New Wine Frontiers
Maltese wine finds footing in the United States.
Wines from a boutique vintner in Malta—a tiny island nation in the Mediterranean—are finding a place stateside, thanks to the former Maltese ambassador to the U.S., Mark Miceli-Farrugia, who established the Meridiana Wine Estate in Ta’ Qali, Malta, with Marchese Piero Antinori in 1994.
Miceli-Farrugia believes Meridiana’s wines appeal to American wine lovers because “consumers are looking for new wines from unknown lands. Malta represents a ‘new frontier’ for many Americans, thanks to our archaeological and cultural legacies.”
There are now two selections available in the U.S. from Washington, D.C.-based importer and retailer Calvert Woodley: 2009 Fenici White (Vermentino and Viognier) and 2008 Fenici Red (Syrah and Merlot).
“Fenici White is a fresh, apple-like blend of Vermentino and Viognier. Fenici Red is a ripe, cherry-plum blend of Syrah and Merlot,” Miceli-Farrugia says.
Fenici is a Maltese term for the Phoenicians, enterprising traders who spread the culture and science of winemaking throughout the Mediterranean between approximately 1,200 B.C. and 800 B.C.
In 1985, Meridiana came to life when a French enologist persuaded Miceli-Farrugia that climatic conditions in Malta were ideal for quality wine growing.
“Then, thanks also to the guidance of our German-trained, Maltese oenologist, Roger Aquilina, we experimented successfully with 10 different vine varieties grafted onto three types of rootstock,” says Miceli-Farrugia.
In 1989, Miceli-Farrugia leased a 47-acre plot of agricultural land at Ta’ Qali, which served as a Royal Air Force base during World War II.
Miceli-Farrugia adds that Meridiana almost has doubled its cultivated surface area since its beginning. “From an initial planting, we now cultivate 87 acres. This surface area will, at its peak, yield close to 240,000 bottles of wines annually.”