Unexpected reds from Istria and Kvarner Croatia

Northern Croatia Map
Map of Northern 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 plus sorts he is cultivating will have to be the work of his 4 sons if they choose to continue with this family business, which is what he and his wife Željka hope they will do.

The Dobrincic family
The Dobrinčić family

Originally from the island of Susek, Sansigot became a favorite sort on the island of Krk before practically vanishing along with most of the islands vines. Planted to the clay and limestone soils in the protected interior valley outside their seaside home of Vrbnik, Ivica’s Sansigot is light, aromatic, and sea inflected. It will take many more plantings and many more wines before it can be said that Sansigot is a sort we understand, but the distinctiveness of Ivica’s wine shows that the effort is worthwhile. This is a fascinating process to drink along with.

Moreno Coronica’s new wine “Crno” has an almost opposite story. A producer farming more than 50 hectares in the village of Koreniki on the Istrian coast, Moreno is considered one of Istria’s benchmark winemakers. But faced with variable and cool conditions throughout the summer of 2014, he opted to make an easier drinking, lighter, less extracted or oak influenced red cuvee instead of the rich, sunny reds he is often noted for. The 2014 Crno is 80% Teran and 10% each Cabernet and Merlot.

Terra rossa soils in the Coronica vineyards
Moreno’s car wearing a fine coat of Terra Rossa (photo Courtesy of Brain Keyser of Casalulla wine bar)

Whatever role the international sorts play, it is the Teran and the Terra Rossa soil that dominate the character of the wine. Bright and spicy with notes of myrtle, thyme, orange, clove and the region’s characteristic briny iron note. We do not know if it is a one-off or something Moreno will, or even can, reproduce, but we certainly do find that it transports us back to Istria.