Over a summer, two travelers drink their way through the wines of Mediterranean Europe
The valley of Kozlović winery with the Momjan fortress above.
The last stop on our whirlwind tour of Istrian wines was Kozlović. The location that the family has settled in is spectacular one, near the village of Momjan. While the village is typical of the type you see in Istria, it has a nice standout feature which is the ruins of a fortress up on a hill. Like something out of medieval fairy tale, this stony skeleton floats about the small valley where the family built their current cellar in 1904 on a hill, overlooking some of their vines.
Gianfranco Kozlović opens a bottle.
Even when you strip away the setting and just focus on the wines, you see that this is a family that knows what it is doing when it comes to the grape. Their Malvazija can be gotten here and is getting to be recognized as a quite stellar make of this Istrian varietal. But there at the helm of everything is Gianfranco Kozlović. He is a character who loves his wines and loves the process of making wines.
His various philosophies and ideas about wine are one of the few drinking companions that are better than a well-cured pršut. For instance, he really wants to stay with the native varietals that grow in the area, but he isn’t afraid to try a little Shiraz or Cabernet Sauvignon to see what happens. He likes to age his in Malvazija in acacia barrels (which is traditional), but he’ll also try aging other wines in acacia to see what the result is. He finds barrels to work very well with reds, but thinks that the whites should only be touched by them for a bit of spice and toast.
He is a big believer in the new technologies that make wine production more easy to control, since while producing the old way is fine, why do it if there are better ways? And our favorite idea of his is that after you’ve finished experimenting, you really need to go back and ask yourself what is it that you like to drink and enjoy. It is this line of thinking that made their very clever logo come about (two friends drinking together), which Gianfranco sees as a symbol of the pleasure of drinking, friendship, and the moment of the toast.
Once we worked through the thinking behind the wine, we learned that Kozlović is producing 100,000 bottles a year and he is fortunately looking to export more, which is good news for us. His production is mostly white, with that taking up about 80% of his bottles and the other 20% of red being comprised of Teran (Refošk).
A glass-faced barrel.
It was 15 years ago that they started as the business that they are today and in 1998 they built a new addition on to the original cellar that is now over 100 years old. They have been growing in other ways too. Just three years ago, they were producing from just three hectares. Today, they cull their grapes from 16 hectares. While they are looking to have much more land, this has been difficult due to the political issues (yes, even wine is political) and they are looking to get their grapes from a focused 25-30 hectares in order to maintain a consistency to the wine, which is always appreciated by we drinkers.
So, we’ve learned a bit about the history and thinking that goes in to these wines, lets talk about the wines themselves in Part 2 .