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My most interesting wines of 2011 from Istria, Collio, Kras and Vipava Valley

by Gogo on February 8, 2012

in All wines,EatIstria Vino

To help spreading the word about the (crazy?) idea of umbrella branding of Istria, Kras-Carso, Friuli, Collio-Brda, Vipava valley and how outstanding wines from this territory are, I compiled here a list of fifteen bottles that blowed my mind in 2011.

2010 Robi Damjanić Malvazija – Central Istria
2010 Sirotić Chardonnay – Central Istria
2009 Crastin Pinot Grigio – Collio
2009 Norina Pez Aurea Divina Verduzzo – Collio
2008 Rado Kocjančič Brežanka – Breg, Kras-Carso
2008 Benvenuti San Salvatore Malvazija – Central Istria
2007 Batič Zaria – Vipava valley
2006 JNK Boleslav Mervič Rebula – Vipava valley
2009 Radovan Merlot – Western Istria
2009 Cossetto Mozaik – Western Istria
2009 Trapan Cabernet Sauvignon – South Istria
2008 Steras Kocinski Cabernet Sauvignon – Slovenian Istria
2008 Kozlović Santa Lucija Crno – North-western Istria
2007 Fon vinogradi Teran– Slovenian Kras
2000 Coronica Gran Teran – North-western Istria

But let’s start from the beginning.

Primož Lavrenčić at Kozlović wineryLast November I had a great pleasure to attend the opening of new Kozlović winery, surely the most stylish wine related building in Istria (and maybe also in Croatia). This picturesque valley below Momjan, at that time tainted by red and gold hues of vine leafs, was a perfect setting for many interesting wine discussions. There I got introduced to Primož Lavrenčić, the man behind Burja Winery from Vipava Valley, where he told me about a great idea.

In few words: the winemakers of Istria (Croatian, Slovenian and Italian part), Friuli, Carso-Kras, Collio-Brda and Vipava Valley should unite their marketing strategies and create a common, interregional brand identity. According to the study he did, this umbrella brand would increase international visibility of their wines and allow them to compete with big players like Loire Valley, Bordeaux, Toscana, Rioja…

Particularity and strength of this macroregion lies in its indigenous white grape varieties, like Istrian Malvasia, Friulano (ex. Tocai Friulano), Rebula and Verduzzo, that can give outstanding wines with a sense of place, of original flavor and character. They are all food-friendly whites that can go from summertime easy-drinking ones to high-end, complex and full-flavored wines. The latter are be often skin contact “orange” wines.

To help spreading the word about this great idea and how outstanding are wines from this territory I compiled here a list of fifteen wines that blowed my mind in 2011.

PS: Please note that this list was not created on the basis of comprehensive tasting of hundreds bottles and then choosing the top 15 ones. It shows only the wines that mostly accidentally or by word-of-mouth entered into my life. Consider is just as a fragment of what this territory has to offer.

BTW, how would you call this umbrella brand? Northern Adriatic wines?

Whites

2010 Robi Damjanić Malvazija – Central Istria

2010 Robi Damjanić MalvazijaEverybody knows I am not very fond of modern Istrian Malvazijas but this one took my attention at 2011 Vinistra wine fair. This low-key winemaker from Žminj didn’t want tacky tropical aromas (coming from VIN13 enologic yeast, some people say) that have become so boring and banal.

Aromas are subtle but in the mouth there is a juicy bite into ripe melon while typical bitterness in the finish is smoothed out. Beautiful acids are supporting with ease the alcohol. I am looking forward to taste Robi’s Malvazija from 2011.
 
 

2010 Sirotić Chardonnay – Central Istria

2010 Sirotić Chardonnay2Forget about mango and banana, this is a Chablis style chardonnay. The aroma of green grass reminds of sauvignon, then notes of wet clay and iodine appear. The body is strong, acids are so vivacious that at one point you think everything will go out of balance. But it doesn’t. In the mouth at first you feel sour green apples, afterwards ripe yellow fruits appear together with almost brutal mouthwatering minerality. The finish is creamy and persistent.

This wine has a didactic value since it is a nice example how minerality can be present both in the nose and in the mouth. A big bravo for Dario and Dario Sirotić.
  
 

2009 Crastin Pinot Grigio – Collio

2009 Crastin Pinot Grigio Independently on the grape variety, I feel in white wines from Collio one common characteristic, a sort of smell and flavor of terracotta. A-ha! Is this the taste of terroir? 🙂

This juicy Pinot Grigio has complex aromas of ripe yellow fruits, dried white flowers and wet clay. It is soft and rounded, strong bodied, full of juicy extract that coats your mouth and remains on your tongue for minutes.
 
 
  
 

2009 Norina Pez Aurea Divina Verduzzo – Collio

2009 Norina Pez Aurea Divina Verduzzo This passito of Verduzzo (wine made from dried grapes), made in limited quantities by a Friulan family with 100-year-old winemaking tradition, is a real explosion of aromas and flavors – honey, dried apricots, oriental spices and a touch of smoke. Significant amount of sugar is perfectly equilibrated with bright fruit acids.

A perfect meditation wine or to pair it with milk chocolate based desserts. 
 
 
  
 

2008 Rado Kocjančič Brežanka – Breg, Kras-Carso

Rado Kocjančić with his barrel of BrežankaThis outstanding white is a time machine that will teach you some history of vinegrowing. It is made from grapes coming from 100-years-old vineyard located in Dolina (San Dorligo della Valle) near Trieste. Since ancient times this piece of land became renowned for giving superb wine Brežanka. In this vineyard the vines are old, thick and planted densely, around 60% is Malvasia, Glera and Vitovske.

In total there are 15 grape varieties and two of them are completely unknown. Rado makes Brežanka using the same techniques his grandfather was using many years ago. In few words, all grapes varieties are harvested at the same time and fermented together. Therefore, it’s not a blend, it is an “uvaggio”. Two to three days of maceration (skin contact) is enough that indigenous yeast start the fermentation. I won’t tell you anything more. Try this divine nectar coming from some other time and your beliefs of what is wine will be turned upside down.
  

2008 Benvenuti San Salvatore Malvazija – Central Istria

Benvenuti brothersIstrian Malvasia is a multitalented grape variety. It excels in making of sparkling wines, in dry white wines, in skin contact (orange) wines and now Benvenuti brothers show it can give also a great passito dessert wine. It more elegant and complex than any Istrian Muscat. There is honey, dry yellow flowers, dry hay, lavender, Mediterranean macchia… It took me minutes before I stopped sniffing this beauty.
  

2007 Batič Zaria – Vipava valley

2007 Batič ZariaIt is very difficult to describe this blend of five indigenous grape varieties of Vipava valley. It was a year ago when I first tasted Zaria but I still remember how this wine unexpectedly and elegantly attacked my senses, mesmerizing me at once. Finally, she (Zaria is a women, there’s no doubt) told me clearly she comes from the countryside. There is a plethora of aromas here – walnuts, dried fruits and dried hay, oriental spices…

A “meditation” wine, it is a real challenge to pair food with it. Big White Wine. Caution: Young Batič (on the pic) really loves to talk. A lot.
  
 

2006 JNK Boleslav Mervič Rebula – Vipava valley

2006 JNK Boleslav Mervič RebulaOrange color and unusual spectrum of aromas reminding of dried pear, terracotta, sea algae and mint, tells us we have a skin contact white (“orange”) wine in front of us. Smooth tannins are pleasantly coating the mouth while in the finish we can almost feel the soil in the mouth.

While Clai Sv. Jakov Malvazija is a heavier wine perfectly drinkable even alone, this Rebula, nicely flirting with rustic elements, definitely begs for some food.
 
  
 

Reds

2009 Radovan Merlot – Western Istria

Radovan and his MerlotI don’t like green and herbaceous Merlots that are prevailing in this region but this one from Franko Radovan is something else. It shows how Istrian red soil can give birth to beautiful reds if small yields in the vineyard are practiced.

Aromas are austere and subtle, spices and forest floor prevails. In the mouth there is plenty of ripe berries while the finish is spicy and meaty – some cured and lightly smoked charcuterie appears. ☺
 
 
  
 

2009 Cossetto Mozaik – Western Istria

Alfredo and Melinda Cosseto in an old vineyardA joyful, seductive, “feminine” red wine. Red flowers aromas at first seem too intense but soon you begin to like it. Its New World style, encountered in the nose, continues in the mouth where straightforward fresh cherry flavor appear. Very funky and easy drinking. The fingerprint of red Istrian soil is felt in the mineral finish.

Melinda and Alfredo (on the pic) say they use short macerations of only 6-7 days. Perfect companion of various brudets (a kind of bouillabaisse, fish stew).
  

2009 Trapan Cabernet Sauvignon – South Istria

Bruno Trapan in the cellarIn the shadow of Bruno’s most beloved wine, mighty Shuluq Syrah, hides this food-friendly red that seduced me with its sweet fruit in the nose. Rapberries, watermelon, a lot of cherries, then some dried roses and cloves. In the mouth you’ll find crisp acids, vivacious fruitiness and silky tannins. \

A non pretentious and focused wine, I even find enjoyable the oak flavors that very soon will be completely integrated. But I doubt there will be any bottle left.
  

2008 Steras Kocinski Cabernet Sauvignon – Slovenian Istria

Steras Bojan Prapotnik and his superb CabGood Merlots are not rare in this macroregion. This powerful, macho wine of young Bojan Prapotnik from Izola is a living proof that this territory can give a superb Cab whose style is a bit Californian. In the nose, apart ripe cherries, there are already tertiary, ie. wine aging, aromas: coffee, dark chocolate, mint, cinnamon… The tannins are already rounded up while abundant extract is pleasantly quaffable thanks to vibrant acids.

I have only one objection: power slightly dominates over elegance. I don’t have doubts that Bojan, a winemaker with a curious soul, will find solution for that.
  

2008 Kozlović Santa Lucija Crno – North-western Istria

Franko KozlovićSoon, the best positions of Santa Lucija won’t be famous only because of Santa Lucija Malvazija, a big white wine that already seduced the palates of international wine experts. These tamed hills are the birthplace of grapes that go in this elegant Bordeaux blend in which Franko Kozlović adds a bit of Teran.
  

Precisely because of rebellious Teran and its sour fruitiness this wine tells an exciting story about Istrian peasant and his land.
 

2007 Fon vinogradi Teran– Slovenian Kras

2007 Fon vinogradi TeranThe essence of the land of ice cold Karst caves. I tasted it in Restaurant Križman in Monrupino, the place with an excellent choice of Carso-Kras wines and rebellious winemakers from the surroundings (Radikon, Clai, Valter Sirk…). It is similar to Moreno’s Gran Teran, equally rich in extract but with lower alcohol, even crispier acids and brutal minerality.
  
 

2000 Coronica Gran Teran – North-western Istria

Moreno Coronica Vinistra 2011My blogger colleague Darko Baretić defined Big wine as: «Big wine is the one that has aging ability and elegance». This is without any doubt the 12-years-old Teran from Moreno Coronica. Burgundy, truffles, forest floor… It doesn’t show off with its power but it seduces with its subtlety so we (Croatian wine bloggers) dared to compare its style, not its palate attributes, to big Barolo.

Chapeau Moreno! The 2000 vintage is not available on the market but 2007 will at least equally good, if not better. We just have to be patient for few years.

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