In to Istria with Veralda

Over a summer, two travelers drink their way through the wines of Mediterranean Europe

Veralda’s vineyards with Buje in the background.

Fresh off our hibernation from the beach while in Slovenia, we headed back out to the coast of Croatia. This time, we focused on the region of Istria, that little triangle of a peninsula off the far west of Croatia. After the rather arduous task of finding a place to stay without a reservation in high season, we set about exploring some of the wines of the area, especially those along the Istrian Wine Route. Our first stop was Veralda.

Luciano Visintin and vino

We met with the owner, Luciano Visintin. His family has made oil and wine for somewhere around 1,000 years–give or take a few. In 1997 they started they took the family craft and made it a proper business, producing some 300,000 to 400,000 liters of wine a year, once again, give or take a few. They produce this large quantity of wine from 26 hectares of land and they also buy from a few vineyards who neighbor their vines. Out of all this, the bulk of what they produce is Malvazija. Additionally, they produce Muškat, Teran (Refošk), Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, and Ancelotti.

To begin with in our tasting, we had the 2006 Veralda’s Malvazija. Luciano told us that he considers Malvazija as not a pretty woman, but more of a goof friend, which we took to mean that it is a basic drinking wine without a lot of flash. His vintage has a rather neutral nose with a touch of herbs to it. It’s rather hard to classify and is drifts towards being quite light. There is a nice effervescence in the body that carries in to the finish and sticks with you. Luciano told us that it is an everyday wine and that it is best drank within the first year of bottling.

Their whites: Muškat, Malvazija, Verduzzo

From there, we tried the 2006 Refošk. This wine is also called Teran in this area, which can be confusing, although it is essentially the same grape as grown just to the north, up in neighboring Slovenia. The nose is slightly sweet and tasty with bold fruit aromas. It drifts a bit in to being a littler earthy, but it leads in to a very easy to drink body with a bright finish. As it breaths, it mellows out considerably and would most likely do with with at least a solid hour out of the bottle before drinking. This 2006 vintage was harvested quite late in October and we were told that the 2007 vintage is going to be quite good due to the heat of the summer, which will allow for an earlier harvest.

Merlot Riserva

We closed out with the 2004 Merlot Riserva. This is a delightful example of tasty barrique aging as the wine spends a year in French Oak. The body is very soft and the wine is well balanced overall with a nice, easy finish. We found a bit of berry and chocolate tones in the body. Despite how mellow it is, there is a touch of dryness to it that is quite typical of the region, but it is very understated. We found it to have a great deal of depth, which Luciano explained to us was from the dirt in this area of Istria, which is astoundingly blood red.

A nice selection of wines in general and there are others to taste for those who are curious, as well as the olive oil that they produce, which is brilliant in aromas and flavors.