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 to learn in the region if one wants to really understand which grape varieties are best suited to which terroirs. His best Malvasia comes from an old-vine vineyard owned by an old lady. Unfortunately, her children seem unaware of the rich quality of the fruits and want to replant the lot with lavender.
Dimitri makes 2 different reds: a Teran and a Refošk. They are often considered the same grape but there are morphological differences between the two and they also taste differently.
Like Teran, the Refošk has a purple-violet color and smells like tart red berries but on the palate, it is much less acidic. Well balanced, it has an earthiness that really shined with our sauteed wild mushrooms. Add a dash of fresh pepper to enhance the wine’s spiciness and share it with friends, this wine is just the most convivial.