Innocence Found: Saints Hills Winery

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Article by Saša Špiranec, courtesy of Playboy Magazine – Croatia

Translated and Edited by Cliff Rames, Wines of Croatia

 

 

By now many people have heard a lot of great things about Saints Hills Winery, but not many of us have actually tasted the wine. It’s like a Ferrari: everyone knows it’s a great car but very few of us have actually ever driven one. 

The owner of Saints Hills Winery is smart and passionate.  More important, he manages to skillfully combine these two very opposite characteristics. The truth is, passion and intelligence are two things in business that don’t always merge successfully – except, perhaps, in the wine business.

Ernest Tolj (Photo courtesy of Vecernji List)

A good business strategy is not a guarantee of good wine. But a sincere emotional bond between the winemaker and the product is – thank God – usually a good start toward great wine.

Of course it is not a good business strategy to produce and bottle your first vintage and then, instead of releasing it onto the market, you give it away to friends. Needless to say, that approach is not profitable.

Behind these gates, a dream come true. (Photo by Cliff Rames)

It is even less rational to release your second vintage and limit its distribution to just a dozen or so places, before giving away the rest. This approach, of course, only compounds the financial losses.  

Along comes the third vintage, a wine that you feel meets the criteria of experienced and refined gourmets, and then you release the entire batch onto the market.

This decision is based in emotion, not business. It is the passionate next move of an artist who finally pulls away the curtain to reveal his creation for all to see and judge. 

Nevina & Dingač (Photo by Cliff Rames)

That is exactly what Saints Hills Winery owner, Ernest Tolj, has done. After five years of preparation, he has finally released the Saints Hills 2009 “Nevina” white wine, a blend of Malvasia Istriana and Chardonnay, as well as a red wine made from Plavac Mali, the Saints Hills 2008 Dingač.

And the wines are brilliant!

(Photo by Cliff Rames)

In today’s world, many affluent lovers of wine desire to produce wine under labels embossed with their own names. Once they realize that a winery has a hunger for money that is like a bottomless pit, most give up on the glorious notion of being able to sit in a restaurant with business partners and order a wine named after them. 

Ernest in his vineyards. (Photo courtesy of Josipa Andrijanic)

Ernest Tolj is by far in a different camp. A serious businessman with huge ambitions, Tolj manages to merge business savvy and an unbelievable passion for wine into a clear and balanced production and marketing strategy.

He is also cognizant that he must absorb the losses of the past two vintages and carry them forward for at least the next three years. That, in fact, was the plan from the start.

And the current distribution plan is no less ambitious: Saints Hills wines will simultaneously enter the markets in Croatia, Serbia, the United Kingdom, and the United States. Until now, no other winery in Croatia has achieved such a feat.  

Michel Rolland & Tolj, final blending (Photo courtesy of Saints Hills)

Such an ambitious plan requires the assistance of top notch people in the profession. Not surprising then that Mr. Tolj has hired the most important enologist/wine consultant of our time: Michel Rolland from Bordeaux, arguably the creator of some of the best wines in the world.

Michel Rolland & Tolj at Dingač (Photo courtesy of Saints Hills)

The grapes that will provide the backbone to Saints Hills wines are Malvasia Istriana (white) and Plavac Mali (red) from vineyards in Radovani, Istria (Malvasia) and the Dingač appellation (Plavac Mali) on the Pelješac peninsula – two wine-growing regions that currently show great potential.

Saints Hills vineyards, Radovani, Istria, Croatia (Photo courtesy of Saints Hills)

Saints Hills 2009 Nevina

Nevina is a brave and successful blend of Malvasia Istriana and Chardonnay created in such a way that the Istrian terroir and the Malvasia character are preserved, with the Chardonnay simply serving to strengthen the structure and enrich the flavors. Perhaps Nevina is the harbinger of a new trend in Malvasia winemaking. Based on the preliminary results, I would hope that it is.

Photo by Cliff Rames

Nevina is an extraordinarily rich wine full with intense aromas and flavors. The color is light yellow with hints of green and reflections of gold. The alluring bouquet is harmonious and successfully merges together a range of diverse aromas. First on the nose are aromas of minerals infused with ripe peaches and spicy vanilla. As the wine opens up and the aromas unfold, intense tropical fruit notes emerge, such as grapefruit, pineapple and a hint of banana. On the end, yeasty notes dominate and deliver notes of bread crusts with butter and a hint of hazelnut. An unbelievable rich and attractive nose!

On the palate, the flavors are fully in balance with the array of aromas on the nose. Immediately an expression of minerality takes hold and, despite the soft acidity, provides an appealing sensation of freshness on the palate, as well as structure and a lasting finish.

A fresh and fruity profile rises on the mid-palate and fills out the body, only to return to the same mineral expression that dominated the early stages, only now it is slightly rougher and less polished.

The finish is great, very long lasting, and characterized by minerals and stone fruits. It is mild and pleasantly bitter, with a poignant aftertaste. Simply – a great wine.

Saints Hills Dingač vineyards, Dalmatia, Croatia (Photo courtesy of Saints Hills)

Saints Hills 2008 Dingač

This wine has raised the bar and shifted the boundaries of experience. I have never tasted such a developed Dingač wine at such an early age. The 2008 vintage is already showing a level of development that other Plavac Mali wines from the 2006 vintage are just entering. With this first vintage, Saints Hills Dingač has already risen to become one of the five best Croatian Plavac Mali wines.

(Photo by Cliff Rames)

Its deep color shimmers with dark ruby, blood-red reflections, and garnet hues. The bouquet is intense and very beautiful, revealing spicy notes of black pepper, cedar, and dark chocolate interwoven with abundant fruity notes of plum, cherry, and dried figs.

This wine is full and powerful on the palate, yet it is also soft and endlessly smooth. The flavor is extraordinary with a pleasantly sweet attack that abounds with ripe black fruits infused with a sprinkle of piquant spices. However, the fruitiness is somewhat reserved on the mid-palate thanks to the heavy impact of tannin and alcohol, both of which will give the wine strength, backbone and stability in the long run.

Despite these extreme yet beneficial characteristics, the wine remains balanced, harmonious, and drinkable, with a body that is full with richly extracted flavors. Some expression of minerality emerges on the finish, which is rarely found in Plavac Mali. As the palate evolves, the wine returns us to its earlier fruitiness and sweetness, delivering a pleasant, long finish that gives rise to the fruit and spice notes from the nose, along with a hint of hazelnut on the very end.

Footnote from the Playboy Editors: Nevina and Dingač brought so much joy to our columnist that he proclaimed them “brilliant”. Now we wait to find out how much these wines will cost. We hope they won’t be as much as that Ferrari he mentioned!

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A New Book about Plavac Mali: Obligatory Reading for Wine Patriots

Article by Saša Špiranec, courtesy of Playboy Magazine – Croatia

Translated by Morana Zibar, www.Gastroprijevod.com

Edited by Cliff Rames, Wines of Croatia

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I don’t usually write reviews which are not about wine. But one exceptionally valuable book forced me to compose my first book review. Luckily for me and my readers, the subject of the book is wine, which gives this review some credibility.

The book is called “Plavac Mali – A Croatian Grape for Great Wines”, written by Edi Maletić, Ivan Pejić and Jasminka Karoglan Kontić.

(Editor’s note: The Plavac Mali book was expertly translated into English by Jagoda Bush.)

The Croatian wine scene already owes a lot to this trio of scientists (with some more stress on the first two names), and this book is just a logical continuation of their productive and valuable work. Remember, it was these scientists who discovered the origins of Plavac Mali, as well as the fact that Zinfandel is actually a Croatian variety called Crljenak.

Crljenak Kastelanski

This trio of scientists also identified Malvasia Istriana as an indigenous grape, and then discovered that Malvasija Dubrovačka belongs to the same family as numerous Italian and Spanish Malvasias, like Malvasia delle Lipari.

Malvasija Dubrovačka

Let’s not forget that they also saved a large number of indigenous grape varieties that were previously on the brink of extinction, and they have published many scientific papers. Edi Maletić is also publishes texts in mainstream magazines, and I must admit that I’ve enjoyed reading his columns for years. His style of writing is at first somewhat dry, factual and scientific. But he eventually incorporates interesting stories to which the general public can relate without losing their scientific value.

Plavac Mali grapes at Dingač

Their new Plavac Mali book is an example of such a style. It is extremely serious and competent, but written entertainingly enough so that anyone can (and must) read it. The most important parts deal with ampelography, which means that the book provides clear evidence of the origin of Plavac Mali, explains and defends the science behind the identification of the Croatian origin of Zinfandel (Crljenak), clears some misconceptions about the many local synonyms for Plavac Mali, and establishes and explains the relationship between Plavac Mali and other Dalmatian varieties.

Plavac Mali vineyards, Hvar

Other parts of the book are also interesting, especially the section that explains the specific conditions required to transform Plavac Mali from a mediocre to a superior wine.

It is very interesting to know that this book was proposed and funded by the “Grozd” Plavac Mali Association. This is unique in that Grozd is an association of Plavac Mali consumers and enthusiasts – not winemakers. The fact that an association of consumers has contributed to the expansion and sales of a wine – more than all professional associations of winemakers and winegrowers together – is somewhat amazing. With the honorable exception of Vinistra, many Croatian associations of winemakers are not doing much, or if they are, we don’t see many results. In Grozd’s case, the result is fantastic: an excellent book about a unique and important grape variety which will be cited and used for decades.

Reviews of four excellent Plavac wines from three different vintages:

 
 
 

Photo courtesy of Korta Katarina winery

Korta Katarina Dingač 2006

Excellent vintage from a very ambitious winery. Its aroma is still dominated by the lingering presence of oak, which detracts from its appeal. But in the mouth it shows perfect harmony. The tannins are abundant but not astringent. The balance of alcohol, extracts and acids is excellent, and the finish is very long-lasting. Wait at least another year before drinking.

 

 
 
 

Photo by Cliff Rames

Bura Dingač 2007

Dingač is a superior vineyard site that managed to handle the very hot 2007 vintage well. While other Plavac wines from the same vintage are often overly mature already and somewhat dull, Bura’s high, mountainside vineyards are cool enough to give this almost concentrated wine the necessary balance and the final smoothness. Excellent wine.

 
 
 

Photo by Tomislav Gluhak

Mare Postup 2007

Unlike Bura, Mare did not manage to stop the high level of sugar in the grapes, so part of the sugars remained in the wine, making it a bit sweetish. But at the same time the aromas are uniquely nice and intense. Dry figs, prunes and walnuts prevail. Beautiful wine. It is not a wine meant to be paired with food, but a glass or two of this sweet nectar at the close of the day makes an unforgettable experience.

 
 
 

Photo by Cliff Rames

Saints Hills Dingač 2008

This wine has not yet reached the market, but it is already on the way to become one of the best. It has a beautiful smell of pure Dingač aromas, like prunes, baked cherries and traces of dried figs mixed with finely balanced oak notes. The taste is extraordinary, incredibly mature for such an early vintage, amazingly balanced, rich and delicious, with tamed tannins, and in the end, despite its obvious strength, adequately soft and smooth.

Note from the Editor: Wines of Croatia is now accepting pre-orders for the Plavac Mali book. Limited quantities will be available in the U.S. in September 2010 – exclusively from Wines of Croatia. If you wish to reserve your copy, please email: info@winesofcroatia.com. Price: $35 (includes USPS Priority shipping to addresses in the U.S.; additional shipping costs will apply to addresses outside the U.S.)

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Michel Rolland Discovers Malvasia Istriana from Croatia

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Translated and edited by Cliff Rames from the original Vinistra press release (in Croatian):  http://vinistra.com/news/for-media

Michel Rolland, the world’s leading wine consultant and enologists, recently toured a few wine regions of Croatia. On July 2, 2010, he also attended a tasting of 28 Malvasia Istriana (Malvazija Istarska) wines at San Rocco restaurant in the Istrian town of Brtonigla. 

photo courtesy of Vinistra

The tasting, organized by Saints Hills Winery with the support of the association of Istrian winemakers, Vinistra, was also attended by a dozen Croatian winemakers, enologists and experts in the field.

photo courtesy of Vinistra

After the tasting, Mr. Rolland said that, in his assessment, the 28 Malvasia wines he tried were well-made, refreshing and very approachable. He added that with Malvasia Croatian winemakers have an opportunity to present the international market with a unique wine of a specific character.

photo courtesy of Vinistra

The goal of the tasting was to present Mr. Rolland with a cross-section of Malvasia wines that are representative of the wide range of styles available of the market, ranging from simple, refreshing, early-drinking wines to highly extracted, wood-aged versions.

“Malvasia wines are very well made, fresh and refreshing. They are all good, with different characteristics. None of the wines were flawed, which is very good for the future of winemaking in Croatia. Paired with the food I tried in the past few days, the wines were perfect,” Rolland said – adding that still there is room for improving their quality.

Bruno Trapan & Michel Rolland ( photo courtesy of Vinistra)

Mr. Rolland also had the opportunity to meet with a number of local winemakers and enologists to discuss the history and conditions of winemaking in Istria, characteristics of the grape variety, winemaking techniques, different approaches of vinification, and the long-term the potential of Malvasia. 

Ernest Tolj & Michel Rolland (photo courtesy of Vinistra)

Among the producers represented at the tasting were Benvenuti, Brčić, Coronica, Clai, Degrassi, Franc Arman, Geržinić, Kabola, Kozlović, Prince, Krulčić, MaDeBaKo, Matošević, Pilato, Piquentum, Poletti, Radovan, Roxanich, Saints Hills and Trapan.

Michel Rolland traveled to Croatia at the invitation of Ernest Tolj of Saints Hills Winery. Support for the Malvasia tasting was provided under the umbrella of the Istrian winemakers association, Vinistra. 

Tolj & Rolland at Dingac (photo courtesy of Saints Hills Winery)

Saints Hills Winery, which was established in 2006, owns three vineyards and two wineries, one in Istria and one in Dalmatia (where it produces wine from two distinct vineyards sites, Dingač and Komarna).

Mr. Rolland began consulting for Saints Hills winery two harvests ago. Mr. Rolland’s mission is to assist Saints Hills – in the vineyard and the cellar – to produce wines for the domestic and international markets that are the best expression of indigenous varieties they represent and the unique terroir represented in each of the three vineyard sites where the grapes grow. 

Saints Hills "Nevina" (blend of Malvasia & Chardonnay)

“Croatia has several positive conditions for wine production. First of all, it’s a fantastic tourist destination. More and more people are traveling to Croatia, and there they are drinking Croatian wines, which is the best publicity. Once they return home, these tourists will talk about their Croatian wine experience. Secondly, the wines are original and should be in the international market. For international buyers there is always a curiosity factor, because people like new wines from new places. Of course, the bottle should contain good wine!” Rolland explained.

Mr. Rolland said that marketing and positioning will play a key role in the international market, which will very quickly define the price it is willing to pay for Croatian wines.

photo courtesy of Vinistra

“Croatia’s baseline market is Croatia, which is also a very beautiful environment in which to promote wine”, concluded Rolland.

(Born in 1947, Michel Rolland is the world’s leading wine consultant and enologist. He has 100 clients in 13 countries and is known for his unique style of consultation in the world of viticulture and winemaking.)  

 

 

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Chardonnay May be French, But Her Mother is Croatian

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Article by Saša Špiranec, courtesy of Playboy Magazine – Croatia

Translated by Morana Zibar, www.Gastroprijevod.com

Edited by Cliff Rames, Wines of Croatia

 

 

After it was discovered that Croatia is the ancestral homeland of Zinfandel, we have now learned that Chardonnay – the most popular white grape variety in the world – has roots in Croatia. What a great time for wine…!

 

In an article entitled, “A Banned Variety was the Mother of Several Major Wine Grapes”, which was published in the science journal, Biology Letters, a group of scientists revealed the results of DNA profiling: the two parent grapes of Chardonnay are finally known, and one of them is Croatian. Chardonnay is in fact a cross between the French variety Pinot Noir and an indigenous Croatian variety, Štajerska Belina.

Štajerska Belina (photo courtesy of bilikum.hr)

Štajerska Belina – or Gouais Blanc, as the French call it – used to be one of the most common grapes in the Middle Ages, spreading from France over central and all the way to Eastern Europe.

Chardonnay (photo courtesy of americanmadness.com)

Despite its formerly ubiquitous presence, global experts generally agree that Štajerska Belina originally comes from Croatia.

Historically, Štajerska Belina (Gouais Blanc) was considered a inferior variety that was mainly planted by farmers and peasants. In France, Gouais Blanc was typically planted in the flatlands for peasant consumption, while the nobility grew the grapes of the Pinot family in the highlands.  

Because of its poor quality, Štajerska Belina was eventually banned and became extinct in France. In Croatia it can be found in the vineyards of the northwest and central parts of the country, but it is rarely bottled as a single-varietal wine and is mostly consumed locally as a homemade blended table wine.

(photo courtesy of dailymail.co.uk)

The Croatian origin of Chardonnay is further evidence of the region’s contribution to the development of modern day viticulture. For the second time since the Zinfandel discovery, a Croatian indigenous variety has entered the lexicon of the international wine community. Isn’t that fantastic? 

Gouais Blanc (photo courtesy of Corkd.com)

While Štajerska Belina is not as highly esteemed as Zinfandel, its contribution to the world of wine cannot be denied.

It is interesting that Gouais Blanc (or Štajerska Belina, one of countless synonyms) crossed with Pinot Noir to produce not just one of the world’s most important grape varieties, Chardonnay, but others as well. Crossings of the same two grapes also spawned such notable varieties as Gamay (the famous grape of Beaujolais), Aligote, Auxerrois, Franc Noir, and Melon. 

We could say these grape varieties are all different children of the same parents. Interestingly enough, the children are both red and white varietals. For instance, white Chardonnay and red Gamay. It’s the same as with puppies – when the parents are of different colours, the pups are white, black and mixed.

(photo courtesy of graphicshunt.com)

Today Croatian winemakers can introduce their Chardonnays to the world with more courage – after all, it is partly Croatian.

Even though Chardonnay has been present in our vineyards for many decades, its quality was never worthy of the best international wines like the ones from Burgundy’s Montrachet or California’s Napa Valley.

Korak Chardonnay (photo by Cliff Rames)

Yet in the last ten years we have witnessed the arrival of names like Krauthaker Rosenberg, Kutjevo de Gotho Aureus, and Korak Sur Lie – Croatian Chardonnays that can stand next to the best wines without any hesitation.

Kutjevo d.d. Chardonnay (photo by Cliff Rames)

Chardonnay likes poor soil and limestone, conditions that are not common in the Continental wine-growing region of Croatia. Unfortunately, in Dalmatia – where there is plenty of limestone – the climate is too hot for Chardonnay.

Photo courtesy of Saints Hills: "Nevina" (80% Malvazija, 20% Chardonnay)

However, the Istria regional of Coastal Croatia offers some hope, with Matošević winery leading the way that other new faces on the block have started to follow. Two examples are Meneghetti and Saints Hills (who blends Chardonnay with Malvazija).

An Excellent Croatian Chardonnay:

Meneghetti Bijelo (right) (photo courtesy of aukcije.hr)

Meneghetti Bijelo 2007

To be fair, Meneghetti Bijelo is not a pure Chardonnay but is a blended wine – probably with Pinot Gris and Malvasia (the producer does not mention the blend components on the label). However, the Chardonnay character totally overpowers the other possible varieties in the blend. Its style is reminiscent of the popular Collio from the Italian Friulli region or the neighboring Slovenian Brda region, areas which have climates and soils similar to Istria. Some of the best Chardonnays in the world (Silvio Jermann) also come from that region.

The aroma is intense, steady, rich and very sophisticated. Abundant aromas of the yeast are mixed with dried fruit, vanilla and traces of citrus fruits. Hints of wood are still strongly present, so it is best to wait two years before consumption to allow for the wood to integrate. The taste is extraordinary, full and lively at the same time, with ideal acids, lightly creamy, markedly mineral, with exceptionally long and lasting aftertaste. This wine is similar to the previous vintage, but it is richer and more harmonious, with – and this is very important and too rare in Croatian Chardonnays – a potential for long-lasting ageing.

Related Links:

Biology Letters source: http://rsbl.royalsocietypublishing.org/content/6/3/367.abstract?sid=0cbb4133-5e71-40bb-84ec-719207defbc5

Gouais Blanc Wikipedia Entry:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gouais_blanc

Jermann Chardonnay:

http://www.jermann.it/products/pages/productsList.jsf

Wines of Croatia:

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Croatia – Land of Malvazija

 

photo courtesy of http://www.mastersofwine.org

 

By Julia Harding MW

Reprinted with kind permission from the author, courtesy of www.jancisrobinson.com

Photos by Cliff Rames (unless otherwise credited)

 

 Croatian wine is making a concerted effort to reach UK wine glasses. Last month, the Fine Wine Croatia group, around 30 producers working together, came to London to show their wares.

The wines had been carefully selected to avoid overwhelming UK journalists and other members of the wine trade with too many different indigenous varieties, which I found pretty frustrating as I would have preferred to have tasted a little more widely, although the proliferation of wines made from Malvazija Istarksa (or Malvasia Istriana), the most widely planted white variety that makes up about 10% of the Croatian vineyard area (total c 32,500 ha/80,310 acres) and about 60% of the plantings in Istria, did show, for example, just how many different styles of wine can be made from it, even among the dry wines. On the whole, based on this tasting, I’d say that Malvazija Istarksa has greater potential for quality than Graševina (aka Welschriesling).

It is extremely difficult to summarise a country’s wines when the regions and winemaking styles are so diverse and when winemakers are testing international markets, but I found the more distinctive whites, generally those made from Malvazija Istarska but also the single example of Pošip, fell somewhere between Friuli and Slovenia in overall character, with a touch of Hungary thrown in – plenty of extract (like Riesling) and with a spectrum of flavours that ranged from crisp and mineral/non-fruity via fresh and more herbal to the weightier more textured wines. The acidity was generally fresher than in other varieties I have come across that share the Malvasia name, in Italy and Greece, for example.

Among the reds, I preferred the wines made from or based on Teran to those made from Plavac Mali, though it is clear to see that for these distinctive dark-skinned varieties, full grape maturity is essential and not always achieved in either – to avoid green flavours in the former and astringent tannins in the latter. According to Ivica Matošević, site selection and green harvesting are critical for Teran (also known as Refosco d’Istria but not the same variety as Italy’s Refosco dal Pedunculo Rosso) to control the variety’s natural tendency towards high yields and consequent poor ripening. This is why he currently blends Teran with Merlot, though he now has some better sited vines that he hopes will produce the sort of fruit he is looking for. 

Overall, the reds, especially the more interesting ones based on indigenous varieties, seemed to be more of a work in progress than the whites – or perhaps I just mean that they were very ‘local’ in style – lots of character, a bit up and down in quality, and often needing just a touch more refinement (in terms of refining the fruit rather than ironing out the character). Rather like untamed northern Italians or some corners of south-western France.

I’d particularly like to have tasted more wines from the white-skinned Pošip variety and from the dark-skinned Babić. 

This time last year, Richard Hemming visited Croatia and reported on his findings in Richard goes to Croatia. See that article for more background on the landscape, including pictures.

The wines are grouped by variety (or by colour where there weren’t many examples) and alphabetically by producer (sur)name within those groups. Here and more generally in the tasting notes database, we have English translations for the regions of origin that would be too opaque for anyone not familiar with Croatian (eg Western Istria instead of Zapadna Istra), but we have kept the Croatian names for subregions such as Kutjevo.

MALVAZIJA ISTARSKA

Benvenuti Malvazija Istarska 2008 Central Istria 15 Drink 2009-2010
Green fruit – greengage. Light and dry and fresh but rather slight. (JH) 13.4%

Clai Bijele Zemlje, Sveti Jakov Malvazija Istarska 2008 Western Istria 17 Drink 2011-2015
Deep gold, delicate floral honey. Gentle peach and apricot. So much more elegant than the Kabola Amfora. Fresh, fine grip, dried apricot. Zesty, tangy, intense and long. Full of life and alcohol not particularly intrusive. (JH) 15.1%

Clai Sveti Jakov (photo courtesy of Clai winery)

Coronica Malvazija Istarska 2009 Western Istria 16 Drink 2010-2011
Lemony, a little grassy/herbal. Sour and stony in a fine textural way. Has that delicate graininess of so many Italian whites. Tight and fresh. Invigorating. (JH) 13.6%

photo courtesy of Coronica winery

Kabola, Amfora Malvazija Istarska 2006 Western Istria 16 Drink 2009-2012
Deep gold, honeyed, very spiced. Intense, dry, a bit harsh but you can’t ignore it! Probably needs food to tame it a little. (JH) 14.8%

Kozlović Malvazija Istarska 2009 Western Istria 16 Drink 2010-2011
Lemony, orange peel, pretty aromatic. Taut and crisp and a fine sour finish. Straightforward and refreshing. Something slightly smoky, almost coffee like. (JH) 13.6%

Kozlović, Santa Lucia Malvazija Istarska 2006 Western Istria 16 Drink 2009-2011
One year in barrique. Deeper gold than their unoaked, younger wine. Honeyed oranges. Intense, and smells as if there is botrytis there. Developed and oaky – oak pretty much obscures the variety. But the finish is very tangy and rich. Just a little too broad to be fine. Full of flavour though. High alcohol but not too intrusive. (JH) 15%

Kozlovic wines

Matić Malvazija Istarska 2008 Western Istria 16 Drink 2010-2011
Intensely herbal and grassy. Towards boxtree. More Sauvignon Blanc-like but there’s also a light and attractive peachiness. Crisp, clean and modern but less distinctive than some. (JH) 13.1%

Matošević, Alba Barrique Malvazija Istarska 2008 Western Istria 16.5 Drink 2010-2012
Pretty tight, some citrus, touch of creamy oak and oak sweetness on the palate. Fine boned, taut and zesty without that much fruit flavour but that same herbal note as in the unoaked wine. Oak is subtle and balanced and gives a creamy oatmeal palate. Elegant but less distinctive than the acacia-aged wine. (JH) 13.5%

Matošević, Alba Malvazija Istarska 2008 Western Istria 16 Drink 2010-2011
Fresh, lightish, subtle rather than neutral, some citrus, light herbs on the nose. Crisp, dry, tight and clean. Persistent though pretty linear. Mineral and long. (JH) 13.5%

Matosevic wines

Matošević, Alba Robinia Malvazija Istarska 2004 Western Istria 17 Drink 2006-2012
Keeps fresher in acacia barrels, apparently and it does seem younger. Really fine honeyed nose. Honeyed but not at all oxidised. Slight woody/cedary flavour on the palate. Reminds me a little of mature Chenin with a herbal element. Crisp and dry and rich in the mouth without any fat. (JH) 13.1%

Matošević, Grimalda 2008 Central Istria 16 Drink 2010-2011
50% Chardonnay, 25% Sauvignon Blanc, 25% Malvasia Istarska.
He did the blend because he found similar notes in the varieties – citrus, herbal, mint. Slight mintiness here. Very fresh, doesn’t have quite the subtlety of the varietal Malvasia Istarskas. (JH) 14%

Roxanich, Antica Malvazija Istarska 2007 Western Istria 17 Drink 2010-2013
Skin maceration) 80 days, aged in large wooden vats (70hl and 35hl) for 30 months, bottled without filtration.
Deep gold and bright. Some bruised apple notes, complex, rich, orange and apricot. Powerful, dry, very clean and refreshing even with that amount of tannin. Opens up to more perfume and herbs. Slight phenolic bitterness on the finish but it’s attractive if you are ready for it. Honeyed as it warms up. But still has good freshness. Highly distinctive in this line-up. (JH) 14.1%

Roxanich Antica

Trapan, Ponente Malvazija Istarska 2009 Western Istria 16.5 Drink 2010-2011
Very fresh and on the greener side of citrus. Mineral, dry, tight. Persistent and elegant. (JH) 13%

Trapan, Uroboros Malvazija Istarska 2008 Western Istria 16.5 Drink 2010-2013
70% aged in acacia, 30% in oak, for one year. Lightly smoky and honeyed but still that finely herbal citrus character. Well balanced and zesty. Full but not overblown. (JH) 13.6% 

 
 

Trapan Uroboros

GRAŠEVINA

Belje Graševina 2009 Baranja 16 Drink 2010-2011
Fresh and citrussy but tastes off dry and quite full in the mouth. And then a tart lemon finish. Modern, bright and clean. (JH) 14.1%

Belje, Goldberg Graševina 2008 Baranja 16 Drink 2010-2011
Much deeper gold. Not much on the nose – a touch of honey. Rich, slightly sour, off dry. Silky and fills the mouth. Apricot flavours. Slightly bitter on the finish but pure and dense. (JH) 14.8%

Feravino Graševina 2009 Feričanci 16.5 Drink 2010-2012
Fine limey Riesling nose, a little mineral. Dry, tight, fresh, clean and zesty. Fine and fresh. Tight and energetic with a light grapiness on the palate but mainly crisp citrus. Persistent too. (JH) 13.6%

Galić Graševina 2008 Kutjevo 15 Drink 2010-2011
Pretty neutral nose. More full bodied and richer than the Mihalj but still rather simple. (JH) 12.8%

Krauthaker Graševina 2009 Kutjevo 15.5 Drink 2010-2011
Slightly grassy. Like a dense Sauvignon Blanc. Crisp and fresh and modern. Citrus on the palate, dry and fresh. Slight phenolic dryness on the finish. (JH) 14%

Krauthaker, Mitrovac Graševina 2009 Kutjevo 15 Drink 2010-2011
More mineral than their straight Graševina and even a little smoky. Off dry, concentrated but a little harsh with a bitter aftertaste. Concentration is there but (tasted on the warm side) not much pleasure. (JH) 14.5%

Krauthaker

Kutjevo, De Gotho Graševina 2008 Kutjevo 15 Drink 2010-2011
Lemony Riesling nose. Mineral and citrus. Sort of woody (not oaky) on the palate though it is produced in stainless steel. Bitter aftertaste. (JH) 14% 

 
 
 
 

Kujevo de Gotho Grasevina

OTHER WHITES

Feravino Pinot Blanc 2008 Feričanci 16 Drink 2010-2011
10% fermented in barrique. Fresh, clean and dry and a fine example of the variety. A very slight textural grip and a depth unusual for Pinot Blanc. (JH)

Korta Katarina Pošip 2007 Korčula 17 Drink 2010-2012
Clean and delicately limey citrus. Rich and creamy and full bodied but with very good acidity. A distinctive variety. Fine grip but smooth. Rich, lightly honeyed, dense and powerful but still fresh. Complex, fresh, dry and long. (JH) 14.7%

photo courtesy of Korta Katarina winery

Kozlović Muškat Momjanski 2008 Western Istria 16.5 Drink 2010-2011
Labelled polusuhi, ie off dry. Intensely grapey floral nose. Rose petals too. With a fine tannic grip to freshen it up given the moderate acidity. Medium but not at all cloying with that slight phenolic structure. Highly aromatic – maybe OTT for some. (JH) 12.2%

Roxanich, Milva Chardonnay 2007 Western Istria 16.5 Drink 2010-2014
Deep gold. Shorter maceration than for the Malvazija Istarska. Slightly reductive, honeyed. Really nutty and full of flavour. Chardonnay but not as we know it. Quite tannic but not unnecessarily so. Fresh on the finish and very concentrated. A very distinctive style. (JH) 13.7%

Tomac Riesling 2008 Plešivica 15 Drink 2010-2012
Eyewatering acidity, peachy more than citrus on the nose. Rather severe. (JH) 13.3%

Tomac, Amfora 2007 Plešivica 15.5 Drink 2010-2012
50% Chardonnay plus about seven other locally grown varieties. Pale gold. Spicy orange and apricot. Not totally clean on the palate and rather astringent. Interesting rather than pleasurable. (JH) 12.5% 

 
 
 
 

photo courtesy of Tomac winery

TERAN

Arman Franc, Barrique Teran 2006 Western Istria 17 Drink 2009-2014
Very deeply coloured. Elegant and subtle dark fruit aroma. A touch smoky. Firm and juicy and dense. Firm but ripe tannnis. Finesse and freshness. Still so youthful. (JH) 12.5%

Arman Teran

Coronica, Gran Teran 2007 Western Istria 16 Drink 2010-2012
A little leafy, and pretty dry. Fresh but could perhaps do with a little more ripeness to balance the tannins? Very juicy and fresh and fruit gets sweeter at the end but tannins slightly prominent for its age and only moderate fruit weight. (JH) 13.5%

Istravino, Dajla Teran 2007 Western Istria 16.5 Drink 2010-2012
Leafy with both red and black fruit. Fine freshness, balance and good fruit. Not complex but a real whole and very youthful with a long fresh aftertaste. Tannins are present but add freshness rather than astringency. (JH) 12.5%

Istravino Dajla wines

Matošević, Grimalda 2008 Central Istria 16.5 Drink 2010-2012
85% Merlot, 15% Teran. Zesty and lightly peppered red fruit. Really juicy: dry and fresh and jumps out of the glass with energy. Structured without being tannic. Mouthwateringly fresh. (JH) 13.8%

Roxanich, RE Teran 2007 Western Istria 16.5+ Drink 2011-2015
Quite reductive at first on the nose. Very tight and fresh, maybe could do with a little more flesh but there is an elegance and a naturalness that shines through. Aged in big oak. Dry and demanding tannins but not harsh. Needs food. (JH) 13.4%

PLAVAC MALI

Korta Katarina, Reuben’s Private Reserve Plavac Mali 2006 Pelješac 15.5 Drink 2010-2013
Medium  garnet. Soft, sweet, Rioja-like nose. But then that grip! Firm and dry tannins but still has sweet juicy fruit. Food needed! (JH) 14.2%

Korta Katarina, Plavac Mali 2007 Pelješac 16 Drink 2011-2013
Bright mid garnet, wild red fruits, spicy, dry and tense. Tannins still have a firm grip and the texture is rustic but the flavour lively. (JH) 14.7%

Korta Katarina (Plavac Mali on right)

Miličić, Dingac Plavac Mali 2006 Pelješac 15.5 Drink 2010-2012
Quite perfumed, almost floral nose. Much softer than the Postup Mare wine. Smooth and flavourful though perhaps a little sweet-tasting on the finish (as opposed to savoury). (JH) 14.5%

Postup Mare Plavac Mali 2006 Pelješac 14 Drink 2012-2014
Odd and marked green bean nose, still very grippy tannins. No fun with high acid to exaggerate the tannins. Needs a good steak to make it more palatable but that wouldn’t really improve the aromas. (JH) 15%

Saint’s Hill, Dingač Plavac Mali 2007 Pelješac 16.5 Drink 2009-2013
Mid garnet. Sweet. soft, blueberry/blackberry fruit. Contrast between sweet almost toffeed fruit and dry but smooth/savoury tannins. Fresh and flavourful but a bit hot on the finish. Distincitve, a little rustic and then a sweet/sour aftertaste. (JH) 15.5%

Saints Hills Dingac

Zlatan, Barrique Plavac Mali 2007 Hvar 16 Drink 2011-2013
Bright mid garnet, wild red fruits, spicy, dry and tense. Tannins still have a firm grip and the texture is rustic but the flavour lively. (JH) 14.7%

Zlatan, Grand Cru Plavac Mali 2007 Hvar 17+ Drink 2012-2017
Mix of French and Slavonian oak. This is more selective than the Barrique version. Smoky, savoury nose. Powerful, dry and very fine fruit. Firm but not harsh tannins. Needs a lot more time but has all the components to age well. (JH) 14.5%

 
 

Zlatan Otok wines

OTHER REDS

Enjingi, Venje Barrique 2003 Kutjevo 14 Drink 2008-2011
Zweigelt, Crni Pinot, Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Frankovka blend. A slightly stinky reductive aroma. Then very sweet and a bit leafy. Very strange and too sweet-tasting. (JH) 14.2%

Feravino Frankovka 2008 Feričanci 16.5 Drink 2010-2012
Frankovka = Blaufränkisch. 50% new oak. Half French, half Slavonian. Pure sweet ripe red fruit. Distinctive fresh fruit with a lovely bite on the back palate, almost a note of citrus. Perhaps a little rustic but in an attractive characterful way. Zesty and fresh. (JH) 13.7%

Feravino Zweigelt 2008 Feričanci 15.5 Drink 2010-2012
Aged in Slavonian oak. Sweet coconut aroma on the nose with lots of dark berry fruit. Straightforward but that coconut sweetness is too much for my taste. (JH)

Galić Pinot Noir 2008 Kutjevo 14 Drink 2010-2011
Sweet fruit, a little toffeed and then hot on the finish. Fresh enough but not much fun. (JH) 13.5%

Roxanich, Superistrian 2006 Western Istria 17 Drink 2010-2015
Merlot 40%, Cabernet Sauvignon 40%, Borgonja (Gamay x Pinot) 20%. 36 months in big oak. You can certainly smell the cassis of the Cabernet here. Sweet dark fruit, a touch leafy, rich and dense and masses of fruit. Lovely freshness, very youthful, very clean and pretty sophisticated. Bright and healthy and youthful. (JH) 13.5%

Suha Punta Babić 2007 Primošten 16.5 Drink 2010-2012
Distinctive yet hard-to-describe aroma: peppery, dry and dense. Seems to have quality potential. Spicy and tense and yet has lovely crunchy berry fruit. Bags of flavour with that peppery aftertaste. I’d like to taste some more examples of this variety. (JH) 14%

Gracin wines (photo courtesy of http://www.secretdalmatia.com)

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