Giving Thanks with Terzolo 2008 Teran


Text and photos by Cliff Rames

In a recent packet of samples I received a bottle of Terzolo 2008 Teran – a wine I’ve never tried and about which I have been very curious (and heard good things).

As anyone who follows this blog already knows, I am a big fan of Teran and believe that it will be the next Big Thing to come out of Croatia – eventually taking its rightful place as one of the top three native red grape varieties in Croatia.

This particular Teran comes from a small family property near Nova Vas in the Istria sub-region of northern Coastal Croatia.

Istria as a wine region is most noted for its white wines, particularly the local indigenous variety, Malvazija Istriana. For more background information on the producer and the Teran grape, please see this post on the Blue Danube Wine Company’s website.

Roberto Terzolo (left) (photo courtesy of http://www.istrabiz.hr)

Originally I planned to drink the Terzolo Teran on Thanksgiving Day. I had actually included it in my original line-up of wines for the day’s festivities, as seen by the photo that I posted on Facebook (below).

However, the lavish and overwhelming nature of Thanksgiving dinner with my family got the best of me, and the wine ended up lost in the fray and was never opened that day. This was for the best, I think, because by the time we got around to it, I think everyone’s senses already would have been dulled and overwhelmed. As a result, the wine would have been underappreciated; simply tossed back without a thought.

So I rescued the bottle and returned it to my “pending” pile of samples until the right opportunity came along to open it.

It didn’t take long. A few days later I got around to reading Eric Asimov’s Thanksgiving-themed ARTICLE in the NY Times called “Giving Thanks for the Options” (“Wines for Thanksgiving Dinner” in the online edition). In it Mr. Asimov supports the notion of serving red wine with the Thanksgiving meal (as opposed to common wisdom and tradition, which often favors whites – and in my case, Riesling).

More specifically, Mr. Asimov insists that any wine – red or white – served with turkey, stuffing and dressing must be of a more “gentle” character (no big, bold reds) and offer “grace and refreshment” (in other words, fresh acidity).

All of this got me thinking about Teran again.

Lo and behold, that same evening my sister-in-law invited me to dinner. In offering to bring wine, I asked what she would be serving. She declared that she was preparing a “Little Thanksgiving”: stuffed turkey breast with roasted cauliflower and broccoli.

True to my suspicions – and confirming Mr. Asimov’s thesis, the Terzolo Teran was a perfect turkey wine. To begin with, who could not be impressed by its deep violet purple color, opaque and richly extracted, belying the vibrant freshness within?

On the nose, initial aromas of black cherry, kirsch and pomegranate juice gave way to developing hints of barnyard, cola, and savory black olive. Adding power and structure to the nose were alluring mineral notes of lead pencil and iron.

But be not fooled. As dense and deep as the wine appears and breathes, it is a vibrant fellow – imagine Darth Vader dancing like Fred Astaire. Swirling black cloaks and all the energy of the universe channeled and condensed into your wine glass.

Such is the magic of Teran. At once it can be dark and intense, dense and brooding, yet lively and elevating, giddy and somewhat precocious (and sometimes obnoxious if not made well). It can readily change disguises, showing characteristics of Gamay, Cabernet Franc, and Rhone Valley Syrah, all in the same glass.

Turkey meat (it should be noted) has the odd habit of leaving a bitterly metallic aftertaste when paired with certain wines. Not the Teran. Every bite washed down deliciously. The wine practically sizzled on my tongue, its vibrancy cleansing the palate and inducing the appetite to march on. Crunchy bright red and black fruits were offset by smooth tannins, subtle cured meat smokiness, and savory mineral notes. Blood sausage came to mind.

My brother, taking a sip, paused, studied the bottle and asked, “What is this?” With him this is always a good sign. It caught his attention; he wanted to know more. Needless to say, the rest of the bottle went down remarkably easy and was soon relegated to the library of happy memories.

By the way, since we are on the subject of Teran, I will go ahead and make this prediction: Teran will one day become the second most important red grape variety in Croatia. It eventually may even challenge Plavac Mali for the Number 1 spot in terms of popularity among consumers (with Babic holding steady at Number 3).

Based on what I have tasted from Terzolo and other Istrian producers, Teran demonstrates convincing potential. I would argue that it could eventually be placed in the same league with Loire Valley reds, with Cru Beaujolais, or Italy’s food-friendly, northern reds (in fact, it reminded me of an excellent Sagrantino I recently tried).

Whatever the case may be, the 2008 Terzolo Teran is certainly a wine of “grace and refreshment” – and at around $20 it won’t break your budget at the holidays or anytime.

Mr. Asimov, take note.

P.S. Blue Danube Wine Company has informed me that the 2008 Terzolo Teran is now sold out in the U.S. The 2009 vintage though is on the way and should arrive shortly. Please check the Blue Danube website for availability, and stay tuned here for future reviews.

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