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Staying alive at Zagreb Wine Gourmet 2011 – 2nd part

by Gogo on March 10, 2011

in All wines

Here is the continuation of the first part of ZG WG 2011 report.

We move from Abbruzzo to the north-eastern border of Italy where La Castellada winery is settled. The winery belongs to Collio DOC, famous wine growing region of Friuli that is home also to Radikon and Gravner, two pioneers of macerated white wines (“orange” wines) that enjoy almost celebrity status. In comparison to Radikon who leaves grape skins in contact with must for minimum 20 days up to 3-4 months and Gravner even more, Giorgio and Nicolò from La Castellada use somewhat shorter maceration for their whites, only five days for some varieties or not at all for Pinot Grigio.
La Castellada wines
This is probably the reason why La Castellada Ribolla Gialla has more fresh fruit inside and tastes more like white wine, while Radikon’s Ribollas is more similar to some well aged red wine – fruits are now mature/candid but etheric, toasted and mineral aromas prevail, there are more tannins and body is stronger (here is an article in Croatian I wrote 3yrs ago about vertical degustation of Radikon’s Ribollas). Finally, 2005 La Castellada “Bianco” made with Chardonnay, Pinot Grigio, Ribolla Gialla, Friulano and Sauvignon was a hit! In contrast to Ribolla, this white blend was not only rich in aromas (mature tropical fruit, custard sauce, minerals) but the richness in extract, silky texture and long finale made a sort of 3D effect in my mouth 🙂 Truly great wine! In conclusion, La Castellada took a middle road between modern white wines and “orange” wines.

Tasting 2005 La Castellada “Bianco”. Click here for HD video.

In the last few years Marko Geržinić, a young and gifted Istrian winemaker, is gaining increasing attention with his red wines made exclusively in stainless-steel. My favorites are 2008 Geržinić “Teran” – 100% Teran and 2009 Geržinić “Syrah” – 100% Syrah. The first has typical Teran aroma, violets and raspberries, minerality is felt already in the nose but only in the mouth shows all its power, very food friendly. Syrah is less powerful and captivating but surely more enjoyable for general public, simple and jovial, more floral than fruity, with characteristic black pepper notes and some smokiness, it will be great slightly chilled in the summer with some meat from barbecue. Finally, extraordinary minerality is typical in all Geržinić’s wines, easily perceptible also in reds. I don’t know if this is the reason, but in the area of Kaštelir where Marko has his vineyards the soil has vidid red color that reminds me of expressionist paintings. This area surely worths a visit.
2008 Geržinić "Teran"

If you are a fan of BIG red wines then 2007 Zlatan Otok “Zlatan Plavac Grand Cru” – 100% Plavac Mali is the wine for you. They say it’s Croatia’s rarest wine, it enjoys a cult status and comes from vineyards on steep southern slopes of Hvar island (Sveta Nedjelja) with yield of only 0.5 kg per vine. Explosion of ripe, almost dried black or blue fruits (plums, blackberry), animal scents, leather, cigar smoke in the nose, in the mouth again ripe fruit, chocolate, plenty of extract supported by solid freshness. Finale last for ages… Wine for meditation and late night tastings, alone in empty countryside house.
Zlatan Plenković's wines at Zagreb Wine Gourmet 201120082007 Zlatan Otok
I was curious to try Zlatan Plenković’s new wine (winemaker behind Zlatan Otok) that is made from the most popular grape variety in America, Zinfandel or in Croatian Crljenak Kaštelanski. The nose was fantastic, more fresh because the red fruits were less ripe and jammy than in the wines made from Plavac Mali, but the mouth was less powerful. It would be interesting to see a blend between Crljenak/Zin and Plavac Mali. At the end I tasted 2007 Zlatan Otok “Zlatan Porat” – 100% Plavac Mali dessert wine made from dried grapes and having 90 g of sugar per liter. It’s not fortified wine, but almost. Croatians don’t have Port or Banyuls but Zlatan Porat may be the first wine that is capable to support dark chocolate! Fantastic!

At 3 PM on Saturday the crowd on the festival became so dense and loud that I wasn’t able to concentrate anymore and I gave up any further tasting. And missed so many wines from Primorje and Dalmatia made from obscure indigenous varieties that are grown only on limited areas and nowhere else, like Gegić, Debit, Kujundžuša, Babić, Grk, Pošip, Vugava, Prč… I think I will have to go to Dalmacija Wine Expo in Makarska from 29-30.4.2011 to catch up all this curious wines.

The last moments on the festival I spent with Toni Batel (right) and Dimitri Brečević (center), two guys belonging to the new generation of Istrian winemakers. Until last year Toni was taking care of Tito’s vineyard and winery on island of Vanga, in the Brijuni archipelago. He told us how getting good grapes and producing wine there was a real challenge since this small island has humid, almost tropical microclimate that is perfect for all kinds of vine diseases. “The hardest, but also the most beautiful days of my life”. Now he is working in a winery in Motovun. Dimitry is one-man-band that stays behind Piquentum wines and you should definitely try his new wine 2009 Piquentum “Terre9” – 100% Refošk I reviewed few weeks ago.
Dimitri Brečević and Toni Batel

That’s it folks! If somebody reading this is coming to VinoVinoVino 2011, the seventh annual wine tasting of “natural” wines that will be held April 7-9, 2011 at AreaExp events center in Cerea near Verona, let me know. I was there two years ago and the wines I tasted there changed my perspective on the world of wine. And yes, the atmosphere was relaxed and cosy, have a look at the photo below. Can’t wait to feel the moist of Lombardian Po plain on my cheeks 🙂

VinoVinoVino 2009 in Villa Boschi

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