Malvasia (mahl-va-ZEE-ah)

Like muscat, malvasia is not a single variety but a collective name for a wide variety of Mediterranean grapes (white-, pink-, and black-skinned), most of which are actually not related. What some of them do share, however, is an ability to result in sweet wines that are high in alcohol. Greece has been put forward as the original home of malvasia but DNA testing does not support this idea. Among the different varieties—all with malvasia in the name—are malvasia bianca di candia (the most planted type of malvasia and common in Italy); malvasia bianca lunga (used in Tuscany for vin Santo and historically in Chianti where it was part of the original Chianti “formula”); malvasia branca de São Jorge (the malvasia used to make malmsey Madeira); and malvasia di Lipari (which makes the famous Sicilian passito dessert wine of the same name; confusingly, this is also known as malvasia candida which sounds awfully close to malvasia bianca di candia). Malmsey is an English corruption of the word malvasia.


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