Growing Malvasia Bianca Grapes
Malvasia Bianca in Virginia
Malvasia bianca is a variety of grape that produces aromatic dry, off-dry, and sweet dessert-style wines. It grows well in most areas of Virginia and is often used by Chianti producers as a bouquet contributor.
This early-season variety is sometimes used to produce sparkling wine bases or a muté, a stable juice that can be blended with more neutral wines to add floral notes. Malvasia bianca wines are gaining recognition for their distinctive floral and fruity aromas.
Why Grow Malvasia Bianca?
With a late bud break, Malvasia bianca survives in areas that are more susceptible to spring frost injury. Many also choose to grow this variety because of its pronounced floral aroma.
Those looking to make dessert wines in Virginia often find themselves choosing between Muscat Ottonel and Malvasia bianca as both are resistant to frost injury and produce intensely aromatic wines, but Malvasia bianca has a much higher average yield than Muscat Ottonel.
With a crop yield of about 4.8 tons per acre and one of the largest cluster sizes among all Virginia varieties, Malvasia bianca is more comparable to Chardonnay.
Weaknesses of Malvasia Bianca
Malvasia bianca tends to grow in very tight, compact clusters which could increase its susceptibility to bunch rots. This variety is no more prone to bunch rots than Chardonnay, however, and bunch rots can be avoided by practicing good fruit ventilation and not allowing the plants to develop in shaded areas.
This variety is susceptible to winter cold injury at about -9° Fahrenheit like most other Virginia grape varieties. Experts don’t recommend Malvasia bianca for independent growers because of the uncertain demand from wineries, but for those looking to make their own fragrant dessert wines, Malvasia bianca is a good choice.