Contributed by Colm FitzGerald. Colm was born in Ireland, grew up in Southern California and now lives in Hungary. He’s passionate about exploring new cultures and off the tourist-trail destinations. His blog, The Paprika Project was born from the idea of sharing Hungary’s rich culture and natural beauty with the world. Learn more about The Paprika Project in our blog.
Made from overripe shriveled grapes creating a sweet, but balanced wine. A great introduction for those new to Hungarian dessert wines. Sticky sweet, but with acidity, with hints of butterscotch and ripe fruit. I never understood what people meant when they said a wine had the taste or smell of “cut straw” or “cut grass”. Now I know. Long finish of residual sweetness. Delicious.
You can read about Colm’s full visit to the Füleky estate here.
“Far be it from me to keep you from the piss tasting,” said Leo. “Myself, I prefer the taste of Arbor gold.” A Feast for Crows By George R. R. Martin
I have been exploring Westeros—the world of the TV show Game of Thrones—for many years: first with my imagination through the books and the show, and more recently physically. During a recent trip to Croatia where we visited producers, we luckily were able to discover some of the show’s filming locations. But there was something I also wanted to do in Croatia: find out what the wines of Westeros—an Arbor gold, a Dornish sour red—taste like. Especially Arbor gold, considered to be the finest wine in all the Seven Kingdoms.
So as we were driving around Dalmatia visiting producers, we happily recognized some of the Game of Thrones filming sites: the Red Keep and the stairs to the Great Sept of Baelor in Dubrovnik, the Diocletian’s Palace in Split where Daenerys chained her dragons in the basement, and then I think I found Arbor gold: it was in Korčula and the wine was Pošip.
The Arbor is an island off the southwestern coast of Westeros, separated from the mainland by a narrow strait. A major wine producer, it’s the seat of House Redwyne whose sigil is a grape cluster. And you see, Korčula is also an island that lies off the Dalmatian coast, separated from the Pelješac peninsula by the narrow Strait of Pelješac.
Korčula has a long wine growing tradition going all the way back to the Greeks. Before phylloxera reached Dalmatia in 1925, the whole island was covered with vineyards and the grapes and wines were sold on the international market to phylloxera-ravaged countries. Nowadays, and especially since the 1991-1995 war, several of these vineyards with their dry stone walls are being rebuilt and replanted.
Whereas the rest of Dalmatia is mostly known for its red wines, Korčula is renowned for the quality of its white wines: the rare Grk, Maraština, also known as Rukatac, and Pošip, the most famous.
Pošip (po-ship), a Korčula native, was the first Croatian white wine with a protected geographical origin, which was granted in 1967. The name may come from the Croatian words šipak (pomegranate) and po (under). Supposedly, the first Pošip vine was found growing under a pomegranate tree. It was discovered in the second half of the 19th century near the inland village of Smokvica by a farmer called Marin Tomašić Barbaca, nicknamed Caparin. The story says that Marin Tomasic Barbaca noticed the grape growing wild while cutting firewood and was attracted by its unusual but pleasing aromas. He made cuttings for its own vineyard and then neighbors made cuttings from his plants. The first recorded Posip wine was released in 1880. There is now a monument honoring Pošip and Marin Tomašić Barbaca at the site of the discovery.
Posip Monument on Korkula
“Sansa dutifully lifted the goblet with both hands and took a sip. The wine was very fine; an Arbor vintage, she thought. It tasted of oak and fruit and hot summer nights, the flavors blossoming in her mouth like flowers opening to the sun.” A Storm of Swords By George R. R. Martin
We tasted our first Korčula Pošip at the Toreta winery in Smokvica. The place is run by Frano Banicević, a young winemaker and a soon-to-be dad of two. Founded by Frano’s great-grandfather, the winery has still the old winemaking and farming tools used at the time. While we were tasting the wines, Frano told us about how he liked the way his great-grandfather was making wine without fertilizers/pesticides, how he saw himself more of a traditionalist, and how he felt that his life was reflected through the vintages, becoming progressively more complex, as he was learning more about the land and the grape.
We first tasted the 2015 Toreta Pošip Special, a refreshing and well balanced wine (12.8% alcohol) with notes of citrus and mediterranean dried herbs. As the lobster on the label indicates, it’s the perfect seafood wine and perfectly accompanied the lovely seaside lunch of grilled fish and octopus that we had later with the rest of the Banicević family.
Then we tried the 2015 Toreta Pošip Premium and I was impressed by the wine’s deep Arbor-gold-like color and hot-summer-nights-like aromas. With 13.2% alcohol and sourced from older vines, this is a richer Pošip, showing great texture and complexity without losing its balance, freshness and minerality. But words are wind: it’s time for you to try a Korčula gold and explore the multiple facets of Pošip.
Continuing our celebration of Georgian wine month with Kindzmarauli Marani Original semi-sweet saperavi. The wine has been getting plenty of well deserved attention this month. Here are two independent reviews of the wine. One is by Tara Q. Thomas, Eastern European wine critic for Wine & Spirits Magazine, and the other is a video by James the Wine Guy, San Francisco-based wine vlogger.
This saperavi is made in the traditional semi-sweet style but its not at all cloying. Rather, it tastes like wild cherries, from the leaves to the pits, intense in their clarity, then fades into a steaky, cedary savor. Its like the red version of a good Spätlese riesling, the sweetness serving to bolster flavor, and balance the strong acidity. And like a good Spätlese, this can go with a wide range of foods, in this case from grilled eggplant to seared steak to chunks of dark chocolate. -Tara Q. Thomas, Wine & Spirits Magazine June issue
Now enjoy the video review by James the Wine Guy. He gives the wine 92 points citing its versatility at the table and the fact that it’s “not cloyingly sweet” as part of the wine’s charm.
Check out this great video showing Giorgi Barisashvili, Georgian wine historian and educator, visiting the wine regions of Western Georgia. There he talks about rare, indigenous grapes and traditional Georgian winemaking practices.
Last year a few members of our team were fortunate enough to meet Giorgi and spend some time with him in his marani (wine cellar). Here are a few pictures from that meeting:
Review originally published in the June edition of Wine & Spirits Magazine. Written by Tara Q. Thomas. Tara has been a wine writer for about 15 years, mainly at Wine & Spirits, where she is the Executive Editor and the wine critic for wines of Austria, Germany, Hungary, Eastern Europe and the Mediterranean.
Beka Gotsadze grows 13 varieties in his vineyards in the hills of the Asureti Valley, at an elevation of 4,200. He works organically, and exclusively with qvevri (the local amphorae), though his techniques are not exactly traditional: His fermentation qvevri have holes drilled in their bottoms so that he can transfer the juice into aging qvevri by gravity; those qvevri are wrapped in silicon tubing that carries cool water from a nearby spring. Perhaps this is how he’s attained such a complex, delicate wine, as crisp and saline as it is redolent of orange blossoms, marzipan and salted capers. The tannins give it an edge of bitter tea, while the acidity keeps the wine lifted and fresh. It feels like it could age for decades; it lasts on the countertop indefinitely, and is especially good with nutty cheese. 93 points
Gere Atilla is one of the most famous wine makers in Hungary, he put Hungary on the wine map with his famous Kopár cuvée. The winery is run by the Gere family and cellar tours will only be given by one of the members. The winery itself is located just a small walk out of the town centre where they also have a spa hotel named Crocus and a fine dining restaurant named Mandula. The restaurant is where you will most likely enjoy a wine tasting so you can also enjoy a few dishes that will perfectly complement the wine.
The history of Gere Pincészete started seven generations ago, the ancestors of Atilla Gere took a long journey which was challenging and required great diligence. The family always wanted to respect and follow the traditions but at the same time there had to be room for experimenting and trying to make new and interesting wines. Today the Gere cellar has over 70 hectares and they focus on the old Hungarian traditions of grape growing.
Atilla Gere and his wife Katalin started their ”wine life” with only a few acres of vineyard in Csillagvölgy, a parcel they received as a wedding present from their parents in 1978. In 1986 they sold their first vintage in bottles.
The Gere cellar uses state of the art equipment and technology in combination with the wine making traditions of Villány. They select the grapes, harvesting the bunches in small containers by hand. There is a strict yield limitation of roughly 0.7-1 kilogram per stock. After this there is another quality check on the conveyor belt to make sure that only totally ripe and healthy grapes are used. The alcoholic fermentation is done in stainless steel tanks and wooden tanks, under a controlled temperature for roughly one to three weeks, depending on the varieties. After the fermentation and gentle pressing, which happens with pneumatic presses, the wine goes into new and used oak barrels. 80% Hungarian and 20% French oak barrels are used for spontaneous fermentation and aging. The red wines are usually aged for 14 to 18 months.
Let’s talk wine! 2012 was a very extreme year, with a very cold and snowy winter. Lucky enough the snow layer protected the vine stocks against damage, unfortunately we still had frost in spring and that did damage the vines quite a bit. The summer was then again extremely dry and that was a gift from God to save the harvest; there was so much heat and dryness that the grapes were ripe almost three weeks earlier than usual. Small berries with very concentrated juice produced a great vintage with outstanding, full bodied and concentrated red wines.
The vineyard is called Csillagvölgy and it was the first one Gere Atilla and his wife cultivated. By now the vines are between 16 to 31 years old. The harvest was done in the middle of October, with alcoholic fermentation occurring in stainless steel tanks and malolactic fermentation in barrels. The wine was aged 80% in big barrels (25-50 hectolitre) and 20% in used barrique barrels.
The colour of the wine is deep ruby, it has a very clean and medium+ intensive nose full of dark cherries with hits of oak, cedar wood and a little bit of cranberries.
The flavour is also medium+ intensive, the alcohol and acids are extremely well balanced together with some very silky soft tannins. The wine is very full bodied and has a long finish, an excellent Cabernet Sauvignon with the terroir of Villány! Definitely drinkable now (I am enjoying this very much!) and according to the winery it will be at its peak between 2018-2019.
Originally published by Marija Mrgudić on Facebook. Republished here with permission. Marija Mrgudić is a distinguished wine maker in Orebić on the Pelješac peninsula in Croatia. The Bura-Mrgudić family winery makes internationally renowned wines in the premier cru vineyards Dingač and Postup. English translation courtesy of Zdravko Podolski.
52 Years of the Dingač Brand
Fifty two years ago, on May 13th 1964, the name ‘Dingač’ was first registered. The Dingač Cooperative in Potomje on the Pelješac peninsula, received its certificate from the International Bureaux for the Protection of Industrial, Literary, and Artistic Property (Bureaux Internationaux reunis pour la protection da la propriete industrielle, litteraire et artistique Geneve – now subsumed into the World International Property Organisation). Dingač thus became the very first internationally protected wine from the former Yugoslavia.
It was protected and listed as top quality wine, based on a study for the determination of properties of top quality red wines from the Dingač area. The study was prepared by experts from the Split Institute for Adriatic Culture, according to the Geneva Convention on Intellectual Property. The whole process was started by the renowned Marcel Jelaska, and it was the first such effort by the Institute. 1961 was the first harvest covered by the certificate from Geneva.
Istravino personnel, headed by Ivan Sokolić, also registered the wine in the Patent office in Belgrade. Istravino was then the distributor for the Dingač cooperative.
Dingač is the name for a steep slope on the south side of Pelješac peninsula, from Trstenik to Podobuc (or from Žitković strana at the East end, to Začelinska uvala at the West end). Only seven kilometers, or just over four miles, of steeply sloped Plavac Mali vineyards, some as steep as 50 degrees. Because of the abundance of potassium in the soil, the grapes and fruit in general growing on the Dingač slopes has a special taste and is very sought after.
The plots of land have been owned by families from the small settlements of Potomje, PijavičIna, Prizdrina and Zakamenja ever since the fall of the Dubrovnik Republic. The whole harvest would be carried from the steep slopes on the backs of donkeys to Potomje and from there to the harbors along the Pelješac coastline. That is the reason for the famous donkey on the Dingač wine label.
Dingač was one of the best recognized four brands in former Yugoslavia, standing with the City of Dubrovnik, Gavrilović and Vegeta, and at a similar level to Coca Cola or Peugeot. With the international registration, the trademark would be protected worldwide.
Today there are 19 producers of Dingač on Pelješac. Amongst wine lovers it is common to have debates about whose Dingač is best, and everyone has their favorite, but even after 52 years the Dingač brand has not faded.
Written by Alan Mandić, founder Secret Dalmatia. As the founder and managing director, Alan is personally dedicated to the vision of bringing the hidden beauties of Croatia to every client. Alan has a deep connection to his country, so after finishing his university education at the New England School of Arts & Design in Boston, he decided to return to Croatia. The decision to found Secret Dalmatia followed an epiphany he had whilst wandering around Bribirska Glavica, one of the most important archaeological sites in the country. As the sunset settled in the distance, he stumbled upon two open sarcophagi and thought: “I must show this to the world!” Few months later, in 2005, he put together his passion, experience, and knowledge to create Secret Dalmatia and he has been dedicated to it full-time ever since.
Savoring the lingering taste of Istrian truffles, Pag cheese and Ston oysters, bedazzled by the Adriatic’s virgin olive oils and world-class wines, Anthony Bourdain declared Croatia ‘the next big thing’. Travel Channel’s Andy Zimmerman followed with his Bizarre Foods. Traveling further back in time, he sought out authentic old specialties still simmering in spite of modern times, tasting, among others, dormice (dormouse special) on the island of Brač and frogs in Trilj. Bizarre Foods: Croatia’s Dalmatian coast- Roasted rodents and Stone soup episode relied greatly on the advice from Croatia’s passionate travel specialists and innate foodies at Secret Dalmatia travel agency.
It is also the zealous people of Secret Dalmatia who started the country’s first culinary travel project and webpage – Culinary Croatia. Introducing the extents of the Croatian cuisine at its best, Culinary Croatia presents all its facets with equal detail and respect. Between memorable gourmet extravaganzas like the 13-course wine pairing dinner at Bibich winery in Skradin and enlightening foodie day tours, like the wine tour of Hvar island with Jo Ahearn MW, Secret Dalmatia takes you into both modern and traditional kitchens, old and new cellars, olive groves and vineyards.
When entertaining the thought of visiting Croatia, it is exactly the travel experts at Secret Dalmatia who insatiable foodies, wine enthusiasts and gastronomy aficionados should talk to. Among Croatia’s assortment of almost 200 sorts of grapes, and an extent of flavors ranging from continental spicy in the north to Mediterranean on the Adriatic coast, all you really need to fully experience this culinary wonderland is a knowledgeable guiding hand. Try Secret Dalmatia, they’ve tasted everything.
This guide by Wine Folly makes it easy to learn more about Austria’s key wine grapes and styles: Grüner Veltliner, Zweigelt, Blaufränkisch, Saint Laurent, Riesling, Gemischter Satz, and Sekt.
Austrian wines are mostly made in the eastern side of the country (where the major population areas are) and the cooler continental climate produces racy, dry white wines and elegant, fruity reds. This is not a region for rich, opulent wines like what you’ll find in much of California and Australia. Instead, Austrian wines lean towards tart, herbaceous flavors in a style more akin to France. So, if you’re a Francophile when it comes to wine preference, Austrian wine has that certain je ne sais quoi.
Batič wines have an immediate signature despite often drastic vintage variation. The tone and substance of Miha Batič is also immediately recognizable in his words. Having been fortunate enough to visit him, walk the vineyards and drink in concert with his vinyl collection, I’ve also hosted him a number of times in the Bay Area. I can assure you from first hand experiences, that if you’re into wine as philosophy, magic, poetry and yet still being effortless to easily finish a whole bottle, this interview is worth a gander.
Miha, what’s a biodynamic wine?
Biodynamic is a method of farming that goes beyond organic, considering the laws of the Earth’s natural motion and the seasons. A biodynamic wine reflects the variety and terroir in most living beings. Wine, like all living things, changes a little every day depending on factors like the phases of the moon and your company. When you drink in good company, the wine can taste even sweeter!
What changes were made to attain Demeter certification?
In the middle of the eighties we returned to the old method of organic vine growing, without the use of any fertilizers. Over time, this proved to be a mistake. We started implementing biodynamic farming because it is the most perfect way of reviving the soil. Everything else at Batič winery is done by a method which coincides with biodynamic philosophy since 1987.
Can sulphur-free Zaria age well?
Sulphur is used to protect wine. 100 mg SO2 is the lethal dose for organisms found in wine. Over the years, free sulphur, which protects the wine, lowers while total sulphur rises. At some point, when the free sulphur is too low, the wine starts to deteriorate. Zaria is a wine made without sulphur. That is to say alive, full of vitality. While wines with sulphur eventually crumble over time because of decreasing sulphur content, Zaria has a great advantage: it is protected thanks to the micro-organisms contained in the wine that would otherwise have been killed by sulphur. Any wine can be made without sulphur, but in most cases the product will end up “being vinegar.” If we want a consistent wine without sulphur, it is important to take care of the vineyard. The vineyard must be full of rock’n’roll. When you step in the vineyard, you must listen to the Philharmonic Orchestra of cockroaches, rabbits, crickets… Once the vineyard is teeming with life, there will be enough organisms to preserve the wine without any sulphur.
How is climate change affecting your vineyards and the ecosystems they are a part of?
With us, when you say wine, we think white wine. The Vipava Valley has a Mediterranean climate due to the influence of both continental and Alpine influences, which is optimal for premium white wines. Among the 350 indigenous varieties in the Vipava, 95% are white. Now more and more red varieties are being planted due to global demand. When you are planning to plant a vineyard, you cannot base decisions solely on personal desires; global trends, which are ever changing, must also be taken into account. When we plant a new vineyard, we select grapes that best suit the soil and climate. In the last 100 years, the average temperature has warmed by 3.5 degrees. Vineyards that we plant today are not for us but for our children and grandchildren if we are lucky. After 40-50 years, vines hit their sweet spot. Once our newer vineyards reach that age, the climate will be even warmer and better suited to red varietals. Then, in Vipava, the meaning of the word “wine” will be red wine!
What is the status of your non vinifera vineyard? What will be the next vintage?
The taste of wine is only a dress on the body. For me in particular it is considered the body. For the first time in the Vipava Valley, we have planted 20 new non-vinifera varieties, which are also non-native. Autochthonous varieties are those that traditionally perform the best due to historical symbiosis with the terroir of this land. However, people have changed farming so much over the past 130 years that vines almost cannot exist without intensive vineyard protection. Then we kill vine diseases, which at the same time kill the vitality of the vineyard. Bacteria, enzymes, yeasts… so consequently, the indigenous vines remain only in name because the essence of the grape is lost. This is where hybrids of vitis vinifera and Asian varieties can be helpful. They can survive harsh conditions without damaged or diseased berries. In a way, these varieties are the autochthon sorts of Vipava’s future. From this land they can offer wines with more vitality.
Are your children interested in the vineyards?
For some of us, the story is written in the stars. My sons’ part of the story is written with their names. The name of my first son is Angel after a vineyard of the same name. My second son is Oska, the name we have also given to our brandy.
What have you been drinking lately? Batič and outside of Batič?
I think that wine should not be signed with a label. I do not like to label wines as white or red, macerated or without maceration. When I have a glass of wine that I produced, I realize why it is so beautiful to be a farmer. Wine is a part of me, always and everywhere. Once a year, I fast and drink mostly water. Now is that time so it’s only water and cherries.
Are there any specific recipes or ingredients that pair best with your wines?
In nature, all substances correspond with each other. It is not necessary to be talented to put together five types of wood or stone. Almost always a nice composition. The same is true with wines that are not manufactured, but born with fresh authentic tastes from our garden and farm. At dinner with five courses, one bottle will perfectly match with at least four plates. Our wines are very versatile.
What is your current favorite vinyl record to listen to?
Currently playing Cohen with Sharon Cohen Robinson. Excellent record. Thanks Jerzy for vinyl.