Introducing Our New Producer Oszkár Maurer

Oszkar Maurer
Oszkár Maurer

After meeting Oszkár Maurer for the first time, my hands were sore from taking so many notes and my head was spinning. Serbia? Tokaj connections? Oldest pre phylloxera Kadarka vines in the world? Origin of Furmint? Far too much to cover in this newsletter, but here’s the pitch along with my hopes that as many people as possible try this limited wine.

Old Kadarka vine
Old Kadarka vine, planted in 1880 in sand

Oszkár’s Kadarka, planted in 1880 in sand, is from the Sremska region in Northern Serbia, but was historically the Hungarian appellation of Szerém. Before the Ottoman Occupation in the early 16th Century, this was one of the most famous appellations in Hungary. In the mid 1400s, it’s thought that settlers from here brought grapes like Furmint and Sárga Muskotály to Tokaj and knowledge for using Aszú (dried berries) for sweetening wines. Oszkár believes that the Szerém appellation was established as early as 1452. He’s a fervent student of wine history and lectures at home and abroad.

Back in Serbia, he organically farms a number of grapes ranging from Bakator, Szerémi Zöld, Kadarka, and Mézes Fehér. Everything is done by hand or horse. Fruit trees grow amongst the vines and fallen peaches litter the ground. Bugs, rabbits, and life are everywhere. Incredible biodiversity.

In the cellar, the 2015 Kadarka was fermented in open vats with native yeasts. It was then racked into older Hungarian oak for 12 months of aging. No additions including any SO2 were made. Best when decanted, this is elegant and raw red wine from the oldest known Kadarka vineyard in the world.

#WineWednesday Spotlight #85: Gotsa Family Wines Chinuri

Beka Gotsadze
Beka Gotsadze

As co-founder and owner of Taste Georgia, Sarah May Grunwald provides culinary and wine tours to Georgia as well as wine education services to educate the public and trade about Georgia’s ancient qvevri wine making traditions.

Of all the wine producers that we met during her numerous trips to Georgia, she considers Beka Gotsadze of Gotsa Family Wines to represent the future of Georgian natural wine:

He makes multiple wines from different varieties, has low yielding vineyards at higher than average elevation, has Biodynamic certification, makes an ancestral sparkling wine AND is not afraid of a little Flor happily growing on his wine.

Here is what she says about his 2015 Chinuri:

His 2015 Chinuri is a marvel. Indeed, it is the best qvevri wine I tasted from the 2015 vintage. Now, while I am a huge fan of the funky, heavy skin contact wines from Kakheti, the Chinuri, still amber and made “natural” in qvevri is by far one of the purest expressions of Chinuri I have had. It is full of complexity on the nose and in the palate and it is fun. Full of citrus peel, sage, hints of nutty aromas, wet alpine stones, green plums. With each swirl it becomes so much more lively. The taste is magic.

Read the whole article on Sarah’s blog: Wine Wednesday: Purity in Chinuri and follow Sarah and her Georgian wine journey on Instagram: @tastegeorgia.

#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.