Richard Bampfield MW: Croatian Wines “Hold Their Own”


On May 10, 2011, Richard Bampfield became the first Master of Wine (MW) to visit Croatia to expressively taste and review its wines.

Richard Bampfield, MW

While in Croatia, Mr. Bampfield hosted an exclusive Master Class at the Hotel Bastion in Zadar. The event, sponsored by Yacht Gourmet Croatia, was designed to introduce guests to the U.K wine market while assessing the quality and potential of Croatian wines as an export product and tourist offering (particularly for the yachting community on Croatia’s Adriatic Sea).

Photo courtesy of Yacht Gourmet Croatia

Attending the Master Class were 25 winemakers from Croatia, including Alen Bibich, Andro Tomić, Ivica Matošević, and Mladen Rožanić. Other guests included yacht crews, representatives of luxury villas and rental agencies, and Croatian journalist Rene Bakalović (who published this article in Croatia’s largest daily newspaper, Jutarnji List).


After the Master Class and tasting, Mr. Bampfield noted that many of the Croatian wines he tasted would “hold their own” against similar wines produced elsewhere in the world.

“Croatian wines have the advantage of history, which is a good thing”, Bampfield said in a statement to Croatian TV. “Croatian wines are unique and unlike anything you can find elsewhere. But this has a negative side, too. If people cannot find the wines, then they cannot get to know them. I think the U.K. market is ready for Croatian wines. But Croatia must be smart about its promotion and placement of the wines.”

Photo courtesy of Yacht Gourmet Croatia

Alessia Cortesi, owner of Yacht Gourmet Croatia, said that the event was very interesting for the Croatian winemakers, and very important for Croatian wines. One of Yacht Gourmet Croatia’s goals is to promote Croatian wines among wine buyers in the nautical market and demonstrate that Croatian wines are an authentic product that can compete on the same level with many French or Italian wines.

“This event was an excellent step forward for Croatian wines. Master of Wine Bampfield confirmed that the wines are top quality and have potential on the international market. He discovered many of Croatia’s native grapes, some of which he would not otherwise be able to taste abroad”, added Cortesi.

Photo courtesy of Yacht Gourmet Croatia

Wines of Croatia was graciously and generously granted exclusive permission to publish Mr. Bampfield’s tasting notes, which follow below for your enjoyment. Cheers!

Photo courtesy of Yacht Gourmet Croatia

Tasting Notes by Richard Bampfield, MW

WHITE WINES

Badel 1862 Sauvignon Blanc, Daruvar  2009
Sweaty Sauvignon, very French, restrained, classy. Pleasing sweetness on palate, real depth of flavour. Dry and refreshing, the residual sugar undoubtedly enhances the character and flavour. Delicious.

Bibich 2009 Debit
Distinctive aromas, green apple, perhaps gooseberry too. Good fruit, pear-like texture, almost like a sherry. Fresh, dry, appetising, enjoyable and easy drinking.

Bibich 2008 Debit Lučica Riserva
Gold.  Oaky, old-fashioned.  Flat entry on palate, does not have the freshness to support the oak flavours. Oxidative and seems dated in style.  Certainly sherry-like.

Photo courtesy of Yacht Gourmet Croatia

Boškinac 2009 Grand Cuvee
Golden colour. Alcohol highly evident and lacks freshness of most. Heavy and a bit clumsy.

Degrassi 2010 Malvazija Istarska Bomarchese
Gently unoaked, reminiscent of good, unoaked Chardonnay. Very clean, fresh, mineral notes, persistent although flavours are restrained. Quite neutral on finish, but very fine.

Degrassi 2009 Terre Bianche Cuvee Blanc
Very fresh smelling, modern, expressive. Fresh and persistent, good acidity.  Pleasing lightness of touch, very easy to drink, quite international in style.

Figurica 2009 Kulica Coupage
Fresh, apple and nut aromas. Well made, relatively simple, but natural, dry and easy to drink, especially with food.

Photo courtesy of Yacht Gourmet Croatia

Korta Katarina 2009 Pošip
Fresh, pears and nuts. Evident cool ferment characters, but well done. Dry, fresh, lovely fruit. Fine, light touch to the oak, natural and appetising.

Kozlović 2010 Malvazija
Clean, light, scented. Light on palate, gently perfumed, good texture. Bright, young and appetising.

Kozlović 2008 Santa Lucia Malvazija
Golden colour. Toasty aromas, orange peel, marmalade.  Nice texture and flavour, not dissimilar to traditional semillon-based Graves. Dry, characterful, may not appeal to all.

Matošević 2008 Alba Barrique (Malvazija Istarska)
Sweet oak on nose which tends to dominate. No question that the oak is sweetly flavoured and enhances the flavour of the wine……..but it hides the grape flavour in my view.

Matošević 2008 Alba Robinia (Malvazija Istarska, aged in acacia wood)
Honey, roasted nuts, less overtly oaky than the French oak. Lovely sweetness on palate, good texture, fresh acidity. Exciting wine, finishing brisk, dry and flavoursome.

Matošević 2009 Grimalda Bijelo
Intriguing mix of Chardonnay, Sauvignon and Malvazija. Actually really interesting, with a distinctive and pleasing Sauvignon lift to the aromatics. Fine and complete on the palate, harmonious and fresh. Well judged oak, delicious.

Photo courtesy of Yacht Gourmet Croatia

Roxanich 2007 Malvazija Antica
Deep gold. Very perfumed, complex – notes of yeast, marmite, thick cut marmalade, fernet branca. Dry, textured, good acidity, long flavours, evident amontillado sherry character. Touch of alcoholic warmth on finish, very fine.

Saints Hills 2009 Nevina
Aromas not too oaky, note of pepper. Higher in alcohol than most and seems heavy.  Appears to have sacrificed flavour for alcohol. But interesting blend of an international variety (Chardonnay) with a local grape (Malvasia Istriana).

Tomac (2007?) Anfora
Deep, orange gold. Complex aromas of poached pears, toast, creme brulee – note of acetate. Somehow smells of ice cream. Dry, assured, pleasing orange-peel tanginess. Surprisingly, not that oxidative. Very persistent, very natural, very good.

Trapan 2010 Malvazija Istarska Ponente
Gently perfumed, touch phenolic, hint of marshmallow. Fine, dry, touch mineral, bit heavier than the others, but the overall sensation of lightness is still very pleasing.

Trapan 2009 Uroboros (Malvazija)
Honey, nuts, creamy. Rich, oxidative notes, but not overtly oaky. Good acidity and very clean finish. Lasts well, fine food wine.

Photo courtesy of Yacht Gourmet Croatia

ROSE WINES

Korta Katarina 2010 Rosé (Plavac Mali)
Subtle, vinous, really smells winey, even of white wine. Lovely flavours, not like any other rose I have tasted, note of pepper, which reinforces the sensation of great freshness. Very good.

Roxanich 2008 Rosé
Mature orange. Stewed strawberries, marmite, almost smells of Rivesaltes, definitely some very attractive grapey notes. Dry, very Burgundian, somewhat surprisingly it tastes of mature red Burgundy! Intense flavour, fresh, dry, persistent. Interesting.

Saints Hills 2010 St. Heels Rosé
High alcohol, dry, but lacking a core of flavour. A bit heavy-handed and lacks the pure drinkability and freshness of a rose.

Tomac Pjenušac Rosé (sparkling)
Pale, red tinge.  Excellent, fruit aromas, very bright.  Dry, fresh, beautifully balanced, long and elegant.  Extremely classy glass of sparkling rose.

Trapan 2010 Rubi Rosé (Cuvee)
Deepish colour, pale red. Touch confected, smells familiar, almost Australian, may be the Syrah component. Plenty of flavour, vinous, tastes off-dry (but is apparently dry). Good, bold style that retains good freshness.

Photo courtesy of Yacht Gourmet Croatia

RED WINES

Badel 1862 Korlat Syrah 2007
Fabulous aromas; pepper, ginger, spice; reminiscent of young Grange. Sweeter style of Syrah; intense, ripe, mellow tannins, spicy, savoury and hedonistic. Very generous; lovely current drinking.

Badel 1862 Plavac Mediterano 2008
Meaty aromas, note of liver, notes of green pepper, reminiscent of certain St Emilion.  Fresh, fruity, Merlot character persists, but with more overt freshness. Good – and genuinely tastes Mediterranean!

Bibich 2008 Riserva R6
Mature-looking. Warming, pleasing aromas, some of the sweetness of aroma of a Tawny Port. Sweetly fruited, mature but not cedary. Dry and slightly bitter on the finish, comes across as faintly Italian in style on the palate.

Bibich 2008 Bas de Bas
Very deep colour. Lifted, perfumed, strong new oak. Sweet, expressive but not overripe Syrah; very fine. Really intense on the palate, well judged oak, beautifully balanced by an overall sensation of freshness. Seductive, not over-extracted. Well done!

Boškinac 2007
Rich, oaky; perhaps a note of volatility. Bold, high alcohol, big wine. Better suited to the US than the UK.

Photo courtesy of Yacht Gourmet Croatia

Degrassi 2007 Merlot Contarini
Really good Merlot aromas, note of meatiness. Good sweetness of fruit and a fine, fruit-forward, appetising appeal that seems to characterise the Degrassi style.  Fresh, pure and early-maturing, excellent restaurant wine.

Degrassi 2005 Refosk Terre Rosse
Creamy, spicy, but seems to be tiring. High acidity, bitter cherry characters, very Italian. Very long and very fresh for its age. Definitely interesting but seems better suited to Italian market than British one.

Degrassi 2007 Terre Bianche Cuvee Rouge
Deep, youthful. Very fresh, bright Cabernet aromas. Refreshing, peppery edge to the fruit; juicy, flavoursome; tastes just off-dry. Really enjoyable and the sweetness of fruit is balanced by the pepper character.

Figurica 2009 Cuvee Figurina
Fresh, unusual aromas – a mix of raspberry fruit and gamey characters. Juicy, fresh and flavoursome, apparently with a touch of sweetness. Light, appetising and easy drinking.

Korta Katarina 2007 Plavac Mali
Mature looking. Stewed aromas, alcoholic, big wine, could easily have been made in Australia. Touch of volatility? Reminiscent of Chateau Musar; not a style that would be mainstream in the UK.

Photo courtesy of Yacht Gourmet Croatia

Roxanich 2007 Cabernet Sauvignon
Deep, starting to mature. Really classy; pencil-lead cabernet aromas, a sort of restrained Penfold’s Bin 707. Very pure, ripe cassis character; assured, long, tobacco edge, moderate tannins. Great freshness; top class.

Roxanich 2007 Superistrian
Intriguing aromas that remind me of butter, cream and coconut……..but it is not oaked! Fruit comes through well on the palate but not yet as complex as it could be.  The firm tannins and grip suggest this will still improve for a few years.

Roxanich 2006 TeranRe
Intriguing aromas, seems to show the meatiness of Merlot but also the rawer meat characters of Syrah; touch of reduction (in a positive way). Very fresh acidity, great flavour; firm but balanced tannins. Tastes like a really classy Pays Catalan.  Magnificent.

Tomić 2007 Plavac Mali Reserve
Perfumed, classy – clear oak, but also some lifted fruit and floral characters. Really nicely made, good oak, fine overall balance and intensity of flavour. Warming, but not alcoholic.

Photo courtesy of Yacht Gourmet Croatia

SWEET WINES

Bibich Ambra NV (Debit)
Pale to medium, yellow-brown. Unusual aromas, notes of dried grapes like PX, but also reminiscent of the must aromas of Pineau de Charentes. Compelling on the palate though, great grip and length. Sweet, well done.

Bodren 2008 Chardonnay Ice Wine (Ledeno Vino)
Not as sweet as the Riesling, but still very sweet. Beautifully made and balanced, very complete…….but I cannot help thinking that the relative lack of aroma and character betray the fact that Chardonnay lacks the intensity of flavour to make the best dessert wines.

Bodren 2008 Pinot Blanc Ice Wine
Fresh, pears, stone fruits. Very sweet, good texture and beautiful balance. Really good, with a fresh, peppery finish.

Bodren 2009 Rajnski Rizling Izborna Berba Prosušenih Bobica (TBA)
Very fine, baked apple aromas, lifted, pure, fine Riesling. Very, very sweet, almost liquorous, like apple puree. But well balanced acidity, hugely impressive.

Degrassi 2009 Muškat Bijeli San Pellegrin
Lightly grapey, also a touch soapy. Sweet, some CO2 for freshness, well balanced, but lacking a bit in real grape flavour and verve.

Kozlović 2009 Muškat Momjanski (semi-sweet)
Excellent aromas, reminscent of Muscat blanc a petits grains. Sweet, grapey, floral and bright. Fresh, flavoursome, lovely balance. Not that complex but beautifully done.

Tomić 2006 Prošek Hectorovich
Perfumed and soapy, notes of grapes and orange. Sweet, well balanced acidity, gripping and very fresh. Very good, really zingy – hard to describe the flavours, but it certainly works!

Photo courtesy of Yacht Gourmet Croatia

2 thoughts on “Richard Bampfield MW: Croatian Wines “Hold Their Own”

  • It’s good to see tasting notes by experienced tasters. They help to assess the quality and the uniqueness of Croatian wines within a larger international frame work, i.e the market place they want to become a part of.

    I am wondering about the selections, though. The same names seem to be re-occurring while other excellent Croatian wine makers are not given the consideration they deserve.

    Cheers,
    Frank

    • We totally agree with you about the frustration of the same names constantly cropping up; not just that but the sheer number of different wines that are presented by those same winemakers too. It doesn’t go unnoticed. We are trying to address that here in the UK by allowing each of our 11 winemakers a fair crack at every whip every time we do tastings, presentations & master classes.

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