Brian’s Wine Wednesday: Contrade Malvasia Chardonnay

One of the first wines I tasted as a young wine explorer was a dessert wine made of the Malvasia grape. It was in Virginia, and the wine steward told those gathered at the tasting that it was a favorite of the founding fathers. Malvasia is one of the grapes used to make Madeira, a thick, sweet, fortified wine that is basically “cooked” to achieve a nutty, rich, almost chocolatey taste. George Washington reportedly had a pint of “Malmsey” with dinner every night!

This week’s wine is nothing like Madeira, although it is almost 90% Malvasia. The Contrade white I’m featuring is a perfect summer sipper: crisp and refreshing, fruity but not overly sweet, and definitely one to chill and enjoy on the back porch while you watch the brilliant Ohio sunset.

The 2016 Contrade Malvasia Chardonnay comes from Puglia in southern Italy, in the heel of the boot, with grapes sourced from a small group of local farmers, hand-picked for quality. The Falvo Family started the Contrade project in 2015 to identify and raise awareness of the best indigenous grape varietals in Puglia, Italy’s largest wine region. The goal was to raise the quality of the wines produced, from high-volume lower quality wines to hand-crafted, superior wines that “express both the traditions and the elegance of Puglia.” Contrade, from Latin, signifies the parcels of land, bordered by olive trees or other natural features, that become identifiable by their name.

Readers of this blog know I generally review red wines, but sometimes a lighter meal is better served by a crisp, chilled white wine, and this one fits the bill. I had a slightly spicy Mexican dish with rice and beans and the Contrade Malvasia was a perfect complement, with light flavors of kiwi, honeydew and lime, and a crisp mineral finish. This would be a great summer wine to bring to a party this year!

On my five-cork scale based on taste and value, The 2016 Contrade Malvasia Chardonnay gets 3.8 corks! You’d expect to pay over $20 if this bottle came from California or New Zealand, but it’s around $11 and often less just about everywhere.

If you’d like to try interesting wines like this, please join me at our next private wine party at Sorrento’s Norwood Italian! I host a wine dinner there every month, and we feature several interesting wines, each paired with a delicious course. There are always cool prizes to win, too, so listen Wednesday at 4:15 to win your spot on the guest list, or click here for a chance to win!

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