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Sitges Malvasia is a true rarity: even though it is included in the 84 internationally recognized varieties of Malvasia, only a few hectares of this production survive.

Legend has it that almogávares (mercenary soldiers from the end of the 13th century who were particularly skilled in guerrilla warfare against the Saracens) brought Malvasia to the Garraf while supporting the Byzantine emperor. The present survival of this vine can be attributed to the farsightedness of Catalan diplomat Manuel Llopis de Casades (born 1885 in Barcelona, died 1935 in Sofia). Last heir of the Llopis lineage, one of the most ancient in Sitges (dating back to the 16th century), Manuel Llopis de Casades left a will one month before he died. He handed over possession and management of all his properties in the Sitges territory to Hospital de Saint Juan Bautista de Sitges (a religious charitable institution) on the condition that they continue the production of Sitges Malvasia from the Llopis vines.

This provision has ensured that 2.5 hectares of Sitges Malvasia still exist today, though they are now embedded between recently erected houses and buildings from uncontrolled urban development.    

The chalky soil, sea breeze and protection offered by the mountains all contribute to a unique microclimate which is ill-suited to most common grapevine pathogens. Sitges Malvasia has very distinctive deep-cut leaves, long and flexible vine shoots and small, elongated grapes which are left to overripen. The grapes are harvested between the end of September and the beginning of October.

The young oenologist Josep Pascual supervises the production. All those who collaborate in this small production do so virtually gratis. The resulting wine is a strong sweet passito which acquired the Denominación d'Origen Penedès in 1991.

Malvasia yearly production is small (about 4,500 bottles total) and does not satisfy the demand that comes from Sitges, Vilanova, Barcelona or even as far as Madrid. The majority goes only to local buyers, which serves to protect the local culture and to reinforce the connection between the product and the inhabitants there.

The Presidia established by Slow Food aims to protect the 2.5 hectares from land speculation and perhaps to support other producers who wish to plant Malvasia in neighboring areas. The Presidium takes part regularly in both national and international events and at exchanges with other wine Presidia.

What is a Slow Food Presidia?

The Slow Food Presidia are projects sustaining quality production at risk of extinction, protecting unique regions and ecosystems, recovering traditional processing methods, safeguarding native breeds and local plant varieties.

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Photos — Archivio Slow Food

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