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Malvasía is a wine that had a great moment of splendor before, even, the boom in Portuguese wines from Madeira and, subsequently, from Porto. With a color ranging between toasted and amber, and with fine, balanced and intense aromas, it has an almond flavor with acidic touches, as well as a voluptuous palate and great persistence in the mouth.
As England is the main destination for exports, it is not surprising that great writers of the time made reference to Canarian wines in their writings, as did William Shakespeare, who mentioned the wine as Canarian wine in his writings. There are several works in which El Bardo mentions wines made with malvasía grapes. For example, in Henry IV (Part Two, Act II, Scene IV), the Mistress quickly says a doll leaf: “By my faith you have drunk too much Canary wine, a wonderful and penetrating wine that perfumes blood before it can say: what is this?”
Malvasía wines have been favored by other illustrious personalities, such as King Charles III of Spain, as well as writers Walter Scott, Robert Louis Stevenson, and Lord Byron and the composer Giuseppe Verdi.
The Canarian Malvasía grapes come from Madeira, where they were planted by decree from the Portuguese nobleman Henry the Navigator, who originally imported the vines from the island of Crete. The stock reached the Portuguese territory around 1427 and the Canary Islands almost a century later. Over the years the cultivation and production of excellent wines evolved. Sailors highly valued the Canary wines since the saltpeter, moisture or continuous swaying of the boats did not affect their quality.
Winemakers in the Canary Islands have recently revived the intensive cultivation of Malvasía grapes. Their commitment and dedication are bringing new levels of quality and prestige to their wines, and regaining their influence as some of the world’s best sweet wines of the time.
If you are intrigued and want to try this festive sweet wine, the following Malvasías from the Canary Islands are highly recommended: Malvasía Carballo from the island of La Palma; Teneguía Malvasía also from La Palma; and Malvasía Bermejo, produced on the island of Lanzarote. These delicious wines complement delicious and different types of fresh cream cheeses and foie gras, or can be taken as a digestive after a sumptuous and delicious meal. ■