The Serbian Orthodox Monastery Tvrdoš is located in southeastern Herzegovina, 2.5 miles west of the old town of Trebinje and less than 20 miles from the Adriatic Sea. Dedicated to The Dominion of the Mother of God, it was built in the late 13th century above the right bank of the Trebisnica river on the foundations of a 4th century Roman church. The region’s winegrowing tradition dates back to the first hellenic colonies on the Adriatic Coast. The climate is submediterranean with hot summers and mild winters. The Herzegovinian karst soil is shallow, mixed with white crushed stones. These warm and dry conditions are particularly well suited to the native grape varieties Žilavka and Vranac. Vranac was introduced to South Herzegovina during the AustroHungarian Empire. The name “Vranac”, which means “black horse”, highlights the grape’s dark color as well as its strength and power. When grown on the rocky grounds of Tvrdoš created by a washout of the soil from the surrounding hills, Vranac shows distinctive acids and intense fruity aromas. Aged for 24 months in old monastic oak barrels, the Monastery Tvrdoš Vranac exhibits a purple red color and savory, earthy aromas on the nose. The palate has a … Continue reading #WineWednesday Spotlight #137: Monastery Tvrdoš Vranac
A couple of months ago, Cliff Rames, founder of Wines of Croatia and also Contributing-Editor-at-Large for The SOMM Journal, led the SommCon San Diego attendees though a Wines of Croatia presentation, pointing out the connection between Croatia and California and recalling the quest for Zinfandel’s origins: Geographically, Croatia appeared to be a plausible source and once researchers began testing, they found numerous varieties that shared Zinfandel’s genetic material—including Plavac Mali. After years of study, they traced an exact match: seven vines that were locally called Crljenak Kaštelanski (historically known as Tribidrag) in the Dalmatian region of coastal Croatia. Plavac Mali, native to the Adriatic Coast, is the offspring of Tribidrag and Dobričić. The region’s extremely dry conditions and lack of irrigation make viticulture difficult and Plavac Mali was preferred over Zinfandel. Cliff presented the Miloš Stagnum 2007 to showcase how well Plavac Mali can age despite its low acidity and higher alcohol content: Intriguing aromas of mint, clove, and mushroom. On the palate, notes of bay leaf and green figs mingle around a tannic core of light roasted coffee, mint, chocolate, and plum pudding. A fascinating wine considering its maturity. We just received the Miloš Stagnum 2008, also a very … Continue reading #WineWednesday Spotlight #136: Miloš Stagnum
Boom: Volcanic Wines Are Heating Up Around the Globe writes Wine and Spirits columnist for Bloomberg News Elin McCoy. As she was attending the International Volcanic Wine Conference in New York last month, she was wondering why volcanic wines were getting such a buzz recently. She asked master sommelier John Szabo, the author of Volcanic Wines: Salt, Grit and Power and organizer of the conference: Wines from the several types of volcanic soils—lava, pumice, ash, basalt, and more—can vary widely, but most share complex aromas, mouthwatering high acidity, and salty, savory, earthy flavors. The porosity of these soils stores more water, which contributes to the wines’ characteristic freshness and exuberance. But we shouldn’t underestimate the power of romance: But the image of volcanoes may be the secret reason these wines are getting buzz. As Eric Guido, director of wine and marketing at Morrell and Co., emailed me: “Just think of the romance that surrounds wines grown in soils born of molten earth and ash!” She highlights eight volcanic wine regions around the world including Somló, Hungary’s smallest wine region, which lies on the slopes of an extinct volcano: Though the country’s volcanoes are no longer active, violent eruptions millennia ago … Continue reading #WineWednesday Spotlight #135: Apátsági Juhfark
We are looking forward to our new Dalmatian container, which is coming at the end of the month. It contains a restock of Brkić Plava Greda 2015, a wine that was just reviewed by wine blogger Nenad Trifunović, founder of the leading Croatian wine blog Dnevnik Vinopije (Diary of the Wine-Drinker): At first, there is a complete lack of common fruit sensations. The fruitful youth is peppermint, almost like a puffy Schioppettina … and completely earthy…Fully dry and succulent at 12.10% alc, more expressive and more durable than any other Blatina. I do not want to mention quality anymore compared to quantity … I want to talk about the beauty of the extract. Uncompromising as the words on the label: I will make wines like this or I will not make them at all. We’re thrilled to get more wines from Bosnia Herzegovina and Dalmatia so stay tuned and check our webshop later this month for new wines from BIBICh, Brkić, Dubrovački Podrumi, Gracin, Miloš, Monastery Tvrdos and Toreta.
Last month, the Muhr-van der Niepoort Spitzerberg, Dorli Muhr‘s flagship wine, was featured in the newsletter of Flatiron Wines in New York: Spitzerberg (German for “Pointy Mountain”), is one of those best plots. This “Mountain” is actually a leftover shoreline from an ancient sea, a 300-meter-high outcropping of limestone South of the Danube in Lower Austria, near the Slovenian border. And it’s perfect for Blaufränkisch, an early budding, late ripening, grape that needs a long growing season to ripen fully. Dorli Muhr enlisted Douro legend, Dirk Niepoort, to help re-establish her family’s old Spitzerberg Blaufränkisch. Today the vines are at least 50 years old and farmed organically. They vinify using some whole clusters and foot stomping, and without additives (even sulfur) or cultured yeasts, pump-overs or modern tools. The wines are finished with two years in used barrels. Muhr-Van Der Niepoort, Spitzerberger 2012: These grapes managed to hang on the vines until October! This crazy long hang time and wild temperature swings towards the end make for a fully ripe but still super-refreshing counterpoint to Samt & Seide, with rich yet tart fruit. Six years on, tertiary umami notes are starting to complement the primary fruit. “These are little gems … Continue reading #WineWednesday Spotlight #133: Muhr-van der Niepoort Spitzerberg
Peter Wetzer was working in the wine industry in Austria, commuting from Sopron, Hungary, when he decided to reclaim his homeland’s past: until 1921, Sopron was the capital of Burgenland, a wine region where powerful Blaufränkisch dominates. In 2007, Peter purchased 2.5 hectares of vineyards, looking for healthy soils, flora and fauna, that he could farm organically. Today, the estate is completely organic and everything is done by hand with minimum intervention in the vineyard and in the family’s 120 year-old cellar. His Kékfrankos is sourced from 25-60 year-old vines growing on a mixture of clay, red gravel, limestone, and loess. The wine is fermented with native yeasts with no other additives, then aged in used Hungarian barrels before being bottled with no fining or filtration. “Vivid and vital,” writes wine columnist Jamie Goode in his wine blog: Fresh, pure, bright raspberry and black cherry fruit. A vivid, vital wine with lovely purity to the fruit, as well as a bit of tannic grip. Lovely acidity here. 93/100 You can find Peter’s Kékfrankos in our webshop.
After a long stretch of wet weather, Northern California is finally heating up. The hills are green with bright patches of orange poppies, purple lupine and yellow mustard flowers. It’s finally springtime and for our friend Marcy Gordon, it’s time to open a sunny and bright Bibich Sangreal Merlot: Spring is here and I decided to open a Bibich Sangreal that I’ve been hoarding for a while to pair with a mushroom polenta dish. At first, I thought Uh Oh..,I’ve held it too long. Then about 8 minutes later it was all…Ahhh….Yes!! It’s got that tell-tale Croatian salinity and that almost indescribable smell (a cross between a sunny beach and a lavender sage martini ) a Mediterranean garrigue that is undeniably Croatian. First taste was almost lemony and sour cherry. But upon opening, the body softens, the tannins unclench and it releases a pleasant bright cherry flavor (still a tad sour) along with notes of blackberry, mocha, and earth. The complexity of the region comes into play with a touch of thyme and mint and that sotto voce salinity. Merlot—it’s not just for breakfast anymore! It seems Merlot is on the rise again and if you are looking to explore … Continue reading #WineWednesday Spotlight #131: Bibich Sangreal Merlot
When Master of Wine Elizabeth Gabay visited Romania, she met with one of Romania’s leading winemakers, Dr. Géza Balla, who she says is the Transylvanian Hungarian: Géza was one of the first winemakers of Romania who realized, immediately after the revolution, the importance of the quality of the whole range of his wines. Visiting Bella Géza’s Princess Winery is a refreshing surprise. This bright, modern winery, founded in 1999 and designed to welcome the large number of wine tourists who visit every weekend, nestles at the foot of a range of hills overlooking the river Mures. Dr. Géza Balla is an Hungarian-Romanian from Minis, a old wine district in western Romania on the Hungarian border, that was part of the historical region of Transylvania. Fluent in both languages, his wines reflect the two cultures. He is found equally at home amongst Romanian wine producers as well as being a member of the prestigious Hungarian Wine Academy. Of his 105ha, he produces 80% red wines, 20% white and somewhere in-between some rosé wines. A few international varieties are present (Riesling, Sauvignon Blanc, Cabernet Franc, Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot) but the focus is on the traditional varieties of the Carpathian basin: Feteasca … Continue reading #WineWednesday Spotlight #130: Balla Géza Mustoasă de Măderat
“A lot of dry Furmint is tart, lemony, and not that interesting, but this one is a revelation: it is dense and soil-expressive without sacrificing the variety’s trademark freshness,” writes the SommSelect Wine Team. Sourced from dry farmed vines growing on basalt-rich volcanic soils, the Apátsági Furmint 2015 is their Sommelier Selected Wine of the day: Today’s dry and delicious Furmint, from the tiny region of Somló in western Hungary, is the first dry Furmint we’ve offered but hardly the first one I’ve tasted—just one of the very best. It is a game changer: Lots of dry Furmint is dominated by high acidity—acidity which makes the variety so successful and ageworthy as a late-harvest sweet wine—but this one has serious depth, rich texture, and soil character reminiscent of top Alsatian whites. There’s profound minerality from Somló’s basalt-rich volcanic soils and lots of aromatic complexity. It grabbed our attention, and it deserves yours; Somló and Apátsági may be unfamiliar names now, but wines like this are going to change that. To accompany the wine, they recommend a chicken paprikash, a comforting dish with onions, tomatoes, green peppers, and fragrant with sweet or hot Hungarian paprika and sour cream. It’s a great … Continue reading #WineWednesday Spotlight #129: Apátsági Furmint
Earlier this year, Cliff Rames, Contributing-Editor-at-Large for The SOMM Journal and founder of Wines of Croatia presented the wines of Croatia and Georgia at SommCon in San Diego. Here is his introduction to the Gotsa Family Wines Mtsvane: Using traditional techniques, the winery team ferments the white Mtsvane grapes on the skins with native yeast in amphora vessels (called qvevri) for nine months. holes are drilled in the amphora, and once fermentation is complete, the vessels are unplugged and the wine is gravity-fed into amphora below for an additional 16 months of aging. The resulting wine is bottled without filtration or sulphur. The versatile style of these orange wines allows them to easily transition from course to course. “There’s certainly enough tannin in this wine to go with stek,” said Jay James. “I kind of feel like I need one at the moment!” Tasting Notes: negroni-like aromas of driend Turkish apricots, orange peel, and hints of blonde tobacco. Tannic with flavors of burnt caramel and a slight hoppy quality on the finish. Beka Gotsadze lives in Asureti, an ancient village in the foothills of of the Greater Caucasus, about 30 minutes away from Tbilisi. Beka is a creative architect who … Continue reading #WineWednesday Spotlight #128: Gotsa Family Wines Mtsvane