Meridiana Wine Estate Ltd is a small winery in the heart of Malta with over 90% of production sold directly to restaurants in Malta – so, a tiny proportion available for export which is why you may never have heard of them. But, when you are in Malta it is the wine to look out for, well worth a visit to experience a wonderful tasting as well as a tour of the winery, or pop into the shop anytime.
There are tours every day – €12 per person for the visit and tasting – and we had the privilege of a guided tour with the Estate Manager Karl Chetcuti, clearly a passionate believer in the quality of Meridiana wines, all of them DOC recognised. We were not disappointed!
2016 Chardonnay named after ISIS, the Phoenician, the protector of sailors, around 60 thousand bottles a year (including 12 thousand half-bottles as a favourite in many restaurants). A soft, pale colour with an initial grapefruit smell then a long after-taste, this was easy to drink and very smooth.
They have three wines based on Chardonnay grape.
Fenici which is more flowery, easy to drink, ideal for the “drinker in a hurry”.
Verementino which is ideal with delicate foods.
This Chardonnay ideal with meat dishes, especially if they are spicy or have a strong taste.
The next was MELQART – 70% Cabernet Sauvignon + 30% Merlot. This is one of the most popular wines, a rich smoky smell, very smooth and rich enough to stick to the glass. Ideal with soft cheese and, apparently, perfect with a rich chocolate dessert.
BEL, a Syrah grape is spicy, peppery, quite jammy really with rich dark fruits. We agreed that Syrah is sometimes very intense, less easy to drink than some other reds, so they have found a mix of half stored in barrels and half in stainless steel vats keeps it much fresher and a better-balanced wine. We found it excellent after the peppered goat’s cheese.
Finally, we tried the 2014 Merlot, NEXUS – a lovely smooth finish. It is a lot of work to produce this wine as they must have perfect grapes. They cut off any grapes they are not happy with, must ensure there are no leaves, and therefore pack lighter bunches (with fewer grapes). Lots of decisions made during the mixing stages, 10 months in oak barrels (still choosing what the mix will be or deciding not to add anything else). It has a soft smoky smell, lovely colour, and is definitely a beautiful wine.
These are excellent wines, all first class but less well-known as they stay in Malta. As Karl says, there is no need to enter international competitions for the quality to be recognized as they do not have the facilities to export more than a few bottles a year.
An interesting note was that they have carried out surveys and identified a “lost generation” of Maltese people aged 60+ who hardly ever choose Maltese wine – it was always so bad in the past that they think foreign wine is better even if they have not tried any local wines. A great pity as they would be surprised at the exceptional quality of Meridiana wines, and the first-class selection available. Based at Ta’Qal, near the national Stadium and Crafts Village, it should be on your list of visits next time you are in Malta or Gozo.