By Darko Baretić, Vinska Priča
English translation, Cliff Rames
Original article in Croatian: http://vinskaprica.com/vinarije-ili-vinari-i-vina-koja-su-obiljezili-2010
In the minds of many winemakers and others connected with the Croatian wine scene, 2010 will not be remembered as a kind year. In nearly every wine-growing region in Croatia conditions were extremely wet and the vines suffered nearly every sort of stress. Grapes were often picked merely to save them and not because of technical or phenolic ripeness.
Aside from the climate, wineries were confronted with the recession, which drove down demand for their products and increased stresses on their financial liquidity, forcing them down the wayward side of the world wine market.
Despite these challenges, a number of winemakers and wineries rode out the storms of 2010 and distinguished themselves before the jury of palates at Vinska Priča:
With many new investments in vineyards and cellars, Agrokor has in recent years significantly expanded its holdings and raised the quality of its portfolio. Agrolaguna–Poreč (with its premium “Festiga” line), Istravino–Brtonigla (with its premium “Dajla” line), and Belje (with its premium “Goldberg” line) have especially raised the bar on their standards, making them some of the most competitive and exclusive “small” wineries in Croatia. Of special benefit to the consumer is the marked improvement in quality of the baseline brands (Graševina, Malvazija, etc), which are now very good value-driven choices.
As one of the first Croatian wineries to export and one of the founding members of the newly-established association of winemakers under the umbrella of Wines of Croatia, Krauthaker is a forerunner among private wineries in Croatia. Isa Bal, sommelier at London’s Fat Duck restaurant, was so impressed that he purchased the entire production – approximately 1500 bottles (of 375 milliliters each) – of Krauthaker’s 2007 “Izborne Berbe Prosušenih Bobica” (TBA) Graševina, making it the first Croatian wine to appear on the wine list of this iconic, Michelin 3-star restaurant.
Aware that an increase in wine quality of one way winemakers could combat the recession, Zdjelarević launched a new line of premium wines called “Grand Cuve Nagual”, which quickly achieved international recognition: Neal Martin, a reviewer for www.eRobertParker.com, scored the 2008 white Nagual 90 points. But what will mark 2010 for Zdjelarević is the introduction of the “Klinka” brand, comprised of five young (each vintage is released just after the New Year), early-drinking wines with more than reasonable prices, screw caps, and modern, brightly colored labels. A brilliant project!
FERAVINO – FERIČANCI
This is another winery whose recent cellar and re-branding investments have now culminated in the launch of a new quality wine brand: “Dika”. Feravino’s 2009 Dika Graševina is one of the most pleasant surprises of 2010 and stands as one of the most serious candidates to win the prize for best value for its quality to price ratio.
BODREN – BORIS DRENŠKI
Boris Drenški is by far one of the most decorated winemakers in Croatia, with a number of international gold and other medals (Decanter World Wine Awards) under his belt. His sweet dessert wines have set the new standard for quality wine in Croatia.
BOLFAN VINA – LIBERTIN – VINARIJA VINSKI VRH
Riesling, Sauvignon Blanc and Pinot Noir are the flagship wines of this winery in the Zagorje region of northern Croatia. Each wine reveals the potential of soil and climate – and results that can be obtained by a motivated and well-trained winemaker!
The long-term commitment, vision and hard work of the Tomac family delivered impressive results in 2010. Not released onto the market until late 2009, Tomac 2007 “Amfora” would have been the undisputed best Croatian white wine that I tasted in 2010 if it were not for Clai’s masterpiece, the Malvazija 2009 “Sv. Jakov”. Nonetheless, Tomac received 90 points from Neal Martin of www.erobertparker.com for the ‘09 Sv. Jakov, which solidly places it among the best white wines produced in Croatia.
In addition, Tomac’s two sparkling wines, “Millennium” and “Classic”, as well as his Riesling, Sauvignon Blanc, Chardonnay and Pinot Noir, represent some of the best values from Croatia, and – in our opinion – demonstrate are potential of international varieties in the Plešivica region, as well as the viticultural and winemaking artistry of the Tomac family – in whose barrels rests and ripens yet another potentially great white wine: the first-ever amphora Riesling!
The strongest brand of Malvazija currently on the market (although in some sectors Kozlović’s spot at the top is challenged by Coronica). With major investments in cellar technology and adherence to specific vineyard sites, Kozlović (the “Old Perfectionist”) succeeded in the production of a 2009 Malvazija that delivers exquisite freshness and finesse, at a time when many other vintage 2009 Malvazija wines from the region are alcoholic and flat.
Ivica Matošević, a man with an exceptional commitment to designing and implementing export strategies for Croatian wines, has triumphed again with the release of his “Grimalda” line of wines from the eponymous hillside vineyards in Istria, a site that stands poised to become Istria’s first “Grand Cru” position. Matošević Grimalda red was Neal Martin’s highest rated red from Istria and is quickly proving the theory that Istria can also be the land of red wine!
In the tough 2010 recession, Coronica managed to retain his respectable market position, primarily thanks to his baseline Malvazija. An extra boost was provided by the release of a new label, a vintage 2007 red wine. The “father of the Istrian Teran renaissance” has demonstrated how quality knows no recession!
2010 was a great year for this young, talented, third generation winemaker: he built and moved into a new winery; his 2008 Malvazija “Uroborus” received 90 points from Neal Martin of erobertparker.com; his first Syrah wines from 2007 and 2008 showed excellent results; he produced a very successful new rosé wine called “Ruby”, and he launched an excellent new marketing campaign that distinguished his brand.
In 2010 Badel launched “Project Korlat”. Named after the village near the town of Benkovac in central Dalmatia, Project Korlat encompasses a new line of wines produced from Bordeaux varieties such as Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot, as well as Rhone Syrah, grown in revitalized vineyards around the town. The retail price per bottle is 90 Kuna, which is an excellent value. This project will likely shake up of current market order in the coming few years, when production is expected to increase from the current 12,000 bottles to around 190,000 bottles.
ERNEST TOLJ – SAINTS HILLS
Along with Ivica Matošević and Bruno Trapan, Ernest Tolj ranks among the most savvy and successful winemakers when it comes to marketing, especially via social media. Leading the way as an example of seriousness and professionalism in Croatian winemaking, Tolj is responsible for convincing one of the world’s most legendary winemaking consultants, Michele Rolland, to come to Croatia. Tolj has also invested large sums of his own money in developing his brand, wineries, and vineyards on the Pelješac peninsula, at Kormarna, and Radovani in Istria. Preliminary results in glass and bottle are impressive: Saints Hills 2008 Dingač is a prime example of a technically flawless wine that delivers an excellent expression of Plavac Mali character and Dingač terroir.
ANDRO TOMIĆ – BASTIANA d.o.o.
In our opinion, Tomić has produced – under both his basic and “barrique” labels – one of the purest and focused expressions of Plavac Mali in recent years. With the launch of his new premium brand, “Kaplar” (a unique blend of Cabernet Sauvignon and Plavac Mali), Tomić has also laid down a challenge to the doctrines of style from the region and has set his eye on the world market.
DUBROVAČKI PODRUMI d.d.
Along with Andro Tomić, this winery in recent years has set the standard for Plavac Mali, and it consistently delivers quality and value across its range of labels. Cuvees produced from Bordeaux varieties have shown much promise in recent vintages.
With his colorful personality and precise winemaking skills, Luka Krajančić has set the new standard for Pošip, especially with his 2009 vintage – a wine that further defines Pošip’s potential and Krajančić’s incalculable expertise.
In a crowning achievement for eccentric Croatian (and Istrian) winemaking, Clai gave us his Brombonero 2008 (Refosco) and Malvasia 2009 Sv. Jakov. In our opinion, these are the best red and white wines. It is no surprise that Clai could produce such a wonderful red wine as the Brombonero; his talents are well known to us. But the surprise is the level of quality achieved from the Refosco grape, a somewhat underrated variety that was until recently widely considered to be a relative of Teran.
But it is his white Sv. Jakov Malvasia that changed my opinion of long macerated, high alcohol, highly extracted extreme wines, as it showed me that this style pf wine can be elegant and pleasant. In particular, the Clai 2009 Sv. Jakov opened my eyes to the great potential of the Malvasia Istriana variety.
2010 was a terrible year for winemakers, but a great one for consumers. While some winemakers realized that raising the quality of their product was one way to stay competitive in the challenging market, other winemakers simply lowered prices. In either case, the consumer benefitted. The quality of wine has never been better, and the quality to price ration is improving as price corrections have begun. Here’s my list of 10 white and 10 red wines from Croatia that shined in their category and highlighted 2010:
Belje 2009 Graševina
Clai Malvazija 2009 “Sveti Jakov”
Feravino 2009 Graševina “Dika”
Kabola 2009 Malvazija
Krajančić 2009 Pošip “Intrada”
Kozlović 2009 Malvazija
Libertin Vinski Vrh 2009 Riesling “Primus”
Tomac 2007 “Amfora”
Tomac 2008 Riesling
Trapan 2008 Malvazija “Uroboros”
Belje 2008 Merlot
Boškinac 2007 “Boškinac”
Clai 2008 “Brombonero”
Coronica 2007 Gran Teran
Matošević 2008 “Grimalda”
Meneghetti 2006 “Meneghetti Crno”
Roxanich 2006 “Teran Re”
Saints Hills 2008 Dingač
Tomac 2008 Pinot Noir
Trapan 2008 Syrah “Shuluq”
With this brief overview of the wines and wineries that for us highlighted 2010, we also celebrate the one-year anniversary of our “Vinska Prica” (Wine Story) collaboration. So until the next the next post, vintage, glass, bottle, journey, cellar, and plate on our – and your – Wine Story – cheers!!