#WineWednesday Spotlight #84: Shavnabada Mtsvane

Shavnabada Mtsvane
Cellar in the Shavnabada Monastery

Patrick Comiskey, wine critic at the LA Times recently interviewed former wine director at République and the Hancock Park restaurant, Taylor Parsons:

“The flavors and textures of the wines were unlike anything I’ve ever tasted,” says Parsons, 37, who like many sommeliers makes regular trips to the wine regions of France, Germany and Spain. “Very little of what they’re doing is reasonable by Western standards, but the wines are so expressive. And it’s all set in an incredibly ancient winemaking tradition where wine has penetrated deeply and completely into the culture, in ways that I had never experienced before.”

Taylor Parsons is particularly fond of the 2004 Shavnabada Mtsvane:

As delicious as it is unusual. Aged in qvevri for 11 years before bottling. Waxy, dense and totally intriguing — it tastes of walnuts and quince, honeycomb and dusty old books. Loads of tannin with plenty of freshness.

To learn more about Georgian wines and check Taylor Parsons’ recommendations, read the whole article: Why one L.A. wine expert has Georgia on his mind. The country, that is.

Mon Chérry…

Marasca cherries at Stoka
Marasca cherries at Štoka

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.

Harvest at Piquentum
Harvest at Piquentum

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…

Harvest at Crnko
Harvest at Črnko

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.

Jernej Martincic
Jernej Martinčič

Keeping this in mind, the new arrivals from Santomas, Kabaj, Martinčič, Črnko, Piquentum, and Štoka are all aptly timed for the cherry blossoms opening as we speak and the impending harvest in early summer. Red, white, orange and pink, there’s a brightness and energy to these wines that’s fitting for a Spring release.

Tamara Glavina
Tamara Glavina of Santomas

#WineWednesday Spotlight #83: doqi Mtsvane Qvevri

Photo: Michael Trainor
Photo: Michael Trainor

Old bay seasoning on potato chips? Absolutely, especially with a glass of amber-colored, Qvevri aged doqi Mtsvane Qvevri on a bluesy Saturday night.

Here is Michael Trainor @awordtothewine:

You can take the boy out of #Baltimore, but not the #oldbay out of the boy. Not sure if that makes sense, but sometimes you gotta make your own #crabchips! So damn good with this salty ass #Mtsvane #Doqi @bluedanubewine #orangewine #georgianwine #wine #saturdaynightblues @oldbay_seasoning

Ready to try? Open your bag of chips, get your spices and look at our extensive selection of orange wines here. There’re complex, savory, and full of depth.

For other creative wine pairing ideas, follow Michael on Instagram.

#WineWednesday Spotlight #82: Coronica Malvasia

Coronica Malvasia
Coronica Malvasia

As a follow-up to my previous post Istria, the new Tuscany, let’s enjoy a glass of Coronica Malvasia 2015.

Moreno Coronica farms 75 acres of “Terra Rossa” vineyards just outside the Istrian port town of Umag, 30 miles south of Trieste, Italy.

Moreno Coronica
Moreno Coronica

His production is roughly 75% Malvasia, 25% Teran. He vinifies his Malvasia in stainless steel with cultured yeast at controlled temperature, followed by extensive time on the lees.

While the wine is fresh and mineral, the lees provides a lovely mid-palate texture and then on the finish, there’s some saltiness reminiscent of the nearby sea.

As the days are now getting longer and warmer, enjoy it with some tapas on a sunny evening.

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.

Istria Map
Istria Peninsula — Map Data © 2017 Google

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 hard cheese.

Istrian Seafood
Sardines, langoustines, and squid, just waiting for a glass of Coronica Malvasia

Malvasia Istriana is one of the focus of master winemaker Moreno Coronica. Its Coronica Malvasia 2015, made in stainless steel, is mineral and floral with a slight touch of saltiness reminiscent of the nearby sea.

Visiting Piquentum
Visiting Dimitri Brečević at Piquentum

The organic Piquentum Blanc 2015 that has just arrived from Croatia, illustrates well the latter style. Made by French-born winemaker Dimitri Brečević, it’s a 100% Malvasia Istriana that macerated for 2-3 days, fermented spontaneously, and aged mostly in barriques.

Teran in Terra Rossa
Teran growing in Terra Rossa in Kras

Istria’s native red variety is Teran, a grape rich in flavors and high in tannins and acidity that pairs well with fatty food like sausages, prosciutto and aged cheeses. Teran loves Istria’s iron rich red soil (terra rossa) that can be found in the Kras plateau in Slovenian Istria. This is where the Štoka family grows grapes and also raises cattle and pigs. They produce a Teran Rosé that is vinified like a white wine in order to expose Teran’s delicious fruitiness and acidity. We just received their 2016 vintage. Try it with Mexican food like Fajitas and Pork Carnitas Tacos.

Istrian Landscape
This is not Tuscany but inland Istria, with the village of Motovun in the background

Also in our new container is the 2014 vintage of Piquentum Rouge. It’s a 100% organic Teran from vineyards around the old village of Motovun in in central Istria. After a maceration of 2-4 weeks and a spontaneous fermentation with native yeast, the wine was aged in barriques and bottled without filtration. Pair its red fruit flavors and acidity with tomato-based dishes such as a spicy Cioppino.

Refošk is Istria’s second native grape variety. Both Teran and Refošk belong to the same “Refosco group” of grapes. While they share many similar characteristics, Refošk is often softer in terms of tannins and acidity. Try the Santomas Refošk 2015 from Slovenian Istria. It’s extremely fruity and smooth and perfect with pasta and pizza.

#WineWednesday Spotlight #81: Kabaj Merlot

Kabaj Merlot
I can’t believe this bottle is almost empty already!

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.

Hills of Brda

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.

kabaj house
Jean-Michel Morel (left) in front of his cellar underneath his house

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.

#WineWednesday Spotlight #80: Toreta Pošip Premium

Marcy Gordon Posip Photo
Photo: Marcy Gordon

How come? Frano Banicević’s Pošip Premium is once again a #WineWednesday Spotlight! Two reasons for this: first of all, the wine is really delicious, and secondly, Marcy’s springtime Instagram collage is absolutely gorgeous!

Sipping some Toreta Pošip will always bring back sweet memories of our visit almost a year ago to Korčula:

Like Spring itself, it’s fresh and bright with pineapple and quince notes, a touch of chalk, and great gobs of acidity. I met the Baničevic family last April on my wine scouting trip to Croatia with Blue Danube Wine. They showed us the Pošip memorial where the first vines were planted, then we joined the entire family for a seaside repast that paired perfectly with more Pošip. What a memorable day it was! Looking for a taste springtime to ward off the Winter Blues? –This is it. Toreta, try it you’ll like it!
#wine #croatia #winesofcroatia #pošip #posip #korcula #toreta #bluedanubewine #roadtripmemories

In toreta vineyard
Almost a year ago, in Korčula with Marcy Gordon, Frano Banicević and his sister Martina

Follow Marcy Gordon on Instagram here.

#WineWednesday Spotlight #79: Tinon Olaszliszka Hárslevelű

Olaszliszka Hárslevelű
Olaszliszka Hárslevelű label and view of the church in the village

Olaszliszka is an important village along the Bodrog River in Tokaj that dates to at least the 12th century when it was simply named Liszka. It was renamed Olaszliszka after a group of Italians settled in the village —’olasz’ means Italian in Hungarian — in the mid-13th century.

Hatari Vineyard
The Határi Vineyard in Olaszliszka

The village has been renowned for its top crus for hundreds of years. The terroir is rich with volcanic rocks mixed with clay soils and planted mostly to the Hárslevelű grape. The Amici Vinorum Olaszliszka (Latin for Olaszliszka Friends of Wine) is the combined efforts of 10 local winemakers to reaffirm the village’s historical identity. Members of the association are combining their fruit sourced from vineyards like Csontos, Határi, Meszes, and Palandor that date as far back as 1641, to produce one single “village” wine.

As just a village wine, should we dismiss it? Better not says Hungarian wine lover Peter Klingler, over at Borwerk:

half-dried lime peel, flower meadow, peaches in summer sun, marzipan. The peaches gain the upper hand with time. A wine of depth and respect…Honey comes up, sulphured apricots, yellow-orange dried fruit, pineapple, banana. The sweetness persists in an easy existence, gently floating, pleasantly unobtrusive. And then there’s this extra layer, which stores itself and holds back and carries and continues: fire, lava, rusted iron, Parmesan. Yes, it’s long and persistent and it drinks well. Fun. More than a village wine.

Read the whole post (in German): Falubor Hárslevelű 2015, Amici Vinorum Olaszliszka, Tokaj.

Meet Turkey’s Visionary Vintner Güler Sabancı

Guler Sabancı
Güler Sabancı

Ancient but challenged, wine culture perseveres in Turkey writes journalist Deborah Parker Wong in SOMM Journal. In her article, she talks to businesswoman and founder of Gülor Winery Güler Sabancı regarding the future of Turkey’s wine business:

“[Over the last decade] Turkish consumers have been learning about quality from fine imported wines,” says vintner and philanthropist Güler Sabancı whose Gülor winery in Thrace is sited in the historical center of Turkish wine production. “Considering that there have been no incentives for the industry and our ability to market wine at home is quite limited, I’m very optimistic.”

Modern wine culture emerged in the early 1990s when visionary producers picked up where the Turkish government left off after the introduction of French grape varieties to Thrace in the 1950s. Although Gülor is credited with the country’s first commercial production of Bordeaux-style wines, Sabancı champions the country’s indigenous grapes grape varieties as a way for Turkey to differentiate its wines on the global market. The boutique winery has recently begun exporting wine to the U.S. and is looking at Russia and the U.K. as well.

Read the whole article and learn more about the Turkish industry and its wines here. Sabancı’s wines are imported in the U.S. by Meritaj Inc. and can be purchased here.

#WineWednesday Spotlight #78: Muhr-van der Niepoort Spitzerberg

Dorli Muhr
Dorli Muhr – Photo: Stuart Pigott

On International Women’s Day, let’s praise Dorli Muhr’s outstanding Blaufränkisch, especially her flagship wine, the Spitzerberg, thanks to a contribution from British wine critic Stuart Pigott:

Nowhere that I know of does it give more fragrant wines than on the slopes of the Spitzerberg in the small region of Carnuntum (named after the ancient Roman city there). Dorli Muhr of the Muhr – van der Niepoort estate winery, pictured above, is the most important producer of these wines and in the 2013 vintage she made the finest Spitzerberg Blaufränkisch I ever tasted… there’s an earthiness behind the floral charm. The one thing that is eye-popping about this it is how vivid and energized it tastes, a dramatic contrast to many warm climate reds with their high alcoholic content and low acidity levels. In common with the best Blaufränkisch from Moric (in Mittelburgenland) and Uwe Schiefer (in Südburgenland), this wine has enormous depth and serious dry tannins, yet great balance and delicacy. For me, those are the hallmarks of world-class wines from this grape.

You should check the whole blog post: New York Wine Diary: Day 5 – The Fragrance of Austria.