The latest 2008 “Sv. Jakov Malvazija” from Giorgio Clai, the pioneer in biodynamic winemaking in Croatia, impressed me a lot. This is the wine of extremes… The fight between acids, salts, alcohol and fatness is so compelling that soon, in a glance, you find yourself finishing the third glass.
In the last year a lot has been written about so called orange wines or white wines where grape skins are left in contact (macerated) with grape must for several days, even months – here is an excellent introductory article from Eric Asimov (NYT The Pour), here is a comprehensive list of orange wines tasted by Thor Ivenson and here there are some points of view on the subject from Giampi Moretti.
As I already wrote, Istrian Malvasia is traditionally made in “orange” way until some 15 years ago, when the wine renaissance took place in Istria and this vinification method was abandoned, considered as old-fashioned and wrong by the mainstream winemakers. Now, thanks to Clai and Roxanich the orange Malvasias have been resurrected and they soon proved how delicious and interesting can be.
The latest 2008 “Sv. Jakov Malvazija” from Giorgio Clai, the pioneer in biodynamic winemaking in Croatia, impressed me a lot. This is the wine of extremes that can be hinted from its high alcohol content – 15.1% alcohol (!). I have never tried such a strong white wine, practically on the border between wine and liquors or fortified wines.
Golden yellow in the glass. The nose is mysterious and delicious, not at all fruit-forward like most Malvasias in Istria, but dirty and very earthy. The aromas are so tightly intertwined that it took me some time to recognize dry hay, wet clay, dry figs, Mediterranean macchia, Kaki, Loquat and slight medicinal note similar to Vermouth. Definitely there are plenty of things to smell in this wine, but the real action happens in the mouth. First the acidity bites you, and it is good to have it so strong since it successfully manages to balance out the high alcohol content. The wine is slightly tannic, has a nice silky texture on the tongue, with powerful flavor and body. Exploding mouthwatering minerality improves further the balance and makes the finish moderately long, clean and delicious.
The fight between acids, salts, alcohol and fatness is so compelling that soon – in a glance – you find yourself finishing the third glass… Which might be dangerous if you have to drive home, otherwise just enjoy the evening in a nice company. A dangerous wine since it is so easy to get drunk with it, it just flows down your throat and 15.1% you don’t feel at all! And don’t worry about tomorrow’s headache – Clai told me that concentration of sulphur dioxide in the bottle is less than 40 mg/ which is ridiculously small compared to over 140 mg/L permitted in other Istrian whites. He does not use it to stabilize the wine simply because his wines have enough polyphenols (extracted from grape skins in prolonged maceration) that protects them from oxidation.
This wine is incredibly friendly with the food, but it needs some heavier stuff since its body is so impressive. Around Christmas I tried it with a roasted duck stuffed with fruits and the pairing was just perfect. The un-fruitiness of the wine nicely contrasts the fruit content in the dish, otherwise the pairing would become too boring and suffocating. The acids successfully managed to clean the mouth from the fat, while the alcohol dried it from excessive juices of the dish. I also see “Sv. Jakov Malvazija” perfect with some white truffles tagliatelle, roasted rabbit and lamb-on-spit.
Price 115 kn (16 eur)