This week we’ll look at an Italian wine and a vineyard that I discovered some years back. Since then I’ve returned many times, for the wine, the food and the natural scenic beauty. I’ve yet to see another American there, except the few whom I’ve taken with me.
Taste something good this week!
You can call it “mahl vah SEE uh” or you can call it “mal VAY see uh” but it’s the same grape. I use the first pronunciation because I’ve heard it that way in Italy for a long time, but in the U.S. the second pronunciation is predominant.
This once eclectic white wine grape is gaining a following as it spreads from its native home in northern Italy to California’s Central Coast and beyond. Most malvasia is dry, and made with only a slight accent of oak flavor, which helps it to pair well with today’s lighter menus. This is especially true for summertime meals.
The Villa Giannelli de Maris and its vineyard are in northern Italy, across the Po River from Milan, over the Apennine Mountains from Genoa, very near Piedmont. I discovered this area and its remarkable wines some years back while traveling. Since then I’ve returned a dozen times, for the wine, the refined cooking and the natural scenic beauty. The closest town of any size is the ancient city of Piacenza, about 60 miles south of Milan (there’s an exit from the A-1 autostrada). That’s why the appellation is called Colli Piacentini (“Hills of Piacenza”) one of the place names protected by the Italian Wine Law.
The rugged foothills of the Apennine Mountains—the spine of the Italian peninsula—provide drainage for the vines and a subtle minerality on the wine’s finish. The resulting combination of vibrant flavors of white fruits with crisp, palate-cleansing fruit acids and a deft touch of oak make this wine perfect for the dinner table.
Signore and Signora Giannelli de Maris spent many years reuniting small parcels of land that had been divided after the feudal days (the castle on the label overlooks the vineyard). They asked my friend Massimo Perini to manage the vineyard and make the wine. Massimo’s family has made wines in this area for many generations. The wine is distributed by Custom Beverage–that’s me.
Retail price: around $25.