch with Poggio al Santino re their wines and olive oil please do so through thier web site or come and join us in Treviso and meet Silvia and Laura and taste thier wines in a relaxing environment. To enrol please complete a Registration Form.

La Spinosa (Organic Wine) 3rd time at the Wine Pleasures International Organic Workshop

12 02 2009


la-spinosaWe are pleased to welcome back Gianfranco of La Spinosa looking to put even more smiles of enjoyment on the faces of wine consumers around the world thanks to importers discovering their wines at past editions of the Wine Pleaures International Organic Workshop.

La Spinosa is located in Barberino Val D’Elsa, a village in the heart of CHIANTI lying midway between FLORENCE and SIENA. For over twenty years, the company has produced wine and extra virgin olive oil using organic farming techniques and methods pursuant to EEC Regulation 2092/91 under the supervision of the Bologna-based Consortium for the Control of Organically Grown Products. We make our wine from traditional Chianti grapes: Sangiovese, Malvasia, Trebbiano, Canaiolo and Colorino. Our vineyards cover an area of approximately 10 hectares. The low yield per hectare guarantees a quality product.la-spinosa-2

In our wineries we use organic winemaking techniques and methods, also in this case, without adding any foreign subjects and ensuring a very low sulphur dioxide content. Our Chianti 2005 got the \”Red Tuscany Regional Trophy\” at the Decanter World Wine Awards 2008, and Gorgottesco 2005 got the \”Silver Medal\” at the same DWWA 2008.

If you are looking to incorporate organic wine into your wine portfolio without the stress and hustle and bustle of a large trade fair then you should come along to Sitges (Barcelona) and meet the winemakers and taste their wines all in a one stop, low cost event.