When sommelier Gaetano De Simone put together the wine list for the newly launched Villa Corinthia, he wanted to introduce Maltese diners to an exciting new world of Italian wines.
From lesser-known grape varietals to undiscovered regions and daring producers that are putting out some of Italy’s most exciting wines, the list has been specifically created for celebrated MasterChef Francesco Mazzei’s kitchen residency in Malta.
“We tried to put together a tour of Italian wines from all around Italy – from the snow-covered Alps to the southern tip of the boot. Of course, we included highlights and classics that diners know and love, but we also wanted to introduce some niche winemakers and grapes,” he said.
Born in Naples, Italy, De Simone, 37, is a certified expert sommelier who trained at the Italian Sommelier Association in London. He’s worked at leading London restaurants including MasterChef Mazzei’s famed Fiume in Battersea. So when Mazzei began scouting out talent ahead of his residency at Villa Corinthia in Attard, De Simone’s oenological talents were at the top of his list.
“I tried to put together a list that would suit Maltese drinkers’ tastes,” De Simone said. So what do the Maltese look for in a grape? De Simone says that a common thread in the Mediterranean region is the preference for bold and fruity wines.
This means robust reds and complex whites. To this aim, the list De Simone has curated promises to transport patrons to the heart of Italy’s winemaking heritage. It includes wines like ‘Vola Vola’, a Sicilian Viognier, by producer Fina. Picked under the baking August sun in Western Sicily, De Simone says these grapes have a rich complexity with notes of stone fruit and apple blossom.
Another lesser-known white that De Simone is particularly fond of on the wine list is a Timoraso from Italy’s Piedmont region. This wine, he says, drinks like a chardonnay, but with a higher minerality because the plateau where the vineyards are planted was once beneath the sea.
From the north of Italy, De Simone says he included some fresh wines, rather than the mature, oaky reds and whites that the area is known for – a Ribolla Gialla from Trentino for instance, with notes of an Alsace white. And in keeping with Mazzei’s Calabrian heritage, De Simone included the finest wines that Calabrian vines have to offer.
The wine list isn’t only Italian of course, and also includes new-world greats and other old-world classics. However, the sommelier’s heart is firmly rooted in the Italian winemaking tradition.
For instance, De Simone says that while Villa Corinthia serves exceptional Champagne from France, they also encourage diners to sample the sparkling wine of the Trentino region in Italy.
Made in the same Metodo Classico style as champagne, the sparkling wines by Ferrari are Italy’s most celebrated cuvées. “There is a lot to digest in the list. Being presented with a wine list can be intimidating – the role of the sommelier is to act as a guide, helping to navigate through the selection to arrive at your destination – which in this case is a wine that pairs well with your meal and your tastes,” De Simone said.
And now you can enjoy sampling these fine wines at Villa Corinthia’s salumeria corner. Serving exquisite Italian charcuterie with homemade bread and in-house pasta, the salumeria’s high tables are where you can enjoy a couple of glasses with friends, to wind down a busy day, or bring in the weekend.
“We want people to feel relaxed, and enjoy some great wines at affordable prices, with exceptional cold cuts, cheeses, and house bites. After all, what better way is there to enjoy a good glass!” De Simone said.
Which is your favourite wine?