What’s coming up from Croatia’s top winemakers? A sneak peek…

Having really enjoyed the seminar about the top Plavac wines, we wanted to learn more about the best wines from other parts of Croatia. The seminar by the wine authority Darko Baretić promised an insight into the thought processes of  some of the best known winemakers and what is in store from them over the coming months and years. Excellent!

Darko Baretić

Darko Baretić

There were 8 wines on the tasting list, none of which is yet on the market, some are a few months away, others more like several years. These wineries are some of the best-known in Croatia. Time to learn more about them! The knowledgeable remarks in the commentary come from Darko, other notes and any mistakes are my own!

From the left: Tomac Riesling, Krauthaker Graševina, Coronica Grand Teran

From the left: Tomac Riesling, Krauthaker Graševina Mitrovac, Coronica Gran Teran

1/ Tomac Riesling 2013 

This wine comes from continental Croatia, in the appellation of Plešivica, around Presnica. The Tomac winery is best known for their very fine Amfora chardonnay, and they also produce the very nice sparkling rose with which we started off our meal in Restoran Kadena last night.
Tomac winery website: www.tomac.hr

The selection process for this Riesling involves removing two out of three bunches,  so less than a kilo is harvested from each vine, then any botrytic grapes are removed. Spontaneous fermentation, 500l in large wooden barrels, no malolactic. The resulting wine has exceptional acid, but also fruit and sweetness,  23 extract at start, this is at the border of a semi-sweet (polusuho) wine. Only bottled six days before. May be ready for release by the end of the year.

2/ Krauthaker Graševina Mitrovac vrh ‘U vlahe’ 2011

This wine is again from continental Croatia, this time from the Kutjevo appellation. Although Krauthaker does produce a number of different wine varieties, they specialise in Graševina, also known as Welschriesling. They’ve won a number of international awards for their wines, including a bronze medal for the Graševina Mitrovac 2009 at the Decanter awards in London.
Krauthaker winery website: www.krauthaker.com

Single vineyard, small area higher up. The process for this wine used totally no sulphur, he threw away three out of four lots. Multiple selections led to very low yield. Botrytis was encouraged, and this white wine had a whopping 208 days maceration with no battonage!! The resulting wine has a stunning aroma and bouquet, with an oxidative character, but also fruit and acid, no massive wood, yeast or funny tastes. Good tannins, very clean, very precise. And just look at the amazing golden colour in the photo above!

3/ Moreno Coronica Gran Teran 2013

Now we move to coastal Croatia, in the north Adriatic, to the Istrian appellation. Moreno Coronica’s family have lived near Koronika so long that they use the old spelling of the name! Coronica specialises in Malvazija and Teran, cultivated in vineyards full of red, red soil and lots of limestone.

The Gran Teran is intensely dark, almost violet in colour (see photo above). As 2013 was a rather cool year,   he took the risk to wait, and won out as the rain and damp did not damage the wine. The process used selected yeasts in inox steel tanks, undisturbed, then in three sorts of barrels for malolactic fermentation. He has five lots from this harvest, this is mix #2, still in the wood. It’s at least three years from the market. The wine is still wild, but has very strong acids and pronounced vegetality, but lots of fruit. The fourth element of Teran is ‘sanguinaccio‘, the red earthy tones which add an almost mushroom picking smell, then the fruit.

Comparing red wines - Teran and Refošk

Comparing red wines – Teran and Refošk

4/ Clai Refošk white soil lapor/fliš Brombo Nero 2013

Staying in Istria, we now have Giorgio Clai, a winemaker who specialises on growing Refošk (aka Refosco) on white soil (as opposed to red). He’s been winning awards recently.
No website, but here’s an article about him: www.wineawards.info/en/wineawards/profil/giorgio-clai/

The grapes were harvested late, at the end of Oct, due to the same cool conditions as noted for Coronica. The process used spontaneous fermentation in 500l wood barrels, followed by malolactic fermentation. Just finished a month ago. Lovely fresh nose with fruit, fewer earthy notes. Red fruit and blueberry. Strong tannins and less acid.

5/ Korak  Plješivica Crni Pinot 2012

Meanwhile, back in Plešivica, we have the Korak winery, and a Crni Pinot, better known as Pinot noir. The grapes for this wine were grown in the Križevac and Cimbušćak area.
Website: http://www.vino-korak.hr (somewhat brief, but at least they have one!)

Aromas of toasted sugar, chocolate and burnt caramel. The taste is at first light, then warms up and opens into earthy tones then dark forest fruit, but not at all  jammy. On its way to being a burgundy. Tannins are still a bit sharp. The warmth lasts a while, so this wine is stronger than it first appears!

Adapted from the map by Saša Spiranec

Adapted from the map by Saša Spiranec – click to see larger version

6/ Benvenuti  Teran 2011

Back again in Istria, we have the Benvenuti winery with their Teran, grown around the hilltop town of Motovun, in the Spanjole area. Again, this is white soil. Are you getting the idea that terroir makes a big difference in Istrian wine? Particularly the colour of it!
Website: www.benvenutivina.com

The process: Teran bunches tend to be compact and deep, and there’s a danger of the outside grapes ripening but not those on the inside. So every bunch has been manually turned to allow even ripening. Maceration and fermentation in Inox steel tanks, with selected yeasts. Followed by more resting in wood, and has now been bottled for about 4 months.  Fruity aroma, with a sweetness and ripe fruit taste.

7/ Boškinac Cabernet/Merlot blend 2011

Moving down the coast to the island of Pag, Boškinac is a winery, hotel and very fine restaurant. The island is also famous for its cheese, so all in all this would be a perfect gourmet outing for me!
website: http://www.boskinac.com

Process: separate fermentation in inox steel tanks, followed by 3/2/1 in barrels. Not yet blended, what we’re tasting was only bottled five days ago, half and half. Not yet strong on the nose. Taste of ripe tannins, strong acids, some sweetness on the tip of the tongue, but totally dry. Masterchef Andrej Barbieri suggests it promises something complex over time, becoming very drinkable and not too deep, whereas the Bibich promises the opposite over time!

8/ Alen Bibich Alef 2010

The Bibich winery is in Skradin, just inland from Šibenik, near the beautiful Krka falls. We’re now in the Northern Dalmatia appellation, and this is a blend of  Cabernet Sauvignon (67%), Merlot (20%) and Cabernet Franc (10%), grown 320 metres up in Plastovo.
Bibich Wine on facebook: http://www.facebook.com/bibichwine

All three varieties are picked and fermented together in wood barrels, then put into inox steel tanks, and are now in small barriques. All spontaneous fermentation.  Lovely taste, mouth-watering without the acids being obvious up front.

Find out more…

Although these particular wines are not yet on the market, the winemakers mentioned do have current offerings that should be explored in the meantime! Check out the winery websites, and find out where to get them, or indeed, visit the wineries themselves!

This seminar was part of the Dalmacija Wine Expo 2014 (www.dalmacijawineexpo.com). Great event!