Oz Clarke, James Beard House, and “Mystical Malvazija”


“Istrian Malvazija? Count me in…”

So begins the beguiling commentary in the November 2011 issue of Decanter magazine by Oz Clarke, an award-winning broadcaster, writer, and author of Oz Clarke’s Pocket Wine Guide and Oz Clarke’s New Wine Atlas, as well as many other books.

Oz Clarke

In 2011, Mr. Clarke visited Croatia twice to learn more about the country and its wines. So impressed was he the first visit, he decided to stay away from the iconic Bordeaux en primeur tastings this year and return to Croatia. Why? Because “I believe Croatia will be increasingly to the fore in wine’s future”, he says.


Mr. Clarke describes Croatia’s shape as being similar to a crescent moon. Like the moon, Croatia draws “our gaze away from the rough reality of earth into a world of hopes and dreams, an Adriatic world, looking to the dappled sea and beauty of the west”. Croatia, he writes, “is the shape of the future”.

Poetic and inspirational words, indeed.

Mr. Clarke – who penned a book about grape varieties called Grapes & Wines: A Comprehensive Guide to Varieties and Flavours, has also taken notice of Croatia’s rich assortment of native grapes. He refers to Graševina as an “intriguing” variety with “a rich, satisfying texture”. He describes the reds of Dalmatia (most likely referring to Plavac Mali) as “rich, wild, uncertainly balanced, [and] giddily individual”.

Malvasia Istriana (Malvazija)

But it is the Istria region and its low-alcohol wines (Merlot, Teran) that really caught Mr. Clarke’s attention. In particular he celebrates Malvasia Istriana (Malvazija) and suggests that Malvazija could be to Croatia what Sauvignon Blanc is to New Zealand. He adds that Malvazija can be “fresh, zesty, appetizing” – and equally as thirst-quenching as Pinot Grigio.

Malvazija in Istria (photo by Cliff Rames)

Hence, the allure of “Mystical Malvazija” – which also happens to be the name of the historic dinner event scheduled for October 14, 2011 at the James Beard House in New York City.

For the first time ever, a Croatian winemaker –- has been invited to present his wines within the walls of this esteemed venue.

Ivica Matošević (photo courtesy of Vina Matošević)

This first-time honor goes to Ivica Matošević of Vina Matosevic, winemaker from the Krunčići area of west-central Istria along the Adriatic Sea.

Mr, Matošević will be flying in from Croatia for the occasion and will be on hand to pour his portfolio of Malvazija wines, all paired with a selection of gourmet dishes prepared by Chef Gregory Elliott of Lockwood Restaurant & Bar at the Palmer House Hilton/Chicago.

Here is a mouth-watering glimpse at the menu:

Hors d’Oeuvre

Foie Gras Pâté with Apples on Brioche
Duck Cracklings with Sunchoke Velouté and Sage
Uni, Lardo, and Soybeans on Focaccia
Fried Oysters with Lemon Aïoli, Caviar, and Dill
Roasted Pumpkin, Camembert, and Rosemary on Sourdough Crostini

*Paired with Matošević Alba Malvasia 2009


Hamachi Crudo with Asian Pear, Pickled Cauliflower, and Fresno Chili
* Paired Matošević Alba Robinia Malvasia 2006

Olive Oil–Poached Chatham Day Boat Cod with Linguiça Sausage, Smoked Fingerling Potatoes, Cavolo Nero, and Clam Vinaigrette
*Paired with Matošević Alba Barrique Malvasia 2009

Becker Lane Organic Farm Pork Roulade with Autumn Heirloom Squash, Porcinis, and Cranberry Beans
*Paired with Matošević Grimalda White 2008

Cervena Venison Loin with Celery Root, Concord Grapes, and Thyme
*Paired with Matošević Grimalda Red 2008


Canalés de Bordeaux with Black Mission Figs and Port Wine
*Paired with Matošević Sparkling 2010

Petits Fours

For tickets and additional information about this important and delectable dinner event, please consult the EVENTS page on the JB House website.

Yes, Croatia is a crescent moon rising, and one of its stars – “Mystical Malvazija” – has arrived. Along with Oz Clarke and the James Beard House, we have fallen under its spell. How about you?

Matošević vineyards at Grimalda, Istria (photo by Voce Gaskov)

P.S. Stay tuned for our future report and photos from the James Beard House dinner!

2 thoughts on “Oz Clarke, James Beard House, and “Mystical Malvazija”

  • Holy #%*&^@,
    the offer of Croatian wines will soon be in reach, as we’re on the verge of permanently moving to Croatia (Dalmacija).
    This menu however, will be and stay far out of reach, however I just might try (!!!) to copy at least one of these dishes.
    Lucky those, who have the pleasure to be seated at a diner like this, tasting glorious wines in a perfect combination to those dishes.
    Breathtaking, and slowly discovered by wine lovers, fantastic !!!!

    And for those thinking of visiting this promising wine country, get “Vinologue Dalmatia”, an e-book that guides you through those wines and their regions, each of them a discovery !!

  • Oz should be reminded that the link between Istria and Friuli doesn’t stem from the years of Italian occupation (1919-1943), but from many centuries that two adjoined regions spent together in the Habsburg empire.

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