Tuesday, 12 June 2012

Ta Mena Estate, Gozo, Malta

After the wedding, there was of course a honeymoon. We visited the island of Gozo in Malta for two weeks. I had been to Malta once before with my family, but we had only done a day trip to Gozo, so thought it would be interesting to experience the Gozitan way of life and explore the island more thoroughly.

One of the highlights of our holiday was taking part in a food and wine tour at Ta Mena Estate near Marsalforn. The tour was advertised through our hotel - the Kempinski San Lawrenz - and cost €13 each. It was advertised as including a tour of the estate and food and wine tastings. For €13 I wasn't necessarily expecting a huge amount of food nor whole glasses of wine (wine tastings I have been to before have included small amounts of various different wines), but let's just say for now that the Gozitan hospitality did not let me down on this score.

As advertised, there was first a tour of the estate. The owner of the estate, Joe, showed us the olive trees, the vineyards, some of the animals and explained his traditional methods of farming and the history of the estate - you can read more about these at their website linked to above.
Gozo has the perfect climate for growing just about everything - strawberries, melons, oranges, lemons, broad beans, to name but a few products produced on Gozo. Fennel and capers grow wild on the road side. They make particularly good wines, as the climate is perfect for growing grapes, but I don't think much, if any, of it is exported.

Once the tour had finished, the small group of us who were on the tour, returned to base camp at the bottom of the hill, where we sat al fresco as we were introduced to some Gozitan food and wine produced on the farm by Joe and his wife.

We had tomato paste on bread and Maltese crackers (galletti), olive paste, olive oil, sun-dried tomatoes and Gozitan cheese (gbejniet). And there was plenty to go round. The tomato paste in particular was amazing - I have never tasted tomato paste like it! We also got a lesson in olive oil tasting and wine tasting.

I couldn't believe how much wine they gave us. We had one glass of white, one of rosé, and two different reds. All the wines were delicious - I can't remember what kind of white it was now, but I do remember that it was the best white I had ever tasted - even my husband liked it and he doesn't normally drink white! We were particularly impressed by the final red we had which was Marsamena - we ended up buying two bottles of it (we would have bought more if we had more room in our suitcases). It was a bargain at €8 a bottle!

 This particular wine is made from five different grape varieties: Merlot, Cabernet Savignon, Serkuzan, Cabernet Franc and Syrah. It's a complex and full-bodied wine, perfect for sipping slowly and savouring after a scrumptious supper.

The best thing about the tour (apart from the delicious food and wine), was that it felt like we had been invited into Joe's home for the evening - he and his wife were so warm and friendly and welcoming. And they did ply us with plenty of food and wine.

We were also treated to some samples of their newly-developed chocolates and a shot of limoncello to round off the evening.

They have small shop on site and we bought some tomato paste, capers, olives and some Maltese biscuits to share with relatives back home. These are nice reminders of our holiday and I only wish I could import these products so I could keep a regular stock of them here at home!

All in all, a fantastic evening was had at Ta Mena and we hope to visit again in the future.

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