Malvasia stands on its own in 11 different Italian DOC wines, both dry and passito, in which the grapes are dried to the semiraisin state before being vinified as a sweet wine. Throughout Italy it is blended with other white varieties – notably Trebbiano – for fresh, dry wines; in Spain with Viura in the white wines of Rioja and Navarra; and in Portugal in numerous dry, medium-bodied blends.
As a fortified wine in Portugal, it is found in semidry to very sweet white Ports. It is one of the five varieties cultivated on the island of Madeira, where it is known as Malmsey, for production of the sweet wine of the same name.
Malvasia is a reliable, resistant, moderately productive hot climate vine that prefers aridity and well drained slopes. Usually thought of as a white vine, Malvasia is a family of related subvarieties whose grapes range from red to pale green. Depending on the strain, acidity will vary. The fruit is high in flavor, fragrance and phenolics and can achieve high alcohol levels.
The Malvasia vine is one of the most ancient, planted widely throughout the Mediterranean basin but in small quantities. It is believed to have originated in Asia Minor and been named for the Greek port of Monemvasia.