[WATCH] It’s quality over quantity for Marsovin’s wines as drought hits grape production

Despite dry winter months, the steady summer period has allowed for higher natural sugar levels among grapes.

With the harvest season coming to a close, workers are in full swing tending to the fields.,
With the harvest season coming to a close, workers are in full swing tending to the fields.,
It’s quality over quantity for Marsovin’s wines

This year’s grape harvest was 25% lower than the average crop yield, with a 5% reduction in grape produce over the already-low produce numbers for 2019, the CEO of Marsovin, Jeremy Cassar, said.

While abundant rainfall throughout autumn of last year gave hope for a fruitful harvest, Malta recorded very little to no rainfall throughout 2020. “There was a bit of rain, but that rain was intensive. In certain parts of the island, especially next to Rabat, there was a hard and heavy rainfall which actually killed 75% of the expected yield,” Cassar said.

Excessive drought conditions left a negative impact on the Girgentina and Ġellewża vines, with older vineyards suffering a considerable decline in production due to water stress.

Haphazard winter months only added salt to the wound. The colder winter months of 2019 led to a late grape harvest, with grape bunches not reaching full maturity. On the other hand, 2020 provided a warmer winter, impeding abundant vine fertility and resulting in lower yields.

Quality over quantity

While crop yields are proving low, a warm and dry spring period allowed for excellent grape quality. Warm weather in the early spring months paired with a consistent summer temperature of around 32°C and 33°C ensured a long and gradual maturation, resulting in high natural sugar levels.

Dry spring and summer months also helped minimise fungal diseases among the grapes, allowing for longer maturation periods and a higher concentration of aromas.

Interestingly, temperature variations between day and night throughout the summer period were relatively high. This causes above average acidities, providing fresher white wines and more balanced red wines.

Industry challenges

Since the bulk of modern vineyards in Malta were planted between 2004 and 2006, older vines will soon need to be replaced with newer ones. This is because Malta’s climate conditions allow vineyards to be economically viable for around 20-25 years.

Cassar said that financial assistance, either through EU or national funding, would help keep the industry alive.

“The biggest issue I’m most concerned about is the lack of agricultural land available, not just for wineries but also to other farmers who wish to plant further and expand their vineyards. Most of the time they're not in a position to find this land because a lot of land today is actually being dedicated for non-use of agricultural land, with an incentive of €213 per tumolo for land not used,” Cassar said.

Despite a challenging year, Marsovin confirmed that they have been able to guarantee the purchase of all grapes delivered to the winery, maintaining the same high grape prices as of 2019.