The Ta’ Betta Wine Estate spreads across four hectares of land in Siġġiewi, Malta – but its story began much closer to home, in Cambridge. This is where Juanito Camilleri, then a research scholar in computer science at the University of Cambridge, first encountered classic fine wines – precisely within the formal dining hall of Trinity College.
It’s also the place where Juanito met his now wife, Astrid – and during their university years, the pair developed a passion for wine. They went on to settle in Malta, but the lure of wine persisted, and they eventually decided to launch their own estate in Girgenti. A big milestone in the process was meeting Vincenzo Melia in 2002, a renowned Sicilian winemaker. With his expert guidance, the Camilleris planted vineyards of Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Cabernet Franc, Syrah, and later Chardonnay.
After a decade of trials to understand the terroir, the decision to build a boutique state-of-the-art winery was made. With a production capacity of 25,000 bottles a year, it was evident that the venture would not be viable unless the wine was a premium product, and the winery a destination in itself, well-suited to tasting events.
Nowadays, the idyllic estate is home to around 15,000 vines planted on site, alongside hundreds of olive, fig and carob trees and indigenous Maltese flora. It’s named after Juanito and Astrid’s daughter, Bettina, with the ‘Ta’ meaning ‘belonging to’, and the logo depicting a girl reaching out to a vine.
There’s a small, exclusive tasting room which overlooks the beautiful countryside – and though the estate is not generally open to the public, by appointment only events are available for Ta’ Betta Wine Club members and discerning visitors.
The names of Ta’ Betta’s wines are designed to reflect their character, but also to say something about the estate’s heritage – so they are named after Knight Grandmasters of the Order of St. John. Philippe Villiers is a robust blend of Syrah with Cabernet Franc, personified by the stature of Philippe Villiers de l’Isle-Adam, the French Grandmaster who brought the Order of St John to Malta in 1530 after the fall of Rhodes.
Antonio Manoel, meanwhile, is an opulent Merlot-Cabernet Sauvignon blend which celebrates the benevolent Portuguese Grandmaster Antonio Manoel de Vilhena. There’s also Jean Parisot, a tenacious oak-fermented Chardonnay named after the 16th-century Grandmaster who laid the foundation stone of the island’s capital Valletta, and Isabella Guasconi, a Syrah Rosé, inspired by the love child of Jean Parisot de Valette.
Of course, quality is of the utmost importance. The location of the Ta’ Betta estate is a key factor in this: being situated on a relatively high vantage means it’s a little cooler than seaside towns on Malta’s coast, allowing the vines to rest better in winter, and for a more prolonged maturation of the grapes during summer.
No surprise the estate recently caught the attention of the RREC publication Strive for Perfection, a book featuring luxury brands from around the world, created to celebrate the late Queen Elizabeth II’s Platinum Jubilee.
Keen to give Ta’ Betta wines a try? You can shop the brand here in the UK via the online service Our Sommelier. Happy sipping.