New Kabaj vintage reviewed in Wine and Spirits Magazine

Wine and Spirits Magazine has great reviews of the latest vintage of Kabaj in its October issue. These wines will be coming to the US shortly. In the meantime, low quantities of the 2013 vintage—also very well rated by the magazine—are still available (93 Points for both the 2013 Rebula and the 2013 Sivi Pinot!).

The Rise of Blaufränkisch

It seems that in the last few years, Blaufränkisch (German for blue Frankish) has become Austria’s most successful red wine variety. It’s not a new grape: based on its name, we think that it had been growing in Central Europe since the Middle Ages. The name Fränkisch comes from Franconia, a German region praised for its quality wines in the Middle Ages, and so at the time, grapes that were producing superior wines were called Fränkisch. Better rootstock, denser plantings, better cover crops management and nuanced winemaking explain the recent rise in quality with more and more Blaufränkisch wines showing great complexity and finesse. Some producers describe Blaufränkisch using the “triangle” comparison: the grape has the elegance of Burgundy Pinot Noir, the pepperiness of Northern Rhône Syrah, and the structure of Piedmont Nebbiolo. Its home is Burgenland where many of the finest examples are grown. Carnuntum, a region just southeast of Vienna, is also a source of quality Blaufränkisch where they are especially fresh and elegant. Burgenland was part of Hungary until 1921, when most of it was annexed as Austria’s ninth and easternmost state after the dissolution of he Habsburg Empire. The exception was Burgenland’s capital Sopron, which was … Continue reading The Rise of Blaufränkisch

#WineWednesday Spotlight #100: Martinčič Pinot Noir Rosé

An hour’s drive from Ljubljana in Southeast Slovenia, the Dolenjska wine-growing district is one of Slovenia’s largest wine growing region. Thanks to a combination of alpine and continental climatic influences, its gentle, south-facing hills at the edge of the woods are ideal for growing grapevines. The region is famous for its light, fruity, low-alcohol reds, especially the Cviček, a traditional, slightly sour red wine made by blending red and white grape varieties. Made in the same light and fruity style, try this Pinot Noir Rosé from the family-owned Martinčič winery: showing a lovely pale salmon pink hue, the wine is dry and tangy with a refreshing round palate. With only 11% alcohol in a 1 Liter bottle, bring it to your next picnic with a cured salami and a fresh loaf of bread.

The Tart, Salty and the Nutty from the other side of the Adriatic: Summer Wines from the Balkans

15 wines is a lot to get through without losing you after this sentence. However, there is a salty, tart, and often nutty line that connects them all from the Bay of Trieste down to Southern Dalmatia. These are our table wines for the summer. For the past few years, we’ve brought the Martinčič Cviček liter in from Dolenjsko (in between Zagreb and Ljubljana in Slovenia). This tongue-twisting blend of red and white grapes must be between 8.5-10% alcohol and dry by law. Now we are finally adding two more liters to round things out – the 2016 Modra Frankinja (Blaufränkisch) and 2016 Modri Pinot Rosé (Pinot Noir). They are both around 11-11.5% alcohol, incredibly low in SO2, and are impossibly fresh and full of character. Chill all three down and let them come up at the table. Roughly 2 hours West and a bit south by car and you hit Istria (Istra in Slovenia). Dominated by Malvasia Istarska, Teran and Refošk, the diversity by soil and proximity to the Adriatic is immense. Keeping with the liter theme, the 2016 Santomas LNG Refošk is our Dolcetto by the sea in that it satisfies the pizza/pasta needs but still lends itself … Continue reading The Tart, Salty and the Nutty from the other side of the Adriatic: Summer Wines from the Balkans

#WineWednesday Spotlight #94: Štoka Teranova Peneče

What is light, airy and deliciously summery? Pét-Nat! Pét-Nat (short for Pétillant Naturel) is a sparkling wine made in the méthode ancestral, an ancient technique where the wine is bottled before having completed its fermentation. The fermentation process continues in the bottle, finishing converting sugar into alcohol and thus producing light bubbles of carbon dioxide. Unlike Champagne, Pét-Nat is not disgorged and can be cloudy. It is also often low in alcohol with a touch of sweetness, which makes it light and refreshing. For sommelier and author of The MODERN GENTLEMAN: A Guide to Essential Manners, Savvy & Vice Jason Tesauro, the deep red Štoka Teranova Peneče is among The 10 Best Pét-Nat Wines Under $40: Wind, erosion, drought, and iron-laden soil make the Kras region one of the most severe and unique terroirs in the world, producing this sparkling red from the inky Teran grape. We’re getting Štoka’s new Pét-Nat production in our coming container from Slovenia. Check it out!

Mon Chérry…

Forced French puns aside, in the 11th hour brainstorming that usually precedes a newsletter to the trade, it occurred to me — cherries! Marasca cherries, which grow up and down the Dalmatian coast (including Slovenia and Southern Hungary) became famous all over Europe once distilled into Maraschino. Most of this production eventually moved to Italy after the destruction of WWII, but famous producers like Luxardo (1821) were all founded in Croatia. Cherry festivals can also be found all over Croatia and neighboring Slovenia. Whether you’re in Istria/Slovene Istria (Piquentum, Coronica, Santomas), Goriška Brda (Kabaj), the Kras (Štoka), Dolenjska (Martinčič) or Štajerska (Črnko), cherries abound. Sour, bitter and sweet, they also play a role in the cuisine as fresh soups, desserts, added to stews, jams, syrups, etc… Granted, I know I’m not breaking new ground by attaching cherry flavors to wine. It’s less about the wines tasting like cherries (although some really do), but a similar balance between bitter, sweet and sour. Whether it’s skin contact Ravan (Friulano), Rebula (Ribolla Gialla) and Sivi Pinot (Pinot Grigio), salty barrel aged Malvasia Istriana, bloody Teran, sweet and sour Cviček, bright and aromatic white field blends, or tart Refošk, there’s a kinship at play. … Continue reading Mon Chérry…

Istria, the new Tuscany

Olive tree groves, vineyard-dotted hills, truffles and medieval hilltop towns: we’re not describing Tuscany but Istria, a heart-shaped peninsula — the largest in the Adriatic Sea — located south of Trieste. Long ruled by the Venetians and later the Hapsburgs, it is now shared by three countries: the largest part (89%) is in Croatia, the northwestern part lies in Slovenia, and a very tiny portion belongs to Italy. While they both enjoy a rich food and wine culture and a beneficial Mediterranean climate, Tuscany and Istria are not completely similar: more than 80% of Tuscany’s production is in red wine while about 80% of the wine produced in Istria is white. Its most significant grape variety is Malvasia Istriana (also the second most important Croatian white grape after Graševina). This ancient grape is believed to have been introduced by the Venetians from Greece. Young Malvasia, simply vinified in stainless steel, produces fresh and crisp delicious wines, ideal partners for grilled sea bass, squid, sardines, and langoustines from the Adriatic. On the other hand, barrel aging and a few days of skin contact can produce a more full-bodied and age-worthy style, perfect accompaniment to Istrian pasta with truffle, black risotto, and … Continue reading Istria, the new Tuscany

#WineWednesday Spotlight #81: Kabaj Merlot

Merlot has a long tradition in Goriška Brda, a appellation located at the foot of the Julian Alps on the Italian-Slovenian border. While Brda is best known for its white wines, the Merlot grape likes the well-drained sunny hills of the region and a climate that combines Mediterranean and Alpine influences. French-born Jean-Michel Morel, having worked in Bordeaux and the South of France, knows well how to work with Bordeaux varieties. His Merlot, sourced from vines grown on steep vineyards and averaging 40 years of age, fermented with native yeast and aged 2 years in barrique, is refined and elegant. It’s also age-worthy. The 2011 vintage is still full of youth and needs some time to open up. It’s a complex wine, more savory than fruity, rich and well balanced, with mineral notes on the finish. The other night, the dinner was over but the wine was still developing in glass and becoming more and more delicious so we almost finished the bottle while watching TV. Try it yourself! You can find it here.

Meet our Women Vintners

Do you know that as many as 13 of the wineries in our current portfolio are run or co-run by women? Witnessing an increasing number of talented women involved in the wine industry on International Women’s Day is exciting. They may have taken different paths — some took over their family estate from their parents, others founded their wineries from scratch — but they are all passionate about their work. Whether they have a degree in oenology or learned the trade while working with their family, these women are making important contributions to viticulture and winemaking. In Austria, grower and winemaker Ilse Maier pioneered organic farming in Kremstal when she took over Geyerhof, the family estate, in 1986. Dorli Muhr resuscitated her family vineyards in Carnuntum and now produces some of Austria’s finest Blaufränkisch. In Tokaj, Hungary, winemakers Judit Bodó and Stéphanie Berecz founded respectively Bott and Kikelet wineries with their husbands and are now making some of the best wines of the region. In 2014, Stéphanie was awarded by her fellow winemakers the prestigious title of “winemaker of the winemakers”. Sarolta Bárdos who owns and runs Tokaj Nobilis was the winner of the prestigious award of 2012 Winemaker of … Continue reading Meet our Women Vintners

Too cold to drink rosé? No way!

Should you drink Rosé in Winter? What about having Rosé for Valentine’s Day? In his latest Wine Column, wine and food writer for The Washington Post Dave McIntyre think we’re wrong to consider Rosé as a summer wine: The market is up against two consumer misconceptions: That rosé is only for summer, and that only the most recent vintage is worth drinking. Here’s the problem: We match rosé to the season, but we pair any other wine to the food we’re eating. You still eat pizza in winter? Salads? Anything garlicky, or with a Mediterranean or Middle Eastern accent? Don’t rule out rosé: It doesn’t clash with long sleeves. And don’t worry about drinking the 2015s; they’re just fine. In fact, I recently found some forgotten 2014s from California and France in my basement. They were delicious — less fresh and invigorating for gulping, perhaps, but age had given them a bit of character that made them shine with food. We have plenty of delicious Rosés in our portfolio for your Valentine. Check them out.