History of Malvasia

When we talk about Malvasia in Piacenza, we refer to Malvasia Bianca di Candia Aromatica, one of the 17 varieties belonging to the large Malvasia family (which includes vines with white, black and red grapes).

Among these varieties, this is the most aromatic and full bodied, and it’s linked to the other types only thanks to the ancient origin and name etymology, that derives from the Greek city of Monemvasia or Monemvaxia, located in the Island of Candia, today known as island of Crete.

Monemvasia was an important port from which wines of various origins (the Peloponnese, Rhodes, Crete and other islands), result of grapes dried in the sun, were shipped. With time, it became custom to call all wines coming from that port ‘’Malvasia’’, therefore people began talking about Malvasia, referring to wines produced with grapes that were extremely different from one another.

Wines intended to be exported were departing from Monemvasia in the Middle ages. The ships of the Republic of Venice, in particular from the second half of the 8th century, were producing and selling wine from Crete all over the Mediterranean area and Northern Europe. Venetians italianized the name Monemvasia, first by using the term Malvagìa and then Malvasia. Since then, in Venice, taverns that were selling wine coming from Monemvasia began to be named after it, and still nowadays, there are many “Calli della Malvasia” (Malvasia streets) in Venice, where once these taverns were located. The first historian who studied the various types of Malvasia in Italy was Andrea Baccialla at the end of the 1500s.

There are no precise indications as to when this vine variety reached the hills of Piacenza, but Malvasia is mentioned among the local varieties in the 1813 Yearbook of Agriculture of the Kingdom of Italy by Filippo Re.

During the early 1960s, it was the most diffused white grape variety in the territory of Piacenza, covering 40% of hectares cultivated with white grapes in the province. Scarcely diffused in the provinces of Parma and Reggio Emilia, its ideal habitat is still the hills of Piacenza, where approx. 700 hectares are cultivated.