Into The Earth's Womb

So Mark, if I can ask, when your adventure with wine has started? Have you always been in the wine business?

It all started at a very young age, being a naughty boy since ever my titty used to be soaked in my great-grandmother's red wine, possibly I got naughtier as the years passed. The only winery I ever visited was a small wine bar at age 10/11, they had this huge tini. I was impressed. Studied Cookery in France at age 17, we always finished the half-full bottles, which clients didn't finish. We never thew anything away! At hotel management school in Glion sur Montreux, Swiss wine was always our favorite weekend pastime.

Why have you chosen the biodynamic way in the vineyard and why the Qvevri method in the cellar?

Why biodynamique...I refuse to feed my family and myself chemicals, medicinals are kept at a bare minimum, My wife is coeliac, and the rest of us are lactose intolerant, so at the supermarket we have to choose what to consume and read all labels very carefully.

Qvevris are not only a winemaking medium, it is also a way of life, they are mystic, they have a mind of their own, they express magnetism, they need magnetism. Particles are attracted to the sides and removed after racking. No need for fining agents, coagulation agents and all other chemical substances by legislation allowed in traditional "soda pop" winemaking. 

Tell us a bit more about your vineyard. Where is located, which sort of micro-climate is there (in the context of Malta climate), which soils and grape varieties? How old the vines?  How many kind of wines do you produce? What about quantities? 

It was my choice only to do Qvevri wines, the Marani has a capacity of 35,000 litres, the estate consists of three hectares. Land in Malta is expensive, my fields are at the highest level possible, 240 metres above sea level, and 2 kilometres away from the sea, terraced, oriented South-East, the rows open to the prevailing winds, North/North-East. Its wild, grape country.
Quantities depend on the performance of the vines, I am at their mercy, 2016 only produced some 5000 bottles, Merlot, Petit Verdot and Chardo all together. Albeit of a very superior quality. 2015 was the very first vintage.
I bottle under vacuum. I do not use nitrogen except for last minute sparging. The lead and or alumina capping has been avoided for a very simple reason, mainly that they contain alumina and or lead. The wine magnetism could be severely compromised.

What is this story of magnetism in wine? I'm not sure I follow you. Tell me more, please.

Highly magnetised materials -wine is a prime example in this case, probably caused by the interaction of several prime materials in the clay used by Qvevri makers from Georgia, further enhanced through a particular technique specific to Mar Casar- need interaction with their environment. The Feel Factor reacts accordingly. But then we are extrapolating... 

I love ‘natural wines’ and I love amphora wines. Orange wines in particular. The savoury and tantalising experience offered by white wines macerated on skins is priceless. I hate however the word “Natural” when associate to wine. Vitis Vinifera is a domesticated plant and fermented grapes left to Nature will converge towards vinegar, which is a more stable point than that metastable intermediate product called ‘wine’. I think today the word “Natural” is exploited a lot, for marketing more than for philosophical reasons. I think much more transparency is needed today for the consumers and I would like to see the list of “ingredients” on each wine label. Not easy, I know. What is your opinion?   

I am in favour of stipulating all ingredients on a wine label, wine being food too. The reason behind the mention? Gluten free, vegan and vegetarian.

I suppose summer can be very hot anyway in Malta. Are you forced to use irrigation?
Vines are irrigated during June, possibly till mid July, and normally harvest starts beginning August with the Chardo, PV last, normally end September. 

Why have you opted for international varieties such as Merlot, Petit Verdot and Chardonnay. Have you ever thought of experimenting with local varieties such as Girgentina and Ġellewża?

The three varietals are my favourite wines. Should be trying out Girgentina and Gellewza this years, a nearby plot belonging to a person of trust. 

How difficult and painful is the life of a vigneron that chose the biodynamic way and the Qvevri method?

Being a vigneron is a way of Life, the hardest is of course the tasting session! It is tough, but somebody has to do it! 

There is no romance in vine growing, we do it because its our calling in Life. 

I suppose there are gratifications too! What is the most rewarding moment? When do you feel your efforts are fully paid back? I can imagine is not just a matter of cash flow and break-even.

Seeing people being merry, feeling good about themselves when drinking my wine, that is gratification. The decibel method is my yardstick of choice. When drinking natural wine with little or no additives, the feel-good factor is enormously enhanced. The choice of conversation subjects ranging from international politics to religion, life and the mystic.

Breaking even is important in every business, it took me 14 years of very hard work, heavy financial investment, at times I could not afford to buy birthday gifts for my children. 

You are not the first to ferment grapes in a buried amphora. Have you taken inspiration from any other producer? Georgians, Italians? Was there a particular event or travel that pushed you towards this approach?

How did I get to making wine in Qvevris ? How did I find Qvevris?

I didn't, they found me.
My Marani is my church, my cathedral, my religion, its me!

Powered exclusively through solar panels, wind driven air circulation and the thermal properties of the earth, making for a constant low temperature all year and a 90/ 100 % humidity. The Qvevris are buried under 100, one hundred, tons of sicilian silica quartz sand. These Imereti, Shroa clay vessels contain large amounts of gold silver and manganese, field site magnetism and these minerals combine their powers in a mystic manner. 

Are you in contact with other Qvevri producers? Do you exchange ideas with them? I’m curious to know if the Qvevri community is connected with a proper network, like a school of thought, or not yet? Have you attended any of the several “Natural Wine” fairs, which are gaining much popularity in Europe and U.S.?

The only Natural Wine tasting I ever attended was last week with COS Azienda Agricola.
Natural Wines are meant to be an expression of the soil, the micro-climate, the wild flora, the bees, the insects...they are a diary of times past written in a language people of goodwill, with open hearts, fully understand.
I am not in favour of unclarified or cloudy wines. Wine should be easy to drink, some complexity on the nose, intriguing to the palate.

They have to be drinkable, they are meant to be enjoyed, in company.

Are yours some sort of ‘meditation wines’ or are they ‘table wines’? Suggest me a Maltese dish for your red and one for your white.

The term Meditation Wines is the best description I can think of.

Possibly Goats cheese, rabbit or a beef olive should go well with the 2015 Merlot; spicy curry, pulled pork with the Chardonnay.

It sounds to me you are a bit of a modern philosopher. It is fascinating the concept of this metamorphosis, the grapes going through a gestation inside these Earth’s wombs and coming to second life in a new form and with a new spirit. It has quite a religious flavour, or a mystic one at least.

Thank you Mark, it has been a pleasure to chat with you!

I must have left a lot of details out, everyday I keep experiencing a feeling of Deja Vu, as if at some point, in another dimension, I must have made wine before. It all comes so Natural...

Thank you for this wonderful opportunity to express myself so openly with no holds barred!

Tasting Notes

I had a chance to taste only the red Merlot 2015. However I can see a lot of potential for the Chardonnay Orange wine. 
 This Merlot benefits for sure from several hours of aeration. Indeed it tastes better on day 2..or even 3!
 High quality corks, vacuum bottled, waxed...I can see a lot of efforts and attention here. Mark must be seriously passionate about what he does. 
 Hmmm, not an easy wine to understand. I'm sure many people will describe as "strange" or even "corked". Just give it time. The wine keeps changing in the glass, which is a sign that should not be corked. You may say TCA has easily saturated by nose. I don't think so. There are lots of mediterranean herbs at the beginning, garrigue, salty myrtus like in Sardinian shores. Then becomes earthy, notes of clay indeed. then there are some subtle hint of ashes, extinguishing embers. Close with roses and crushed pomegranate. Good grip and good acidity. Overall nice backbone. It's the first vintage, I'm really interested to monitor its evolution with some bottle ageing. And, of course, I'm intrigued to see the evolution of Mark's winemaking and what will come with the next vintages. The 2016 seems very promising! Stay tuned... 


 Mar Casar La Maison Du Vin Naturel Winery is located in 

Triq San Lawrenz ta' L-Gholja, Siggiewi, Malta 

Phone: +356 9945 1332, Website: 



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