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.

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