When we were in Malta last September we didn’t book many activities in advance but one thing we knew we wanted to do from the outset was visit Ta’ Mena Estate in Gozo for an afternoon of wine tasting and touring the vineyard.
I’d read a lot about the family-run estate online and their attitude towards agritourism and sustainability, so I was excited to learn more when we arrived on a stiflingly hot day halfway through our trip.
Getting to Gozo from Malta is incredibly simple. Hop on a bus (41 or 42 if you’re coming from Valletta or nearby) that takes you up to Cirkewwa where you’ll find the ferry port. Bear in mind that these buses get very busy in peak hours (we were standing for the whole journey) so it might be worth timing your trip for a little later in the day.
Once you reach Cirkewwa it’s just a matter of buying a return ferry ticket and boarding the next available ferry. The crossing is short with gorgeous views of Malta, St Paul’s Island and Gozo, so I recommend staying out on deck to take it all in.
After spending a week in Malta the first thing that struck me about Gozo was how calm it is. None of the roaring traffic and hubbub that you’ll find on the main island. Don’t get me wrong, the atmosphere and buzz in Malta is amazing but this change of pace was welcome. It’s also a lot greener, with rolling hills of vineyards and olive groves, and the whole aura is all together much more chilled out.
The perfect spot to indulge in a glass of wine – or five, if you’re heading over to Gozo for a wine tasting!
One thing to note about Gozo is that it is a lot smaller than Malta, there’s a lot less tourism and public transport links aren’t quite as regular as you might be used to if you’ve spent time on the main island. There was only one bus every couple of hours to take us to Ta’ Mena and if I went to Gozo again I wouldn’t hesitate to hire a car and see the island that way.
Our tour was given by Joe, the owner of the estate and an absolute fountain of knowledge when it comes to the secrets of the food industry. He delved into the side of olive oil and wine production that you won’t find in any cooking programme and put us off certain supermarket-produced wine for life – did you know some wine isn’t suitable for vegetarians or vegans because animal blood is added as the protein element? Nice.
After a tour of the dreamy estate (and making a couple of canine friends along the way) we headed back into the large open air dining area next to the olive groves (you can see it in the top right of one of the pictures above) for lunch and wine tasting.
We were seated canteen style and it didn’t take long for the friendly Scottish couple seated opposite to strike up conversation. We spent the rest of the afternoon chatting with them and they made the day even more fun!
We enjoyed a typical Gozitan lunch of fresh bread, olive oil, tomato paste, olives, sundried tomatoes, cheese and meats, while Joe waltzed up and down the lines of tables to fill our glasses with five different wines over the hours, stopping between each one to tell us about the ingredients and production, as well as the best way to taste it – forever obsessed with swirling my glass correctly now.
It wasn’t until I tried the olive oil at Ta’ Mena that I realised I’ve definitely been consuming the bad stuff, the ‘olive’ oil that might only contain 5% real olive oil. I’m on a hunt for some of the real deal that I can buy in the UK so if anyone knows of any please let me know!
After picking up sundried tomatoes, tomato paste and honey in the Ta’ Mena shop we caught a bus back to the ferry port and headed home to our hotel (if I remember correctly this was the night the calzone betrayed me…), with a bottle of wine in tow, of course.