New Georgia

In an attempt to spread our Georgian wings, we have added appellations, producers and styles. Bold, different wines of personality, tradition and irreverence that tease and challenge the palate in the best ways. First up is the tea and tobacco scented Bibineishvili Chkhaveri (impossible to pronounce) from Adjara in the south west, 5 miles from both Turkey’s northern border and the Black Sea. A numerically slight wine at 10.5% and dry, but it is compact, detailed and finely structured. From the West where sometimes wine is made without skin contact, we have procured some lip smackingly snappy tsolikouri and a tsitska/tsolikouri blend from the Wine Thieves. Rather than stealing, this band of Georgian wine lovers and friends turned negociants are nurturing mevenakhe (vignerons) that make their best possible wines and market them under a common brand. North of Imereti, from the mountainous wine region of Racha-Lechkhumi, cousins Paata and Shorena Pataridze are re-realizing their families historic role as winemakers. We imported half of the mere 350 bottles produced in 2016. The wine is mind-bogglingly smooth with delicate notes of forest fern, honey and the reddest of fruits. The 11g/l of residual sugar left after the fermentation naturally stopped, makes it … Continue reading New Georgia

#WineWednesday Spotlight #56: Kabaj Rebula

For the third time, Kabaj is one of the Wine & Spirits Top 100 Wineries for 2016 , an honor the winery also received in 2015 and 2013. Maybe most impressive is that many of the Kabaj wines reviewed by Wine & Spirits are white grapes fermented with the skins, a technique usually used for red wines. Call them orange, amber, macerated or skin contact whites, this ancient wine style is largely misunderstood and does not typically garner significant professional praise, especially with such consistency. The reason is simple: Kabaj does not make “an” orange wine. Besides a small amount of red, he makes only orange wine. Even in the wine region of Brda in western Slovenia where the technique has historic precedence, few producers have so much experience. As with red grapes, a poorly managed maceration of white grapes can erase all notion of variety and origin. Done correctly though, the technique can coax out and intensify subtle grape varieties and result in wines with aromatic expression and dimension that their un-macerated parallels lack. At Kabaj, 30 days maceration make Rebula more Rebula. Rather than the pale neutral wine all too common of Rebula (called Ribolla Gialla across the … Continue reading #WineWednesday Spotlight #56: Kabaj Rebula

A caron of refreshment

Črnko Jareninčan, Štoka Teran rose and Martinčič Cviček will be available shortly after their May 25th arrival at port. They’re all from the idyllic 2015 vintage and none are over 12.5% abv. Spread across Slovenia, the three wineries Črnko, Štoka, and Martinčič form a triangle and moreover, speaking of triangles, that two sided triangle above all these threatening words is a caron. It adds an “h” to the pronunciation of the letter it crowns. “CHrnko, SHtoka, MartinCHiCH”… Get it? Amazing it took us so long to share that! 2015 Martinčič Cviček: The name Cviček (Zvee-Check) is evidently old Slovenian for “very sour wine”. A bracingly dry blend of native red and white varieties that cannot exceed 10% abv. nor be diluted or dealcoholized. Cviček comes from Lower Carniola in Southern Slovenia, another of the country’s picturesque green hillscapes and tastes of the surrounding forest and sour cherry. Barely red and void of tannin, it should be chilled and gulped. In addition to a vine nursery, Jernej Martinčič conscientiously farms 8 hectares over 7 sites of mixed marls and limestones. Fermented with native yeast in stainless steel and wood tanks before blending and bottled just after malolactic fermentation which moderates the … Continue reading A caron of refreshment

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

Georgia and Kabaj

“I like extreme life and extreme wine. No fancy hotel rooms, commercial style: this is not our life.” Jean-Michel Morel “Orange wine” has been recognized by US sommeliers and fine wine shops for more than 10 years, but has only recently become part of the wine drinker’s vocabulary. For the un-initiated, “orange wine” is not made of oranges. Its ancient production began in present day Georgia, which happens to be where Neolithic humans first domesticated Vitis Vinifera in pursuit of more and better wine. Historically, white grapes and red grapes were processed similarly: crush grapes, add to container, ferment, drink. Like red wine, “orange wine” can range from delicate to strong. This depends on the type of grape, the length of maceration, amount of oxygen, temperature of fermentation and so on, just like with red wine. Some “orange wines” are not actually that orange in color, making the term a little misleading. “Orange wine” is just wine in the Republic of Georgia between the Caucasus Mountains and the Black Sea, and Slovenia and Croatia between the Alps and Adriatic. Both areas are typified by their varied topography, climate, abundance of biological diversity and diverse native wines. In the early 90’s, … Continue reading Georgia and Kabaj

A Grand Atypical Rosé

One of the most unexpected wines of the season, has to be the Rosé  from Miloš winery in Croatia. Struggling to understand how this atmospheric mineral delight came to be, I called up Ivan Miloš who makes the wine with his father Frano for a little Q and A. And then I hope that like me, you’ll taste and enjoy this “truly serious, grand, atypical wine”. Miloš vineyards: Old vine Plavac amongs walled terraces of Dolomitic limestone. Photo Credit: Frano Miloš Why does Miloš make a Rosé? The Miloš family farm has a very unique location on the Pelješac peninsula at the southern part of Croatia. We are 100% focused on that one spot planted with one grape, Plavac Mali. Combined with the dolomitic limestone of our terraced vineyards, it gives us grapes of such a unique quality, we simply wanted to show the richness of its pure juice, Rosé is the best way to do this. Where did the idea to make a Rosé from the best grapes of the harvest come from? We were tasting rose wines from other appelpations and countries, and we found very few which met our taste. Unfortunately, most rosé are light with almost no structure. We hate … Continue reading A Grand Atypical Rosé

Hungary: The New France

Hungary is neither new, nor French, but both countries are lands of developed terroir. In fact, the concept may even be older in Hungary. The vineyards around the city of Tokaj were recognized as special early on and ranked through a formal classification in 1770, a century before Bordeaux received similar treatment. Tokaj is as faceted and hypnotic as Burgundy, Somló an enigma like Hermitage and Eger something of a mini Loire, but Hungarian wines are not French facsimiles, they are utterly different. What underlies the wines of both is the slow understanding of relationships between land, vine and wine that farmers have formed over centuries into the distinct archetypes they are today. The French models are better recognized, marketed and never suffered 50 years of collectivized production, but these things have little to do with the Hungarian wine Renaissance happening right now. Let’s taste it! It is not by accident that Samuel Tinon, French vigneron by birth makes strongly Hungarian Tokaji. He grew up on the estate of his family in St. Croix-du-Monts where his sister makes botrytis wines today. His restless curiosity took him around the world, studying, tasting and making wine. Samuel was drawn to Tokaj by … Continue reading Hungary: The New France

Island Whites

Somewhere in Croatia (photo: Michael Newsome) The coast of Croatia is a rugged mountainous seascape of 1000 islands. From the barren Kornati to the forested shores of Korčula, these are the jewels of the Adriatic. 3,500 miles of craggy untamed limestone coast, awesome in the truest sense. Only 66 of the islands are inhabited. Krk (Ki-rrk), Hvar (huh-var), and Korčula (Core-chew-la) are three of the largest, and most important wine wise are still very much wild. Each is home to their own autochthonous (formed in its present position) grape varieties—found little or nowhere else on earth, under conditions unique to each island, capable of expressing their position and the culture of those who farm them. The soils vary but are all limestone based. Conditions tend to be wet in winter and hot and dry in summer. Each of these producers is working small plots by hand, the dry windy growing season rarely requires vineyard treatment. Krk, Croatia’s northerly, largest island has long been famous for wine. Less of the Dalmatian islands are under vine today than historically. The 250 hectares today are a shadow of the 2,500 under vine during Roman occupation. Within Krk’s Kvarner Valley winemaker Ivica Dobrinčić maintains … Continue reading Island Whites

Curious & Thirsty – Slovenian Wine Goggles

Historically vineyards have covered much of Slovenia’s countryside. In them you find grapes brought over the thousands of years of human movement. Coupled with the diversity of climate, topography, wine production methods, and localized taste, Slovenian wines are extremely different region to region. In the US we are largely unaware of this. Blue Danube Wine Co. — the company I am a part of — has been working for close to ten years to change this. For me wine is more than beverage, it is the ultimate lens to view Slovenia through. It is made in some of the country’s most beautiful locations, accompanies the best food, and attracts interesting people. Both those who make it and drink it. I return repeatedly to enjoy of course the wine but also the atmosphere, the cuisine and my friends there. It has taught me the value of returning to a destination. Slovenia is a place I would like to one day call a second home. For those who like to Travel Curious Often and want to learn more about Slovenia and its wines, read the full article here.

Curious & Thirsty – WEIN (WINE) City

Vienna is Europe’s only metropolis with a wine region within the city limits. Wien or Vienna, as us English speakers call it, is an ancient pre-Roman city of Imperial grandeur, and authentic rural charm. It is also Europe’s only metropolis with a wine region within the city limits. The region is known simply as Wien. Today the vineyards drape the hills of Nussberg and Bisamberg that overlook the city center. Between the city and the hills are streets of Heurigers—wineries that are part wine tavern, part picnic and part concert—uniting the cosmopolitan and the country. Heurigers are quintessentially Viennese. Heurig means “this year’s”. Their beginnings date back to the late 18th Century when Holy Roman Emperor Joseph the II, one of the three Enlightened Monarchs, gave permission to the local farmers to sell their wine privately. Variations do exist, but the traditional Heuriger observes a few simple but important rules. No recorded music! Homemade food! Homemade wine! The unyielding affection the Viennese have for the Heuriger has in a most beautiful way, preserved these familial businesses and in doing so protected a delicious and traditional wine type, Gemischter Satz. Gemischter-what??? Gemischter Satz (Geh-meest-er Saw-tz), which means “mixed set”, is Vienna’s … Continue reading Curious & Thirsty – WEIN (WINE) City