Monday, 11 May 2015

Viticulturists within the Merill Rural Network

Much like our forefathers believed that the stars controlled their destiny, we now know that climate and geographical regions affect the chemical composition of grapes and, in turn, of wine. The study of this science, and some might even say nature’s art, is called viticulture, and the Merill Rural Network is proud to be helping out those furthering Malta’s sector in this sphere.

Grapes are an incredibly versatile berry: They can be eaten fresh, add a burst of zingy sweetness to dishes as raisins or sultanas, and even make the anti-oxidising drink that is grape juice. But for all its worth, their best loved and most influential use remains their ability to ferment and create one of the world’s oldest alcoholic beverages... Wine.

At Merill, we champion tradition, crafts from an age that is fast disappearing, and the use of long-established practices when it comes to agriculture, but we also understand that science and new knowledge are there to help us build a more sustainable and efficacious system. And that’s where our viticulturists come in.

Meet Carmel & Paul Cortis, brothers by blood and in the field

Working the land is a backbreaking job that, more often than not, cements the bond that ties father to son, mother to daughter, and sibling to sibling. Carmel and Paul Cortis, are brothers in and out of the field, but their mutual love for viticulture has led them to develop a requited fondness that is evident in their work.

Chances are, you’ve already laid your eyes on one of the patches of land that the Cortis brothers manicure on a weekly basis. Perched just beneath the imposing, fortified city of Mdina lies their vineyard; a beautiful medley of colourful vines that contrast exceptionally well with the straw-coloured walls of the Medieval Silent City.

It’s hard to believe that this landscape was once devoid of life, and that Carmel and Paul had to reintroduce soil and plant vines when they first took up farming. They’ve come a long way since then and, through heavy investment in machinery and new technology, hard work, and pure determination, they are now the proud carers of a plantation of grapevines that bears fruit in the summer and provides greenery throughout the rest of the year.

Carmel and Paul are part-time farmers, but most of their free time is spent tending the field, along with their wives and children, who provide a helping hand whenever needed but particularly during harvesting season, when the workload is at its peak.

Meet Patrick Gauci, a man whose pastime enriches the landscape

While not many fathers expect their children to follow in their footsteps, Patrick is one who can proudly say that his influence on his son gained Malta another, much-needed agriculture graduate. At 55 years old, however, Patrick still spends a lot of his time farming, and is a person whose pastime is ‘rewarding’, ‘relaxing’ and beneficial to Malta’s grape-growing industry and the land he sows.

Situated at the foot of the ridge where Gnien l-Gharusa tal-Mosta lies, the Ghajn Rihana Vineyards yield grapes that go on to produce some of the Island’s most celebrated wines. All this, Patrick does in his free time, but he has been doing so since he was a child, and is grateful to have found someone who will take care of his land with him and also once he can no longer do it himself.

With a lifetime’s worth of experience in farming and viticulture, Patrick has a wealth of intellectual and practical knowledge in the field that is now fostered and bolstered by the EU-funded LEADER programme, secured through the Merill Rural Network.

To stay up-to-date with Carmel & Paul’s Cortis Vineyard, you can follow them on Facebook by clicking here; for Patrick’s Ghajn Rihana Vineyards, you can click here. For more information on Merill you can contact us by e-mail at or by calling us on +356 9944 3118.

Written by

Wednesday, 6 May 2015

Wine & Cheese Tasting Experience

Wine is an icon that has transgressed time and tastes. So much so, that 10,000 years after the first batch of this alcoholic beverage concocted from fermented grapes was made, wine still holds an important place in our everyday lives.

Benjamin Franklin once said that ‘wine is constant proof that God loves us and loves to see us happy’. 

We agree, but we also believe that wine is more than just a simple beverage that accompanies your dinner, or which you sip as you chat to friends. After all, each bottle of wine holds within it traditions, customs, scents and tastes that have been 10,000 years in the making.

Taste Local

As many of you probably know, we are firm believers in the produce yielded and products created locally, and there are many reasons for this. 

To begin with, these are zero-milage products, meaning that their carbon footprint is much, much smaller than something imported from abroad. 

Buying and promoting these products also helps safeguard customs that have been in use for generations, and helps promote the growth of our local agricultural landscape and economy. 

But, more than that, we truly believe that local produce, aided by the kiss of our generous sun, and lovingly grown by the wonderful farmers that have dedicated their life to this practice, results in superior products that taste divine.

That’s why our Wine & Cheese Tasting sessions only make use of locally-produced wine, grown in vineyards scattered all around the Islands that benefit from our fertile soil and optimum weather conditions. And, to complement the wines and take your taste-buds on a journey through Malta’s culinary traditions, we add creamy and soft sheep’s milk gbejniet (traditional Maltese cheeselets) to our offering.

Wine & Cheese Tasting Sessions by Merill

Our Wine & Cheese Tasting Sessions take place at one of our exclusive venues, which set the stage for an idyllic afternoon in the company of expertly-picked, boutique wines and fresh gbejniet created from local milk by local producers using recipes that date back tens, and even hundreds, of years.

As we take you through the different wines and explore their fragrance, palate and origin, we also guide you through the deep and intricate taste of our humble gbejna, as well as the history and legacy of the venues we are in, which include Tas-Salut Orchard or the Tan-Nixxiegha Olive Grove.

As such, these Wine & Cheese Tasting Sessions are great for both locals and visitors, and whether it’s a birthday party, get together, team-building session, or just an afternoon spent getting to know the local viticulture, we will always welcome you with open arms.

Other Details:

As we’re sure you know, wine tasting sessions are all about getting to know the wines at hand, so we’ll make sure you won’t get drunk while in our care, and we promise to keep you safe.

These tasting sessions cannot substitute lunch or dinner in their entirety, so they make for a perfect pre-dinner activity.

They are available all year round, no matter the weather!

They’re perfect for an afternoon gathering that allows you to taste some delicious Maltese wines with a backdrop of the pink and yellow sky as the sun sets. It also means that, if you come in the hot summer months, you’ll avoid the stifling heat of the early afternoon.

Groups can secure the exclusive farm venue – drop us a line for more information about this.

Visitors will try three different kinds of wine and two types of gbejniet – making these sessions ideal for vegetarians too.

For more information on Merill or our Wine & Cheese Tasting sessions, why not drop us a line at or call us on +356 9944 3118? 

Written by

Subscribe to mailing list for free. Members are eligible for some great offers.