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Sitges Malvasia, a legacy that continues

Sitges has a sweet and salty taste. The sea provides it with salubrity. The sweetness (with nuances and aromas, of course) is also liquid, it has a seaborne influence and provides it with a unique and singular wine: Malvasia wine (also known as malmsey), which owes its name to a grape variety that, admittedly, has its origins in Greece. But here it has forged its own character and survived thanks to a name of its own: Sitges Malvasia. Today it is a historical and gastronomic legacy.
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Yes, let's get to the spoiler: we wouldn't be talking about Malvasia wine as Sitges' own benchmark if it weren't for Don Manuel Llopis de Casades (1885-1935), a local lawyer and diplomat who was a visionary and, consequently, a protectionist. Aware that this variety was in danger of extinction due to its complex production (it required up to three or four different harvests in order to obtain its grapes), the impact of phylloxera and urban development in general, in 1935 Llopis de Casades left his lands and the Winery business, with its hundred-year-old casks, its wine press and other heritage elements, to the Sant Joan Baptista Hospital in Sitges in exchange for maintaining a minimum production of this wine. And that's been the case ever since.

 

As a result, this hospital, which continues to provide healthcare services, has its own wine cellar, which is run by the Sant Joan Baptista Hospital Foundation in Sitges. The Foundation speaks of a 'sweet legacy that must be preserved', also made sweet because of an equally unique social component: the proceeds from the sale of this wine (an annual production of between 14 and 18 thousand bottles) are used entirely to pay for the hospital stays of patients with limited resources.

 

Added to this historical and social value is a third experiential and enotourism one: the Sitges Malvasia Interpretation Center (CIM), which visually and interactively places you right at the heart of Sitges' unique Malvasia wine, its history and, of course, guides your sense of smell and palate with wine tasting, samplings and cultural activities. It's not easy, but as an intrepid introduction, we would tell you that this golden wine has an entrance dominated by fresh fruit (peach, apricot, pear and melon), with floral notes and a touch of Mediterranean herbs. If that sounds good to you, it will taste better…

 

But let's let Alba Gràcia, the CIM coordinator, continue to guide us in this post. In fact, the first thing, she says, is to contextualize: "The truth is that we cannot say that Malvasia Sitges is unique to Sitges or that it is only produced here, as we can also find it in other regions of Catalonia; but it is true that we are the birthplace in our country and we were also the bastion that prevented it from disappearing".  Okay Alba, but Sitges Malvasia, the one produced here, is different, though, isn't that right? "Yes, it's different because the sea's proximity protects the grape and provides a balance between its acidity and sugar and the Garraf Park and its calcareous soil provides a mineral flavor that gives it its own, very special flavor". Well now we've cleared that up ;)

 

The CIM's guided tours, which can be booked on its very own website, not only provide a context and historical framework for this wine, but also help visitors to understand its origin and characteristics: "During our tour you will discover the 5 different types of wine made from a single variety - sweet, dry, sparkling, young and vintage) and we will also show you what we call 'the sea or the constellation of Malvasias in the Mediterranean'". All of this in exceptional surroundings and in the shade of the Modernista-style hospital itself.

 

Our goal would be that, at this stage in your reading, you might have added getting to know and tasting Malvasia wine to your list of reasons for visiting Sitges. Remember that you can also finish driving your palate wild with an unbeatable pairing: Xató as a starter and Sitges-style rice as a main course. Because wine is poetry. Wine is life. Because as Eduardo Galeano said, "We are all mortal until the first wine and the second glass of wine".

 

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Sitges Malvasia wine

 

The Malvasia Interpretation Center (CIM) is in charge of disseminating the legacy and value of this wine variety that Sitges has managed to preserve as its own.

 

Malvasia wine, Malvasia Interpretation Center (CIM), Sitges Malvasia wine, what to drink in Sitges, what to eat in Sitges, Alba Gràcia

10/09/2020

Culture, Family, Gastronomy, Legacy, Restaurants, Tourism, Traditions

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