Featured image by Michael Calleja
Tucked away in a quiet hideaway street on the outskirts of Paola, the Marsovin Cellars hide a veritable goldmine of history. The building is certainly old, it being built in the 17th century by the Knights of St. John, but does not seem like much from the outside. On the inside, however, Marsovin have carefully reinvented what was once a network of workshops into a meticulously-maintained cellar and wine ageing station.
Of course, history per se was not why we were invited to the cellars, but rather we were there to sample a taste of Marsovin’s future – the classic winemakers’ first venture into organic wines, and we were there as part of its exclusive Marsovin launch event.
A project that’s been nearly eight years in the making, the high-ups at Marsovin finally decided to take the first step to producing an organic wine back in 2013. The Marsovin Marnisi enjoys the title of Malta’s first official premium-organic wine, a feat imparted after a rigorous three-year certification period and a some major overhauls in winemaking practices.
As we entered the Marsovin foyer, we were treated to a gorgeous bar-like setting right into the foundation of the original building. Aubergine caviar blini with labne and mint were at hand to kick things off and we were each served a chilled local chardonnay, Cassar de Malte.
In no time at all, we were taken past a wrought-iron gate right down a tightly-winding garigor and into the belly of the cellars themselves. There, the CEO of Marsovin himself, Jeremy Cassar, hosted a brief but insightful tour of the cellars. Home to over 200 oak barrels, the cellars we visited were home to none other than the Cassar de Malte we were sipping on, made using the double-fermentation methode traditionelle, a practice employed by only three other wineries in the whole Mediterranean region.
The crisp chill of the cellars followed us all the way to our dining room for the evening – a beautifully candlelit wine storeroom, with shelf upon shelf of dark bottles set around a gorgeous table and dining set, in place especially for Marsovin’s guests.
Be-our-guest vibes reverberating strongly all around the room, culinary extraordinaires from the Mediterranean Culinary Academy was at hand to prepare some mouthwatering meals for the night paired with a selection of Marsovin’s finest.
First off, a glass of Marsovin’s fine Chardonnay-Girgentina blend, a 1919 White. This fruity wine was paired alongside a red bream carpaccio, with Granny Smith apple slices, cucumber shavings, and pistachio puree, with a salad option sans red bream for vegetarian guests.
Then for the main act: the Marnisi itself! Aromatic and deep red, its flavours were immediately palatable and intense, but not in any way overpowering. Mr Cassar explained that the vintage we tasted had only been bottled four months earlier and will take a full three years to mature. The 2016 vintage, which is the first organic produce and has officially hit the shelves, is a rich and delicious blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Cabernet Franc harvested from the Marnisi estate in Marsaxlokk.
Discussions then turned to the developments in organic winemaking in Malta and Gozo. For Marsovin, this required some serious paradigm shifts in farming practices, including maintaining and upkeep of the vines, and the actual winemaking process and ingredients used. As Marsovin viticulturist Christian Cremona explained, this was applied to the 2.8 hectare spread of the Marnisi estate, making it the largest organically-farmed vineyard in the Maltese islands.
Of course, an organic wine wouldn’t be complete without a fully-organic main course! The Marnisi was beautifully paired with a beef ribeye/charred beetroot bathed in mixed berry jus, potato puree with charred onion and pickled shallot.
Tying off the evening in a neat little bow, we were treated to a sweet and creme-like Guze wine, paired with the most delicious carob and almond biscuit with chocolate and amaretto cake. The dessert itself included cherries poached in the same Guze, which made for an equally tasty surprise.
Stuffed and well with our fill of wine, the evening was rounded off with a brief from the Mediterranean Culinary Academy. Much like Marsovin, the Academy is now focused on the use of sustainable and local ingredients and is helping young farmers transition to fully organic practices.
You can find the Marsovin Marnisi in all premium wine shops, as well as the Marsovin Cellars in Paola and The Master Cellar in Naxxar. For more information, contact 23662401/23662445 or e-mail [email protected]