#WineWednesday Spotlight #101: BIBICh Lučica

bibich lucica
Photo: Marcy Gordon

Another contribution from our friend, BIBICh wine lover Marcy Gordon:

Lučica, Lučica! How do I love thee Lučica, let me count the ways… 1) Produced by the master Alen Bibić. 2) My beloved Debit grape indigenous to Croatia. 3) The first Bibich wine I fell in love with. (The rest all followed quickly) 4) Always surprises me. 5) Orange is not the only wine, but it could be for me. (subtle Jeanette Winterson reference –google it) 6) Every sip transports me to Skradin.

Thank you Alen Bibic for making Lučica!

#Lučia #Bibich #winesofcroatia #wine #croatia #Skradin #orange #orangewine #bluedanubewine #dalmatia #winesofdalmatia #BibichWinery #BIBICh

The BIBICh Lučica 2015 is a 100% Debit from old vines planted by Alen Bibić’s grandfather. It’s Alen’s special wine, macerated on the skins for two weeks, and fermented with natural yeast in French oak barrels for more than a year. It’s a serious age-worthy wine, evoking scents of Mediterranean dried herbs and the salty sea breeze and it’s also delicious right now. Ask Marcy!

#WineWednesday Spotlight #100: Martinčič Pinot Noir Rosé

Martincic Pinot Noir Rosé
Martinčič Pinot Noir Rosé showing its lovely salmon pink color

An hour’s drive from Ljubljana in Southeast Slovenia, the Dolenjska wine-growing district is one of Slovenia’s largest wine growing region. Thanks to a combination of alpine and continental climatic influences, its gentle, south-facing hills at the edge of the woods are ideal for growing grapevines.

The region is famous for its light, fruity, low-alcohol reds, especially the Cviček, a traditional, slightly sour red wine made by blending red and white grape varieties.

Made in the same light and fruity style, try this Pinot Noir Rosé from the family-owned Martinčič winery: showing a lovely pale salmon pink hue, the wine is dry and tangy with a refreshing round palate. With only 11% alcohol in a 1 Liter bottle, bring it to your next picnic with a cured salami and a fresh loaf of bread.

The Tart, Salty and the Nutty from the other side of the Adriatic: Summer Wines from the Balkans

15 wines is a lot to get through without losing you after this sentence. However, there is a salty, tart, and often nutty line that connects them all from the Bay of Trieste down to Southern Dalmatia. These are our table wines for the summer.

martincic france
France Martinčič

For the past few years, we’ve brought the Martinčič Cviček liter in from Dolenjsko (in between Zagreb and Ljubljana in Slovenia). This tongue-twisting blend of red and white grapes must be between 8.5-10% alcohol and dry by law. Now we are finally adding two more liters to round things out – the 2016 Modra Frankinja (Blaufränkisch) and 2016 Modri Pinot Rosé (Pinot Noir). They are both around 11-11.5% alcohol, incredibly low in SO2, and are impossibly fresh and full of character. Chill all three down and let them come up at the table.

santomas vineyard
Santomas vineyards overlooking the Adriatic

Roughly 2 hours West and a bit south by car and you hit Istria (Istra in Slovenia). Dominated by Malvasia Istarska, Teran and Refošk, the diversity by soil and proximity to the Adriatic is immense. Keeping with the liter theme, the 2016 Santomas LNG Refošk is our Dolcetto by the sea in that it satisfies the pizza/pasta needs but still lends itself to seafood. Best chilled. Just 30-40 mins drive south along the Western coast of Istria in Croatia you hit Coronica. Iron rich red soils, a keen sense of keeping acidity in balance, and salty salty salty. It’s like drinking fried fish with lemon and cured sardines in olive oil and lemon. The Gran Malvasia and Teran (related to Refošk) translate to extended élevage and oak aging. We get very little every year, but they both showcase how balanced these grapes can be with added weight, spice and texture.

Karst limestone at Śipun

Just off the Eastern Coast of Istria is the Island of Krk. The running joke is the Venetians took all of the vowels when they left. Pink karst limestone, wild asparagus as cover crops, and two grapes you can hardly find elsewhere even in Croatia: Źlahtina and Sansigot. Ivica at Śipun is also cultivating a library of heritage grapes, driving quality on the Island, and his hospitality matches the inviting nature of both wines. Using Mulberry, Acacia and Walnut barrels in concert with two distinct local grapes makes for something special. Pair the white Žlahtina like you would a Muscadet and give the red Sansigot a slight chill and pair like a Ligurian red.

BIBICh vineyard
BIBICh vineyard

About 3-4 hours drive down the Dalmatian coast you hit Bibich near the town of Skradin. While Bibich makes a variety of red wines, the focus today is the Debit grape done four ways. Debit, much like Pagadebit in Italy (no genetic relationship) refers to easily repaying one’s debts due to the vigorousness of the variety. We think of it like the Riesling of Northern Dalmatia. You can make it bright in stainless steel, refreshingly oxidative in barrel, takes skin contact really well, plenty of acidity for sparkling, and even lends itself to Prošek (passito style). Croatia meets the Jura by the sea…

Ivana Caric
Ivana Carić

About 1.5 hours south by car and off of the coast is the Island of Hvar. A whole newsletter could be devoted to the history to this place. UNESCO Heritage etc… Nevertheless, Ivana and Ivo Carić make a delicious Bogdanjuša here. The grape translates to “a godsend” (Bogom dana), and is traditionally used during church holidays and festivities. For our purposes here, it’s a light bodied island white with salt, herbs and a mineral core that sneaks up on you as it warms up. It tastes like you should be on vacation.

There will no doubt be a lot of articles about whites and reds to chill down this summer, so we humbly ask to consider these in complimenting the usual and worthy suspects.

#WineWednesday Spotlight #99: Pfneiszl Zweigler

Pfneiszl Zweigler
Photo: Shelley Warkentin

This week’s #WineWednesday Spotlight is the dazzling Pfneiszl Zweigler thanks to this Instagram post from wine lover Shelley Warkentin:

Crushed this tasty Zweigelt over the weekend. Really loving this grape as an alternative to rosé on hot days, especially with a little chill on it.⚡️Also, I want to hang out with the two awesome sisters, Birgit and Katrin, who made this wine. @pfneiszlestate #glouglou
#pfneiszlwinery #zweigler #zweigelt #austrianwine #realwine #birgitundkatrin #bluedanubewine

Affirmative! The 1 Liter Zweigler from the Pfneisl sisters is just what you need on a hot day. Try also his brother, the spicy 1 Liter Blaufränker. Both are bright, fruity as well as organic.

And don’t forget to follow Shelley Warkentin on on Instagram.

#WineWednesday Spotlight #98: Doqi Saperavi

doqi Saperavi
doqi Saperavi

Another good review from The Wine Enthusiast Magazine for the doqi Saperavi:

This red-violet-colored wine has a bouquet of raspberry and lingonberry. Velvety tannins create a backdrop for flavors of blackberry, cranberry, vanilla and fennel. Notes of cranberry shine through on the bright finish. 89 Points

If you like dark, fragrant and full-bodied wines, you should try this Saperavi from the new doqi label of German-born Burkhard Schuchmann. Also, if you want to learn more about the different styles of Georgian wines, compare this doqi Saperavi, aged in a combination of stainless steel and in French oak barriques, with the doqi Saperavi Qvevri, fermented in qvevri in the traditional Georgian style. And don’t forget to cheer. Gaumarjos! To your victory!

#WineWednesday Spotlight #97: Gotsa Family Wines Tsitska

Gotsa Family Wines Tsitska
Gotsa Family Wines Tsitska

Traditional Georgian wines are like nothing else you’ll taste,writes Wine expert and The Vinguard founder Pamela Busch.

Beyond the strangeness of the varietals, they are often fermented and aged in large egg-shaped amphora known as qvevri (sometimes written as kvevri). These earthen clay vessels were first used 8,000 years ago and are making a bit of a resurgence with producers from Italy to California preferring them to tanks or barrels.

Among the wines Pamela tasted at a recent San Francisco event organized by The Georgian Wine Association and The National Wine Agency of Georgia, one of the highlights was the Gotsa Family Wines 2014 Tsitska:

Beka Gotsadze grandfather founded Gotsa it in the 19th Century and he has shepherded it into the modern age with terrific traditionally made wines. It has been organic since 2007 and will be Demeter certified in 2018. Tsitska is a thick-skinned ancient white grape. This wine did not have any skin contact but still has a little girth – not much – think Marilyn Monroe in Some Like It Hot. Fermented and aged in amphora, it has a clean minerality with saline, Meyer lemon and a touch of honey in the nose.

Follow Pamela over at The Vinguard and check our webshop for more Gotsa wines.

#WineWednesday Spotlight #96: Heimann Kadarka

Heimann Kadarka
Chilled Heimann Kadarka – Photo: Orshi Kiss

Chilled #kadarka on a hot Friday afternoon?
Yes, please.

Today’s #WineWednesday Spotlight is a contribution from Orshi Kiss, Blue Danube Wine Co. Southern California Sales Manager. For sure, Kadarka is one of her favorite grapes!

Thought to be originally from the Balkans where its still commonly planted – and where it’s also known as Gamza – Kadarka by now thought of in Hungary as one of the traditional red grapes.

It is naturally low in tannins and usually a lighter bodied wine, which makes it a perfect, chillable summer red. Some of the best examples come from the region of Szekszárd — enjoy this spicy, elegant yet fun Kadarka from Heimann Winery.

Kadarka is a delicate grape variety producing delightful wines and it is great news that planting is slowly increasing in Hungary and neighboring countries. Check that article to learn more about it: Kadarka, Cadarca, Gamza.

BIBICh’s Feast

Alen Bibic
Alen Bibić presenting his white Debit

A little more than a year ago, we were in Skradin, North Dalmatia, for a sumptuous multi-course tasting menu with wine pairing. The place was not a restaurant but BIBICh Winery where Chef Vesna Bibić crafts elaborate gourmet dishes carefully paired with the BIBICh wines of her husband Alen. Vesna’s food and Alen’s wines are now famous in the US since Anthony Bourdain filmed a segment of his famous show No Reservations at the winery.

Bibich Feast
Smoked trout, cucumber and bean sprouts granité, tuna, black radish and spring onion, tuna marinated in squid ink with black lentils, and lovely snail on the grass.

We were so lucky to experience such a meal ourselves! We started the dinner with a festive glass of BIBICh Brut paired with a smoked trout, cucumber and bean sprouts granité. Alen’s deliciously fresh Debit came with a slice of tuna on black radish topped with spring onion. I particularly loved the black tuna marinated in squid ink with black lentils. The rich, slightly briny flavors of the dish went particularly well with the complex R5 that was served with it.

Skradin risotto
Skradin risotto covered with gold

Another highlight of the meal was the famed Skradin risotto. Made with veal and cooked slowly for more than 8 hours, Vesna served it covered with a thin layer of gold. It was super creamy, dense in flavors, and a good match for the silky Sangreal Shiraz.

Chocolate Egg
Chocolate Egg

The sweet finale was a glass of unctuous BIBICh Ambra — just what we needed after so many amazing dishes — paired with a surprise chocolate egg that cracked open when a white chocolate sauce was poured on top of it.

Here is another description of that memorable evening by our friend Marion Podolski over at Go Hvar: Wine-tasting on the north Dalmatian coast part 2: BIBICh.

While some of you may already be looking at flights to Croatia and how to make a reservation at BIBICh winery, we’re happy to announce that Alen’s new wines will be arriving soon in California and will ship in mid July.

No Escape from Balkan

After a long hiatus, new Balkan wines from Croatia, Slovenia, and Bosnia & Herzegovina are finally here the second week of July. After looking over previous trip photos, putting together a fairly impressive Balkan playlist (currently listening to Dubioza Kolektiv), cooking some homemade Burek, and adding Ajvar to my morning eggs, I started to realize how much I missed these wines. The combination of salty, herby, oxidatively alive and zero to full tannins that both go with seafood sets these wines apart. We’ve even added some sparkling, sweet, Amfora, and some wines with 10+ years of age on them for good measure.

stoka family
Štoka Family

Starting near the Italian and Croatian border in Slovenia, the Štoka family has been farming for over 200 years. The reds are sanguine, high acid, seemingly Marasca cherry infused and pungent despite being low in alcohol. They make you want rare meat, charcuterie and basically anything cured or pickled. If you over do it, please consider making some “Istarska Supa.”

Moreno Coronica
Moreno Coronica

Directly south on western coast of Istria near the town of Umag is the Coronica winery. Moreno’s grandfather was Austro-Hungarian, his father was Italian, he was Yugoslavian, and now his children are Croatian. It’s a complicated area but the iron rich “Terra Rosa” soil hasn’t changed and the Malvasia Istriana is salty fresh and his Teran is one of the most elegant and layered in Croatia.

Dobrincic Family
Dobrinčić Family

Off the Eastern Coast of Istria is the Island of Krk. Once considered a floating vineyard during its Venetian hayday, Šipun’s white Źlahtina and red Sansigot continue that tradition in the pink Karst limestone a stone’s throw from the Adriatic. Aromatic and textured without being tannic, the Sansigot is a great foil for seafood while the Žilavka drinks like Croatian Muscadet in terms of weight and acidity.

Alen Bibic
Alen Bibić

Drive south roughly 3 hours along the Dalmatian Coast and you arrive at Bibich Winery. The range of wines we’re offering reflects the diversity of local grapes and traditions while satisfying Alan’s entrepreneurial spirit. Stainless steel, skin contact, oxidatively aged, sparkling, cofermented, and even an unfortified passito like wine to name a few.

Stari Grad Plain
Stari Grad Plain on the Island of Hvar

Off the Southern Dalmatian coast, the Stari Grad Plain on the Island of Hvar has been farmed the same way for over 24 centuries (a UNESCO Heritage Site). Husband and wife Ivo and Ivana Carić farm a native white grape called Bogdanjuša, literally “a godsend” (Bogom dana), on this same land. Locals drink it with a seafood stew called “Forska­Gregoda” chock full of Mediterranean herbs, olive oil and onions.

Milos Vineyard
Miloš Vineyard on the Pelješac Peninsula

Miloš is one of those places that really must to be scene in person. A hand built terraced amphitheater overlooking the Adriatic with old vines clawing out of dolomite limestone on along Tomales Bay like Peninsula. The family has been making wine here for over 500 years and it’s still a family affair with all three children working under their father Frano. Structured and age worthy Plavac Mali with an undeniable “Friškina” or scent of the sea quality along with capturing the sun drenched herbs and olive trees of the Pelješac.

Josip Brkić
Josip Brkić showing his biodynamic agriculture book written by Austrian born philosopher Rudolf Steiner

Further south, the Brkić vineyards are between 800 to 1300 feet above sea level in Southern Herzegovina. The area was already making wine 2000 years ago by the Illyrians and continued during Ottoman, Austro-Hungarian, and Yugoslavian rule all the way through independence in 1992. The white Žilavka and red Blatina grapes have a serious history and identity in this place and Josip’s farming and cellar work enable them to be transparent, pure and deliciously otherly.

Check our new Croatian arrivals on our webshop.

#WineWednesday Spotlight #95: Šipun Žlahtina

Žlahtina Vineyard on the Croatian island of Krk

The Šipun Žlahtina got a good review from the August issue of The Wine Enthusiast Magazine:

This wine from the island of Krk is straw-colored, with aromas of apple blossom, green apple and lemon zest. It is well weighted in the mouth, with flavors of apple and citrus blossom and a creamy finish. 88 Points

Žlathina is a white grape variety native to the island of Krk and it is, with the rare Sansigot, the main focus of Šipun‘s winemaker Ivica Dobrinčić. What Ivica particularly likes about Žlathina is its difficulty in accumulating sugar. Even in very hot years, Žlahtina wines are fresh and quite low in alcohol (only 11.5% for the Šipun Žlahtina 2015 vintage).

I opened a bottle of Šipun Žlahtina for our 4th of July party and it was a real crowd-pleaser. Aromatic, with honeyed and peachy aromas and low in alcohol, this is a great wine to enjoy when it’s hot outside.