Want things to do in Malta that don’t involve the beach? How do you feel about wine, cheese and farm animals?
Escape the sun with an afternoon of wine tasting in one of Gozo’s premier vineyards, Ta Mena Estate, and you’ll leave with a full belly and new appreciation for Gozo’s wines.
Where is Ta Mena?
Rabat Road Xaghra, Gozo, Malta – on the way from Victoria to Marsalforn
When are the vineyard tours?
Regular tours are held every Saturday afternoon from 1pm, although we sent a request and got on a tour on a Wednesday afternoon, so if enough people are interested then they might just arrange an ad hoc tasting. Some other tour companies on the island will try to charge you more for the tasting but it’s not worth it – it’s super easy to get a taxi yourself if you don’t want to drive and arrange with Ta Mena direct.
How much does a tasting cost?
Vineyard tour and tasting costs 15 euro.
How long does the tour last?
About an hour, depending on how long you take savouring your wines.
You start the vineyard tour with an introduction to Ta Mena Estate. The 25 hectare, agriculture and tourism complex is owned by the Spiteri family, whose passion is to create a self-sustaining, all-natural farm and vineyard that is also a place for visitors to come and learn about Gozitan history and heritage. I’d say, this noble aim they’ve achieved.
Then you climb the winding hill through the estate – bring a hat and plenty of sun cream as being out in the open fields, underneath the blazing Maltese sun during summer is bound to get hot! Your very knowledgeable host and guide, Joe the owner (see the photo below) shares everything there is to know about the plants and crops you’ll pass: of course the grape vines, but also the caperberry bushes, the lemon trees (used for making their own limoncello) and of course, the olive groves.
As well as wine, Ta Mena makes some pretty tasty extra virgin olive oil, and they’re very particular about the stuff: apparently the cheap olive oils you get in supermarkets are made of vegetable oil with all sorts of nasty chemicals added, like chlorine, yes the stuff from the swimming pool! Whether or not this is true, you can’t dispute that Ta Mena’s olive oil is the real deal. Make sure to get your fill at the tasting at the end of the tour. We’ll get to that in a moment…
You’ll also get the chance to meet some of Ta Mena’s other residents. They’ve got turkeys, an ostrich and an old farm dog who might loll beside you as you make your way through the estate, if he can be bothered with that hill in the heat! Make sure to stop by the goats, they are too cute to miss and always happy to have their heads stroked – just don’t let mum see, she might get a little protective.
You might be thinking “enough nature, show me the wine,” in which case you won’t have long to wait. After about 15 minutes of wandering through the pretty vineyard, checking out the animals, you’re straight down the hill and into the gazebo for the main event, the wine tasting.
Fill your boots on the traditional Gozitan buffet, including hard cheeselets, kunserva helwa or sweet sundried tomato paste, Gozo smoked sausage, olives, salad and as much bread and extra virgin olive oil you can handle. Tip: try tasting your olive oil on a galetta a traditional Maltese cracker, you’ll be far less bloated than eating tons of bread and get a lot more of the olive oil flavour. Also, don’t worry about food shortages or rushing to the buffet, stayed calm, there’s plenty for seconds, even thirds if you really want!
Once you’ve picked up a plate, head to the tables to begin wine tasting. Starting with a fresh and light white, passing on to a rosé (the only rosé I’ve ever actually liked, so much so that we bought a bottle back with us) through two reds and finishing on a deliciously sticky dessert wine, Joe explains all, from which grapes are in what to how to hold your glass and properly taste the wines. There’s a lot of swirling and sloosching involved – see James’s sloosching face as an example…
Once you’re finished tasting, exit through the gift shop and take a couple of bottles back as a souvenir. At about six euro a throw, you might find not many make it back in the suitcase…
Overall, an afternoon at Ta Mena Estate is fun, filling and freakin’ good value for money. Well worth stepping off the beaches for and learning a little more about Gozo, it’s heritage and it’s food and drink.
Looking for more inspiration on what to see and do in Gozo? I’ve got more tips and ideas over here.