Five go to Caper island: discovering Malvasia on the Aeolian island of Salina

Salina is formed from two volcanoes

We fly into Catania (Sicily) and drive past Mount Etna to the port of Melazza. A €20 Euro high-speed ferry (Liberty Lines) takes us to the island of Salina. The only seat left is next to a couple with a dog: they think this is an inconvenience to me, but the dog is welcome company for the 90 minute ride.

Here’s a film of the visit:

Salina is one of the Aeolian islands, and it is famous for its Capers (more on these in a later post). We’re here for something different, though: Malvasia.

We are staying at Capofaro, the estate owned by the Tasca d’Almerita family, which has 27 luxury rooms, amid 4.5 hectares of vines. This is a spectacular place to stay. My room is under the lighthouse, so it’s easy to find at night. It’s understated, elegant luxury. Beautifully done.


Aperitivo time. We head to the pool and restaurant area, where we sip Malvasia watching the sun begin its decline. In the distance, we can see Stromboli, a small island with an active volcano. Two weeks after this trip, it erupts, killing a tourist and scaring the residents.

The next day I walk through the vines. One of the blocks here is known as the ‘Anfiteatro’ vineyard, and it’s beautiful.

Tenuta Capofaro

Malvasia’s glory years were in the early 19th century when the strait of Messina became a frontier. British soldiers were stationed there, prepared to face down Napoleon, and started developing an appreciation for the Malvasia wines from the Aeolian islands, particularly Lipari and Salina. Soon, this wine was being exported to England by sea. The families in Salina built bigger boats and planted more vineyards. Its economy flourished and more vineyards were planted.

But then came phylloxera, destroying 90% of the vineyards and causing half the population to leave. Production resumed on a much smaller scale in the 1930s. The new wines made were called Mavasia di Lipari, with the island names of Lipari, Salina and Vulcano added.

My travelling companions

Malvasia is still a small story. There are just 120 hectares of vines in the Aeolian islands, most planted in tiny vineyards. Salina has 70 hectares, but the whole island used to be covered in terraced vineyards, most of which have been abandoned.

Hence Malvasia Day. This was a chance to gather to discuss, and taste – looking at examples of Malvasia from around the Aeolian islands. We also managed a few producer visits, including D’Amico, Fenech and Virgonia. We took a boat tour round the island, and swam in the sea. And then we came and tasted.

This is the broken side of a crater

Volcanic island meets sea

Franco Fenech, winegrower on Salina

Limpets, raw

Antonio D’Amico, winegrower, Salina

These are my Malvasia notes:

Tenuta Capofaro Didyme Malvasia 2018 Salina, Italy
Didyme is the old name of the island. This is a bright, fruit-driven wine with nice grape and citrus aromatics with nice depth on the palate. Quite fruity but with a distinct salinity. Lovely texture and balance here, with a hint of olive and herb. 91/100

Tenuta Capofaro Malvasia delle Lipari Passito 2018 Salina
Rich, vivid and intense with pure sweet grape and spice notes with some subtle raisiny richness. Aromatic and fruity with great intensity. Lovely depth with real purity and sweetness. 92/100

Caravaglio Intratata 2018 Malvasia Salina, Italy
Stainless steel. Very pure with saline hints and rounded pear and white peach fruit, with a briney freshness. Such lovely fruit intensity here: really pure, compact, dry and fresh. 92/100

Tenute di Castellero 2018 Sicily, Italy
This is 60% Malvasia and 40% Catarrato. Nutty, intense and savoury with some stony notes. Very expressive with wax and herbs. Nicely savoury with some salty hints. Nice precision. 92/100

D’Amico Léne Malvasia Salina 2018 Sicily, Italy
This is a collaboration between owner Antonio D’Amico and Salvo Foti, who helps make the wine. 100% Malvasia. Fermented in stainless steel then goes to…

Source :