In the summer of 1984 I had 9 years. I remember well how our family’s life was not conditioned by Orwellian surveillance cameras but by two-hours windows, one in the morning and one in the evening, in which our neighborhood had water supply. It was one of the hardest droughts of the last century. This summer history almost repeats.
We have to wait to see how hard Istrian winemakers will be hit by this years’ natural disaster. In the meantime, in quest for South Istrian wineries to include in my EatIstria wine tours, I visited Agroprodukt winery. There I tasted a rich and eccentric Malvazija coming from a vineyard located in dry and sunny fields near Medulin – 2011 Medea Montiron.
The end of August is approaching but the temperature didn’t get below 30 C and there’s no rain on the horizon in the next few weeks. In the last three months we didn’t have rain that could do more than to moisten the street dust. To make the things worse, even the whole winter was unusually dry and, as a consequence, underground streams are now almost exhausted. According to climatologists, due to the global warming the average rainfall in Istria will decrease in the upcoming decades but this important issue deserves another post (working title: Golf or Food, what are we going to choose?).
I wrote almost because thanks to artificial Butoniga lake, built at the end of 80s, the households and tourism industry didn’t have water shortages yet. The use of water for irrigation in agriculture, car and street washing is, though, strictly forbidden since the end of July.
All Istrian winemakers and olive growers I talked to said the situation is critical, especially with young vineyards that desperately need some water. They are allowed to irrigate only if they were clever enough to drill their own water well. The 2012 will be a vintage to forget, far worse than the very dry 2011, which, after all, came up with some excellent bottles, especially the red ones.
According to meteorologists, the whole Istrian peninsula didn’t experience the drought of such intensity since 1984.
“The Montiron vineyard was planted in 1983, so just a year before the 1984 drought we all remember. This poor vines had a tough start, now they are 29-years-old, they might have roots that penetrate 5 m below ground so I think they are not too thirsty now.”, tells me Aleksandar Bašić Saša as we drive through the vineyard located on a small hill overlooking the busy road connecting Pula and Medulin.
“It might be the most drought resilient Istrian Malvasia vineyard on Earth” he jokes, but I have the feeling he is right.
Saša is the general manager of Agroprodukt, an energetic guy who spends more time in the field with the workers than in the office. Few years ago Agroprodukt, a former socialist co-op that was the proud of South Istrian agriculture, got a new owner. The company is famous for their excellent and well priced extravirgin olive oils (Vodnjanski Torčol) made under strict supervision of Edi Družetić, the guy with the extensive expertise in olive growing, olive oil production and its organoleptic tasting. Try also their line Salvela – monocultivar olive oils made from Buža, Bjelica, Leccione, Rošinjola – oils that are not for cooking but should be considered as luscious condiments that can change the character of dish.
More importantly for us, the picky wine drinkers, the change of ownership caused drastic increase in Agroprodukt’s wine quality that before was on the level of bland, table wines.
“This 2 hectares reside where the borders of municipalities of Pula, Medulin and Ližnjan meet. Although in total we own 27 hectares of Istrian Malvasia, during the years we identified this small piece of land gives our best Malvasia – Medea Montiron. The vineyard is located on a mild slope facing southwest, the soil is rich in stones, the vines are old… Maybe that’s why we get such outstanding minerality and concentration.» says Marko Krstačić who, together with Ivana Perišić, makes the Agroprodukt’s enologist team.
2011 Medea Montiron – Istrian Malvazija (14,3 %)
Straw yellow with golden reflections. Very unusually for a Malvazija, the nose is at first gloomy and heavy, it has mineral quality similar to “friškina” (sea odor) found in some good Plavac Mali (Kiridžija, Miloš…). As it breathes it opens up with ripe mango, melon and apricots that are nicely carried in to the body. The mineral undertones always continue to vibrate in the background. Finally you’ll find tertiary notes of rum, custard sauce, sage, cinnamon, cardamom… Not an intense but a beautiful, complex nose.
In the mouth is very hot and oily, it reminds of some concentrated Pošip and is light years from herbal Sauvignon like Malvazijas from Northwestern Istria. Typical bitterness is felt in the finish together with not so obvious minerality (it was more pronounced in the nose) and a pleasant melon sweetness that stays more than a minute. The acidity could be better (remember, 2011 was very dry!) and this ruins a bit the balance. Therefore, it is important to serve it a bit colder than usual – about 9-10 C would be perfect.
2011 Montiron Malvazija is a rich and fruity white with character of eccentric islander (from Korčula, most probably). It will enchant you with its beautiful concentration that only old vines can yield. The only problem is the balance that will be perfect, considering dry and hot climate of South Istria, only in rare vintages. In 2012 definitely not!
Dear readers, what the winemakers, or better the vintners, should do to preserve the acidity while the climate in the area is changing? Do you believe in irrigation and artificial acidification? Did anyone hear about ion exchange acidification where no external acid is added to the wine but some electrochemical process is used?