The Malvasia grape, an ancient family of grapes that includes a diverse collection of noble varieties and to which the Torrontés grape belongs, is capable of producing wine of any feasible colour in dry, sparkling and sweet styles. Generally, however, this grape is used to produce white (and more rarely red) table wines, dessert wines, and fortified wines of the same name, or are sometimes used as part of a blend of grapes. Believed to be of Greek origin, specifically from the island of Crete, the Malvasia family has been commercially important to the Mediterranean for more than 2,000 years. Malvasia (the name) is a derivation of the coastal Greek town of Monemvasia, where the Venetians had a strategically important fortress and trading post during the time of their empire. The grape, which belongs to the Muscatel family of grapes, has a strong historical and viticultural association with islands: the Balearic Islands, the Canary Islands and the island of Madeira. Some of the most distinctive examples of the Malvasia wine have come from these areas.
The Malvasia grape is widely grown in winemaking regions across the world, with Argentina currently among the top seven wine producers globally along with Italy, the largest producer of this variety, Portugal, Spain, Slovenia, Croatia and the USA. It is also being used to produce wines in Greece, Corsica, the Iberian Peninsula, the Canary Islands, the island of Madeira, Australia and Brazil. In Argentina, the newest label of this still largely unknown grape variety, Bira Bianco D’Uco Malvasia 2022, was introduced to the global market last year and claimed a coveted spot on the 2022 Hot List in the process. This 93-point wine, the first white offering from Bira Wines which is described as fresh and elegant, was produced from vineyards planted in Mendoza’s Uco Valley in 1964. For its first production of a white varietal, the bodega exclusively made 4,700 bottles available for the market.
Bira Bianco D’Uco Malvasia 2022 is a 100 per cent Malvasia pale yellow wine, with golden reflections, that opens with an elegant blend of white flowers, white peach, and pears, as well as very pleasant citrus notes. It is a low-alcohol wine that has good weight on the palate, for a fresh wine, with a light mid palate, well-marked acidity but with great permanence on the palate. The Malvasia grapes used to produce this wine are the fruit of a vineyard first planted almost 60 years ago that, for a long time, was harvested as a bastard grape. Influenced by the cut and characteristic of the Malvasia, the winemakers decided to harvest it early to maintain its high acidity and fresh aroma profile. It was then vinified as a stand-alone varietal on its way to becoming the first white wine expression from Bira Wines.
This first Bira white wine is part of the winery’s First Generation line and was made specifically to accompany its red blend, Bira Rosso D’Uco, which comprises 60 per cent Sangiovese, 25 per cent Syrah and 15 per cent Merlot. These are wines that represent the first generation of Italian immigrants who arrived in Argentina and their creation was fuelled by a desire to develop a line that pays homage to the Italian roots of its creators. Their choice of grape for the white wine was thought to be a surprising one since its aromatic nature could easily be confused with a Torrontés, the emblematic white variety of the country. Their determination to do something different, however, proved that their selected grape, of which only 18.2 hectares is planted in Argentina, was the best variety for their signature white wine.
The vintners’ intent was to ensure they produce a white that represented the Bira Wines personality, and was easy to drink but with a strong presence and identity. Undoubtedly, this has been perfectly captured as the risk taken with a new grape and its resulting white offering, earned them a place on the 2022 Hot List. Bira Wines was founded on the need to identify the family roots of two friends, Santiago Bernasconi and Federico Isgró, both of whom originated in Italy (or Italian Switzerland) one from the north, the other from the south, with a shared love for wines from the peninsula. The search led them to a Sangiovese vineyard in the Uco Valley, planted in 1975, which served as an inspiration for them to start developing and producing wines of Italian heritage with an Argentine soul overlooked by the Andes.
Bira Wines also produces the following Malbec-based and Sangiovese-based, Tuscan-inspired red blends: Bira Tanito is made with 70 per cent Malbec, 20 per cent Sangiovese & 10 per cent Cabernet Franc; Bira Brunetto comprises 75 per cent Sangiovese, 15 per cent Merlot and 10 per cent Syrah; Bira Tano is a combination of 60 per cent Malbec, 20 per cent Sangiovese, 15 per cent Syrah & 5 per cent Merlot and Bira Bin Otto consists of 80 per cent Sangiovese, 15 per cent Merlot and 5 per cent Syrah. Their vineyards are located in Gualtallary, La Consulta and La Arboleda, all in Valle de Uco, Mendoza.