Malvasia Bianca – A Wine with Ancient Origins

Thursday, January 21st, 2021
Malvasia Bianca

Malvasia Bianca is a sweeter white wine, often considered a dessert wine, even though it pairs nicely with many dishes. It is appreciated by the beer and White Claw loving crowd as much as it is by more sophisticated wine drinkers. Perfectly chilled, it is a fantastic wine to grab on a hot day and enjoy while sitting out on the patio or deck.


Malvasia (in Italian pronounced Malva-zee-uh), also known as Malmsey, applies to a family of grapes, rather than a single variety, with a 2000-year history. It is believed to have Greek origins, with some sources claiming that the first sightings and continued growth of the vines were conducted on the island of Crete. The name itself is derived from the coastal Greek town of Monemvasia, which was an extremely important strategic location for the Venetians in times gone by, playing host to a fort that was used for defense. In addition, it was an extremely important trading post when the Venetian empire was at its peak.

The grapes originally had noble roots, but it quickly became defined as one of the first to reach mass production and popularity, particularly during that Venetian era. In fact, the family of grapes became so popular that many Venetian merchants named their wine stores “malvasie” in deference to the most popular wine of the era. Many go so far as to say that this is actually the first example of an international wine brand, which means that the Malvasia grape would stand as one of the most influential and important in all of wine history.

Malmsey was one of the three major wines exported from Greece in medieval times. It is alleged that when Edward IV of England convicted his brother, George Plantagenet, of high treason, his private execution consisted of being “drowned in a butt of Malmsey wine,” which is dramatized in Shakespeare’s Richard III.

Today, there are literally dozens of synonyms and versions of the Malvasia grape, in large part because the grape has travelled so far to the point where it has attained popularity in Spain, Portugal where it is still call Malmsey, Greece, the United States, and of course, Italy. In central Italy, Malvasia Bianca has traditionally been added to both white and red wine blends to boost body and flavor.


Malvasia tends to prefer dry climates with vineyards planted on sloping terrain of well-drained soils. In damp conditions, the vine can be prone to developing various grape diseases such as mildew and rot. The rootstock is moderately vigorous and capable of producing high yields if not kept in check.


Malvasia Bianca is characterized by its golden color, noted aromas and the presence of some residual sugar. In their youth, Malvasia wines are characterized by their heavy body that is often described as “round” or “fat” and soft texture in the mouth. Common aroma notes associated with Malvasia Bianca include peaches, apricots, almonds, tropical notes of lychee and guava, with a touch of honey at the finish.


Malvasia Bianca should be served chilled. With ideal temperatures between 50-55 F.


Though considered a dessert wine, consider pairing it with spicy dishes as well as egg dishes, fruits, and vegetables.

Consider pairing with:

  • Cajun Dishes such as Etouffee and Gumbo
  • Asian dishes such as Gyoza, Moo shoo pork, Won ton soup or Pad Thai.
  • Fruit, such as a Waldorf salad, Fruit Kabobs or fruit-based salsas.
  • Delicate fish and seafood dishes such as Seafood Korma.
  • Vegetable dishes seasoned with cumin or a lovely corn salad.

Next time you are in Southern New Mexico, stop in to taste this delectable wine with such a rich history. You can also order it online here.

Heart of the Desert is a working pistachio ranch and vineyard with four retail establishments in New Mexico. They are best known for their farm fresh pistachios and Award-Winning New Mexico wines. Each store offers wine and pistachio tastings. They offer worldwide shipping and produce attractive gourmet baskets that make great corporate and family gifts. The main store, on the ranch in Alamogordo, offers farm tours that showcases how pistachios are grown and processed as well as a stunning Tuscany themed patio that overlooks the groves and is available for weddings, private parties or enjoying a relaxing glass of wine.