Unexpected reds from Istria and Kvarner Croatia

Dalmatia is beautiful, but it receives more than its fair share of attention. Croatia’s Istrian Peninsula and Kvarner region, while perhaps less dramatic than Dalmatia, make up one of Europe’s most diverse landscapes. As one drives, the panoramas oscillate between mountain vistas, windswept limestone beaches and misty vineyards. You can wash down scampi on the island of Krk with a light briny Žlahtina for lunch, and after just an hour and a half drive west into Istria, eat for dinner hand rolled Fuzi buried in white truffles with sappy red Teran. It is one of our favorite areas to return. Around every corner is a new dish and in every cellar a new wine. We have just received a shipment from Slovenia and Northern Croatia. Among the wines are two distinctive new reds: Coronica Crno from Coastal Istria and Šipun Sansigot from the island of Krk in the gulf of Kvarner. The rare Sansigot is the latest release of Ivica Dobrinčić of Šipun on the island of Krk. In addition to making wine from the half dozen hectares of vines he farms, Ivica also operates a grape vine nursery aimed at re-propagating ancient native varieties. Ivica says most of the 20 … Continue reading Unexpected reds from Istria and Kvarner Croatia

#WineWednesday Spotlight #10: Gere Portugieser

As the very welcome rain was pouring down in Northern California last weekend, I suddenly wished I could have shared my Moroccan spiced fish stew dinner with my East coast relatives and colleagues who were stranded by what we now are calling the record-setting blizzard of 2016. I opened a bottle of the relativity low-priced, but great quality red wine from the well-established Southern Hungarian town of Villány: Gere Portugieser. Since German settlers brought innovative techniques and the Portugieser grape with them to the region, it has become a local treasure. The winemaker, Attila Gere, first took interest in the future of Villány wines while tasting the home-made versions served by his father-in-law. Gere became obsessed with the potential of the area and when the Communist regime was dissolved in the early 90’s, Attila Gere winery was established. In Hungary, the grape was once known as Kékoportó or “blue Portuguese” but has been renamed Portugieser in recent times. Aged in stainless steel after fermentation in wild yeast, the wine has a deep color, and is more fuller-bodied than wines aged in oak. The variety’s naturally low levels of acidity mean that Portugieser wines should be drunk in their youth. It … Continue reading #WineWednesday Spotlight #10: Gere Portugieser

Introducing Coronica Crno Vino

A review of a new wine from Coronica: Crno Vino, or red wine, by Croatian wine writer Nenad Trifunović: No name. Simply “red”; Crno in Croatian. Only Coronica can get away with something like this. The “CO” logo alone is sufficient incentive to buy a bottle. Immediately the distinctive Teran spice is apparent on the nose. You can smell, and taste, a wild, iron-like character. Coronica blends Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon along with the Teran which can be felt on the palate. Beautiful simplicity that is not easily accomplished. Coronica is a skilled master after all. Even his simple table wine is a true, serious wine. Perfect for everyday consumption. Hearty, lively, sleek, with no tannic roughness or any components demanding more time to soften and mellow. Ready upon opening the bottle, with a very drinkable 12% alc,  suitable with many dishes. I am quite sure this wine, aside from a small percentage perhaps, has not aged in any wood, yet I am confident many will comment on certain “woodiness” on the nose. Both aromatic sensations and well balanced vinous acids are features of a wine ideal for casual consumption. For example, I was endlessly thankful how it paired with … Continue reading Introducing Coronica Crno Vino

Top Croatian Wines in the USA: Indigenous Grapes Grow Sales

Cliff Rames, founder of Wines of Croatia and sommelier, writes about indigenous Croatian grapes making the most impact in the United States market for Total Croatia. On January 21, 2016, I asked the top three American importers of Croatian wines to reveal which Croatian wines were best sellers in 2015 and provide clues about what new and exciting developments await in 2016. So grab a glass of your top Croatian wine and check out revelations below, listed alphabetically by producer, with tasting notes and added commentary by the importers about what made the wines successful in the U.S. Here are the wines we import: Bibich R6 2012 (Red) 34% Babić; 33% Lasin; 33% Plavina “This northern Dalmatia wine shows more smoke and Mediterranean herbs than heavy, overbearing fruit,” observed Eric Danch, Northern California Sales Manager at Blue Danube Wine Company. “There’s immediate life and levity without compromising its unique character. It’s a wine that can be readily be devoured at a casual dinner party and yet capture the attention of wine professionals.” Miloš Plavac 2010 (Red) 100% Plavac Mali “Plavac Mali has a much thicker skin than any of the three native grapes in the Bibich R6,” noted Danch. “The … Continue reading Top Croatian Wines in the USA: Indigenous Grapes Grow Sales

#WineWednesday Spotlight #9: Piquentum Terre Refošk 2012, the friendly wine

As I opened our bottle of Piquentum Terre Refošk 2012 last weekend, this reminded me of our trip to Istria in fall 2014 and our visit to Piquentum and its owner, Dimitri Brečević. I am afraid to say, we first missed the place and had to call Dimitri for assistance. For our defense, there was no obvious sign from the road that could indicate the winery, just big industrial doors leading to an underground Italian water cistern. Fortunately, we found Dimitri waving at us as we were retracing our steps. Being raised in Jurançon in south-western France, Dimitri speaks a pleasant musical French. It was a friend of his Croatian father, as he explained to us, that found this water cistern at the bottom of the medieval town of Buzet (Pinguente in Italian). With an average temperature of 10ºC (50ºF) throughout the year, this was the perfect place to make and age wines. There are no vineyards around Buzet, which is better known for its truffles, and some of Dimitri’s best vineyards are a few miles away, around the historic town of Motovun. In some way, Istria is a “new old world”. Contrary to France, explained Dimitri, there’s a lot … Continue reading #WineWednesday Spotlight #9: Piquentum Terre Refošk 2012, the friendly wine

The Start of a Croatian Wine Love Affair

Travel/wine writer and founder of Writing Between the Vines, Marcy Gordon loves Croatia, especially the wines. Check out what sparked her interest and read about her first visit to Croatia. Thank you for sharing with us, Marcy! The first time the wines of Croatia came across my radar was through a random Tweet I saw by Cliff Rames (founder, Wines of Croatia). Until that point I’d never tried any wine from the region and knew little about Croatian varietals. I was directed to Blue Danube Wines as the place to start. Through the Blue Danube Portfolio I was given a wonderful overview of what Croatia had to offer. I found a rustic elegance in the wines with flavor profiles both bright and deep, and a briny kiss of salinity that was intriguing and enjoyable. One producer that stood out for me was Bibich. My love affair with Bibich wine began with that tasting and shortly afterwards I had the opportunity to visit Alen Bibić at his winery in Skradin, outside of Šibenik on the Dalmatian coast of Croatia. It was there that my simple infatuation with Croatia bloomed into lust — an appreciative lust for the wine and food and the … Continue reading The Start of a Croatian Wine Love Affair

#WineWednesday Spotlight #8: Bernreiter Gemischter Satz

A Visit in Vienna… First things first: this is the city whose very name means wine. In the native tongue they say Wien, which is short for the Latin name Vindobona, which means the place where the good wine grows. Indigenous Celtic peoples had been cultivating the vine and producing wine for nearly one thousand years before the ancient Romans arrived, roaming up from their nearby military installation at Carnuntum… The Römer had a longstanding affinity for the vine and its most noble product, thus had always been hip to recognising local talent whenever it crossed their paths of conquest. Second, Austria is a wine culture, more similar to France than Germany. In the early 1980’s, the great French wine-making specialist Emil Peynaud asserted that the only other wine culture in Europe like France was Austria. A little country, the remains of an extensive polycultural empire, Austria is a tourist paradise featuring wine on one end, winter sport on the other end, and Mozart in the middle. Leaving poor Mister Mozart in Salzburg and the skis in Tirol, we shall concentrate on the capital city… There are nearly fifteen hundred acres of vines within the city limits. Vienna (once officially characterised … Continue reading #WineWednesday Spotlight #8: Bernreiter Gemischter Satz

The Growing Importance of Eastern and Central European Wine Regions

When each month feels like uncharted and often terrifying water selling wines from the Balkans, Central Europe, and now as far as the Black Sea and the Caucasus mountains, it’s refreshing to look back at the progress made. Having just done so, it turns out things suddenly looks slightly less terrifying. We’ve continued to grow as a company, as a portfolio, and continued our proud tradition of steep learning curves. Perhaps most importantly, we’ve seen the market for these wines grow. We owe this growth to your support. As one form of proof, our slice of the wine world has garnered some promising press we’d like to share. All of that hand selling hasn’t gone to waste… The New York Times (Tokaji Aszu Wines Are a Taste of Hungarian Sweetness) and PUNCH (An Uncertain Future for the World’s Most Iconic Sweet Wines) recently covered Tokaj and Samuel Tinon in particular. Imbibe Magazine (East Goes West: Wines from Central and Eastern Europe are turning American heads) (PDF) did a wonderful focus on Central Eastern European wine featuring Fekete Béla, Kabaj, Vylyan, Piquentum, Štoka and Orgo. Vogue even singled out both Štoka (Champagne’s Cooler Cousin: 5 Pét-Nat Sparkling Wines to Try Now) … Continue reading The Growing Importance of Eastern and Central European Wine Regions

#WineWednesday Spotlight #7: Coronica Gran Teran 2011

A review of Coronica’s Gran Teran 2011 by Croatian wine writer, Nenad Trifunović: Finally a brilliant teran! This vintage exhibits even greater aging potential than the glorified 2000 harvest. The flavors are of reminiscent of the terra rossa soils the grapes grow in and of iron enriched, wild forest fruit. With a hint of tobacco, a touch of vanilla, and a whisper of a caramel, you know there is some oak influence. Gran Teran is an example of carefully restrained teran with preserved personality. There is a stony, iron minerality which can remind you of the taste of blood. For sure, the wine is yet too young. Nevertheless, its balance evokes marvel. Serious elevage in a great artisan’s cellar has prepared it for decades to come. Coronica demonstrates what teran is capable of with such a perfectly tailored wine that also respects the variety and terroir. Although this vintage resulted in very hign alcohols (14,5%) for teran, the wine is balanced by characteristic high acids and tannins, firm body, smoothness, softness, and richness without being flabby. The weight is pleasant and supports the bright acid backbone, with earthy tannin and a fruity spiciness. See the original post here. Also try the 2009 vintage.