#WineWednesday Spotlight #30: Gotsa Chinuri

Review originally published in the June edition of Wine & Spirits Magazine. Written by Tara Q. Thomas. Tara has been a wine writer for about 15 years, mainly at Wine & Spirits, where she is the Executive Editor and the wine critic for wines of Austria, Germany, Hungary, Eastern Europe and the Mediterranean.

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A Wine & Spirits Wine of the Month for June!

2014 Gotsa Chinuri

Beka Gotsadze grows 13 varieties in his vineyards in the hills of the Asureti Valley, at an elevation of 4,200. He works organically, and exclusively with qvevri (the local amphorae), though his techniques are not exactly traditional: His fermentation qvevri have holes drilled in their bottoms so that he can transfer the juice into aging qvevri by gravity; those qvevri are wrapped in silicon tubing that carries cool water from a nearby spring. Perhaps this is how he’s attained such a complex, delicate wine, as crisp and saline as it is redolent of orange blossoms, marzipan and salted capers. The tannins give it an edge of bitter tea, while the acidity keeps the wine lifted and fresh. It feels like it could age for decades; it lasts on the countertop indefinitely, and is especially good with nutty cheese. 93 points

Asureti Valley
Asureti Valley

#WineWednesday Spotlight #29: Gere Cabernet Sauvignon

Contributed by Michael Zeebroek. Michael is a young Belgian living in Budapest. He writes a wine blog called Wonderfultasting where his “goal is to get the world to respect Hungarian wines…”

Gere Atilla Cabernet Sauvignon 2012

Gere Atilla is one of the most famous wine makers in Hungary, he put Hungary on the wine map with his famous Kopár cuvée. The winery is run by the Gere family and cellar tours will only be given by one of the members. The winery itself is located just a small walk out of the town centre where they also have a spa hotel named Crocus and a fine dining restaurant named Mandula. The restaurant is where you will most likely enjoy a wine tasting so you can also enjoy a few dishes that will perfectly complement the wine.

 

The history of Gere Pincészete started seven generations ago, the ancestors of Atilla Gere took a long journey which was challenging and required great diligence. The family always wanted to respect and follow the traditions but at the same time there had to be room for experimenting and trying to make new and interesting wines. Today the Gere cellar has over 70 hectares and they focus on the old Hungarian traditions of grape growing.

Atilla Gere and his wife Katalin started their ”wine life” with only a few acres of vineyard in Csillagvölgy, a parcel they received as a wedding present from their parents in 1978. In 1986 they sold their first vintage in bottles.

The Gere cellar uses state of the art equipment and technology in combination with the wine making traditions of Villány. They select the grapes, harvesting the bunches in small containers by hand. There is a strict yield limitation of roughly 0.7-1 kilogram per stock. After this there is another quality check on the conveyor belt to make sure that only totally ripe and healthy grapes are used. The alcoholic fermentation is done in stainless steel tanks and wooden tanks, under a controlled temperature for roughly one to three weeks, depending on the varieties. After the fermentation and gentle pressing, which happens with pneumatic presses, the wine goes into new and used oak barrels. 80% Hungarian and 20% French oak barrels are used for spontaneous fermentation and aging. The red wines are usually aged for 14 to 18 months.

 

Let’s talk wine! 2012 was a very extreme year, with a very cold and snowy winter. Lucky enough the snow layer protected the vine stocks against damage, unfortunately we still had frost in spring and that did damage the vines quite a bit. The summer was then again extremely dry and that was a gift from God to save the harvest; there was so much heat and dryness that the grapes were ripe almost three weeks earlier than usual. Small berries with very concentrated juice produced a great vintage with outstanding, full bodied and concentrated red wines.

The vineyard is called Csillagvölgy and it was the first one Gere Atilla and his wife cultivated. By now the vines are between 16 to 31 years old. The harvest was done in the middle of October, with alcoholic fermentation occurring in stainless steel tanks and malolactic fermentation in barrels. The wine was aged 80% in big barrels (25-50 hectolitre) and 20% in used barrique barrels.

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Photo: Michael Zeebroek

The colour of the wine is deep ruby, it has a very clean and medium+ intensive nose full of dark cherries with hits of oak, cedar wood and a little bit of cranberries.
The flavour is also medium+ intensive, the alcohol and acids are extremely well balanced together with some very silky soft tannins. The wine is very full bodied and has a long finish, an excellent Cabernet Sauvignon with the terroir of Villány! Definitely drinkable now (I am enjoying this very much!) and according to the winery it will be at its peak between 2018-2019.

All winery photos courtesy of Gere Winery.

Happy 52nd Anniversary to the Dingač Appellation

Originally published by Marija Mrgudić on Facebook. Republished here with permission. Marija Mrgudić is a distinguished wine maker in Orebić on the Pelješac peninsula in Croatia. The Bura-Mrgudić family winery makes internationally renowned wines in the premier cru vineyards Dingač and Postup. English translation courtesy of Zdravko Podolski.

52 Years of the Dingač Brand

Fifty two years ago, on May 13th 1964, the name ‘Dingač’ was first registered. The Dingač Cooperative in Potomje on the Pelješac peninsula, received its certificate from the International Bureaux for the Protection of Industrial, Literary, and Artistic Property (Bureaux Internationaux reunis pour la protection da la propriete industrielle, litteraire et artistique Geneve – now subsumed into the World International Property Organisation). Dingač thus became the very first internationally protected wine from the former Yugoslavia.

Photo: Boris Kragic
Photo: Boris Kragic

It was protected and listed as top quality wine, based on a study for the determination of properties of top quality red wines  from the Dingač area. The study was prepared by experts from the Split Institute for Adriatic Culture, according to the Geneva Convention on Intellectual Property. The whole process was started by the renowned Marcel Jelaska, and it was the first such effort by the Institute. 1961 was the first harvest covered by the certificate from Geneva.

Istravino personnel, headed by Ivan Sokolić, also registered the wine in the Patent office in Belgrade. Istravino was then the distributor for the Dingač cooperative.

Dingač is the name for a steep slope on the south side of Pelješac peninsula, from Trstenik to Podobuc (or from  Žitković strana at the East end, to Začelinska uvala at the West end). Only seven kilometers, or just over four miles, of steeply sloped Plavac Mali vineyards, some as steep as 50 degrees. Because of the abundance of potassium in the soil, the grapes and fruit in general growing on the Dingač slopes has a special taste and is very sought after.

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The plots of land have been owned by families from the small settlements of  Potomje, PijavičIna, Prizdrina and Zakamenja ever since the fall of the Dubrovnik Republic. The whole harvest would be carried from the steep slopes on the backs of donkeys to Potomje and from there to the harbors along the Pelješac coastline. That is the reason for the famous donkey on the Dingač wine label.

Dingač was one of the best recognized four brands in former Yugoslavia, standing with the City of Dubrovnik, Gavrilović and Vegeta, and at a similar level to Coca Cola or Peugeot. With the international registration, the trademark would be protected worldwide.

Today there are 19 producers of Dingač on Pelješac. Amongst wine lovers it is common to have debates about whose Dingač is best, and everyone has their favorite, but even after 52 years the Dingač brand has not faded.

Dingač
Dingač

 

 

Explore Croatia with Secret Dalmatia

Written by Alan Mandić, founder Secret Dalmatia. As the founder and managing director, Alan is personally dedicated to the vision of bringing the hidden beauties of Croatia to every client. Alan has a deep connection to his country, so after finishing his university education at the New England School of Arts & Design in Boston, he decided to return to Croatia. The decision to found Secret Dalmatia followed an epiphany he had whilst wandering around Bribirska Glavica, one of the most important archaeological sites in the country. As the sunset settled in the distance, he stumbled upon two open sarcophagi and thought: “I must show this to the world!” Few months later, in 2005, he put together his passion, experience, and knowledge to create Secret Dalmatia and he has been dedicated to it full-time ever since.

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Savoring the lingering taste of Istrian truffles, Pag cheese and Ston oysters, bedazzled by the Adriatic’s virgin olive oils and world-class wines, Anthony Bourdain declared Croatia ‘the next big thing’. Travel Channel’s Andy Zimmerman followed with his Bizarre Foods. Traveling further back in time, he sought out authentic old specialties still simmering in spite of modern times, tasting, among others, dormice (dormouse special) on the island of Brač and frogs in Trilj. Bizarre Foods: Croatia’s Dalmatian coast- Roasted rodents and Stone soup episode relied greatly on the advice from Croatia’s passionate travel specialists and innate foodies at Secret Dalmatia travel agency.

Photo: Secret Dalmatia

It is also the zealous people of Secret Dalmatia who started the country’s first culinary travel project and webpage – Culinary Croatia. Introducing the extents of the Croatian cuisine at its best, Culinary Croatia presents all its facets with equal detail and respect. Between memorable gourmet extravaganzas like the 13-course wine pairing dinner at Bibich winery in Skradin and enlightening foodie day tours, like the wine tour of Hvar island with Jo Ahearn MW, Secret Dalmatia takes you into both modern and traditional kitchens, old and new cellars, olive groves and vineyards.

Wine tasting on the island of Hvar. Photo: Secret Dalmatia

When entertaining the thought of visiting Croatia, it is exactly the travel experts at Secret Dalmatia who insatiable foodies, wine enthusiasts and gastronomy aficionados should talk to. Among Croatia’s assortment of almost 200 sorts of grapes, and an extent of flavors ranging from continental spicy in the north to Mediterranean on the Adriatic coast, all you really need to fully experience this culinary wonderland is a knowledgeable guiding hand. Try Secret Dalmatia, they’ve tasted everything.

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All photos courtesy of Secret Dalmatia

Drink Your Way Through Austrian Wine

Gruner Veltliner
Image: Wine Folly

This guide by Wine Folly makes it easy to learn more about Austria’s key wine grapes and styles: Grüner Veltliner, Zweigelt, Blaufränkisch, Saint Laurent, Riesling, Gemischter Satz, and Sekt.

Austrian wines are mostly made in the eastern side of the country (where the major population areas are) and the cooler continental climate produces racy, dry white wines and elegant, fruity reds. This is not a region for rich, opulent wines like what you’ll find in much of California and Australia. Instead, Austrian wines lean towards tart, herbaceous flavors in a style more akin to France. So, if you’re a Francophile when it comes to wine preference, Austrian wine has that certain je ne sais quoi.

Shop Austrian wines

The vineyard must be full of rock’n’roll: a conversation with Miha Batič

Batič wines have an immediate signature despite often drastic vintage variation. The tone and substance of Miha Batič is also immediately recognizable in his words. Having been fortunate enough to visit him, walk the vineyards and drink in concert with his vinyl collection, I’ve also hosted him a number of times in the Bay Area. I can assure you from first hand experiences, that if you’re into wine as philosophy, magic, poetry and yet still being effortless to easily finish a whole bottle, this interview is worth a gander.

Let’s listen to Miha in is own words and look forward to drinking his 2015 Rosé, 2013 Pinela and 2013 Zaria — Eric Danch

Miha Batic
Miha Batič

Miha, what’s a biodynamic wine?
Biodynamic is a method of farming that goes beyond organic, considering the laws of the Earth’s natural motion and the seasons. A biodynamic wine reflects the variety and terroir in most living beings. Wine, like all living things, changes a little every day depending on factors like the phases of the moon and your company. When you drink in good company, the wine can taste even sweeter!

What changes were made to attain Demeter certification?
In the middle of the eighties we returned to the old method of organic vine growing, without the use of any fertilizers. Over time, this proved to be a mistake. We started implementing biodynamic farming because it is the most perfect way of reviving the soil. Everything else at Batič winery is done by a method which coincides with biodynamic philosophy since 1987.

Miha Batic in cellar

Can sulphur-free Zaria age well?
Sulphur is used to protect wine. 100 mg SO2 is the lethal dose for organisms found in wine. Over the years, free sulphur, which protects the wine, lowers while total sulphur rises. At some point, when the free sulphur is too low, the wine starts to deteriorate. Zaria is a wine made without sulphur. That is to say alive, full of vitality. While wines with sulphur eventually crumble over time because of decreasing sulphur content, Zaria has a great advantage: it is protected thanks to the micro-organisms contained in the wine that would otherwise have been killed by sulphur. Any wine can be made without sulphur, but in most cases the product will end up “being vinegar.” If we want a consistent wine without sulphur, it is important to take care of the vineyard. The vineyard must be full of rock’n’roll. When you step in the vineyard, you must listen to the Philharmonic Orchestra of cockroaches, rabbits, crickets… Once the vineyard is teeming with life, there will be enough organisms to preserve the wine without any sulphur.

ducks in vineyard

How is climate change affecting your vineyards and the ecosystems they are a part of?
With us, when you say wine, we think white wine. The Vipava Valley has a Mediterranean climate due to the influence of both continental and Alpine influences, which is optimal for premium white wines. Among the 350 indigenous varieties in the Vipava, 95% are white. Now more and more red varieties are being planted due to global demand. When you are planning to plant a vineyard, you cannot base decisions solely on personal desires; global trends, which are ever changing, must also be taken into account. When we plant a new vineyard, we select grapes that best suit the soil and climate. In the last 100 years, the average temperature has warmed by 3.5 degrees. Vineyards that we plant today are not for us but for our children and grandchildren if we are lucky. After 40-50 years, vines hit their sweet spot. Once our newer vineyards reach that age, the climate will be even warmer and better suited to red varietals. Then, in Vipava, the meaning of the word “wine” will be red wine!

Physics Based Cropping System
Physics-based Cropping System (PCS) in the vineyard: 100% healthy

What is the status of your non vinifera vineyard? What will be the next vintage?
The taste of wine is only a dress on the body. For me in particular it is considered the body. For the first time in the Vipava Valley, we have planted 20 new non-vinifera varieties, which are also non-native. Autochthonous varieties are those that traditionally perform the best due to historical symbiosis with the terroir of this land. However, people have changed farming so much over the past 130 years that vines almost cannot exist without intensive vineyard protection. Then we kill vine diseases, which at the same time kill the vitality of the vineyard. Bacteria, enzymes, yeasts… so consequently, the indigenous vines remain only in name because the essence of the grape is lost. This is where hybrids of vitis vinifera and Asian varieties can be helpful. They can survive harsh conditions without damaged or diseased berries. In a way, these varieties are the autochthon sorts of Vipava’s future. From this land they can offer wines with more vitality.

Angel Vineyard
The Angel Vineyard

Are your children interested in the vineyards?
For some of us, the story is written in the stars. My sons’ part of the story is written with their names. The name of my first son is Angel after a vineyard of the same name. My second son is Oska, the name we have also given to our brandy.

What have you been drinking lately? Batič and outside of Batič?
I think that wine should not be signed with a label. I do not like to label wines as white or red, macerated or without maceration. When I have a glass of wine that I produced, I realize why it is so beautiful to be a farmer. Wine is a part of me, always and everywhere. Once a year, I fast and drink mostly water. Now is that time so it’s only water and cherries.

Are there any specific recipes or ingredients that pair best with your wines?
In nature, all substances correspond with each other. It is not necessary to be talented to put together five types of wood or stone. Almost always a nice composition. The same is true with wines that are not manufactured, but born with fresh authentic tastes from our garden and farm. At dinner with five courses, one bottle will perfectly match with at least four plates. Our wines are very versatile.

What is your current favorite vinyl record to listen to?
Currently playing Cohen with Sharon Cohen Robinson. Excellent record. Thanks Jerzy for vinyl.

#WineWednesday Spotlight #28: Coronica Crno Red Blend

Photo from the winery
Photo from the winery

Written by Tara Q. Thomas for Wine & Spirits Magazine. Republished here with her permission. Tara has been a wine writer for about 15 years, mainly at Wine & Spirits, where she is the Executive Editor and the wine critic for wines of Austria, Germany, Hungary, Eastern Europe and the Mediterranean.

2014 Coronica Crno (Best Buy)- 90 points
Bright and tangy, this blend of teran with 10 percent each merlot and cabernet sauvignon impresses with all the details carried on its juicy fruit-the rose scents and hibiscus tea flavors, the spices like star anise and cloves. It’s fresh and thirst quenching, ready for cookouts this summer.

W&S-Coronica-June2016

Our Notes:
Faced with variable and cool conditions throughout the summer of 2014, Istrian Teran master Moreno Coronica opted to make a lighter, less extracted red cuvee using declassified premium Teran, Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon. Whatever role the international varieties play, it is the Teran and the Terra Rossa soil that dominate the character of the wine. It is bright and spicy with notes of myrtle, thyme, orange, clove and the region’s characteristic briny iron note. A great wine to enjoy on its own or with pizza; it’s comfort wine for comfort food!

Moreno Coronica in the vineyard
Moreno Coronica in the vineyard

#WineWednesday Spotlight #27: Kindzmarauli Marani Kakhetian Royal

Image: James the Wine Guy
Image: James the Wine Guy

Video review contributed by James Melendez aka James the Wine Guy. James is a San Francisco based wine vlogger “Demystifying Wine…One Bottle at a Time. Passionate about wine, food, travel, science & technology.” Subscribe to his YouTube channel and never miss a review!

2013 Kindzmarauli Marani Kakhetian Royal
Kakhetian Royal is a unique Appellation Controlled dry white made from a blend of three Georgian grape varieties – Mtsvane Kakhuri, Rkatsiteli and Khikhvi, all cultivated in the Kvareli region in Kakheti.

Beautiful wine. I’m a huge fan of the Republic of Georgia wines. I think they are doing an amazing job; what a lineage.

It’s a wine that I would start off with food, maybe charcuterie and cheese.

James characterizes the aromas and flavor with descriptors such as “orange zest, beeswax, apricot, and exotic honey”. Watch the whole video now and be inspired to try a bottle!

Learn more about Kindzmarauli Marani here.
Learn more about the wines of Georgia here.

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!

slovenia_caron_map

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 ferocity of acid. Traditionally, it is a Summer BBQ wine. The fresher the better.

Jernej Martincic
Jernej Martinčič

2015 Črnko Jareninčan: Not far from Austria’s Styria in the same seemingly infinite hills of marl, the Črnko family farms 6 hectares spread between the 2 quad burningly steep hill sides. Jareninčan, named for the nearby village of Jarenina, is based around a mixed vineyard, winemaker Silvo Črnko’s father planted in the 60’s. Composed of Muller Thurgau, Sauvignon Blanc, Muscat, and much more, following the exact composition is unnecessary; Jareninčan tastes of the hills it comes from. Pure mineral refreshment. The family keeps costs down by doing everything, even harvest (with the help of some thirsty friends) themselves. Filtered pre-fermentation and inoculated, but so what? Peachy, discreetly floral, even resinous with the freshness of a mountain brook and zero trapped Co2 despite the adorable crown cap closure.

Silvo Crnko
Silvo Crnko

2015 Štoka Teran Rose: The heavy weight of the trio clocks in at a whopping 12.3%. In 2014 it was 11.9%, so 2015 is a ripe one. Unlike the ocean of innocuous “pink stuff” that taste the same regardless of grape or origin, Štoka Teran rose is an original. Their 7 hectares of mainly Teran (a refosco relative, though way cooler) are planted in the ferrous rich Terra Rosa that give the aromatic, complex, sanguine reds the Kras is famous for. Štoka red Teran is a feather weight bomb. Fruitful, Amaro-esque on the nose, light footed yet deep, with a never ending zip that belies its sticky scents. This all comes through in the rose though in a gentler juicier form. Pressed and fermented with native yeast without maceration, it is shiny salmon in color and best enjoyed with local salt cured pršut (ham) of the same hue.

Primoz Stoka
Primoz Štoka pruning

Reflections from a Final Meal in Budapest

Munchausen
Baron Munchausen

“Munchausen, I know you Christians are judges of good wine. Here is a bottle of Tokay, the only one I possess, and I am sure that never in your life can you have tasted better.” – The Surprising Adventures of Baron Munchausen, 1785

I was recently reflecting upon my last meal in Budapest that I happily consumed just over a week ago. Despite being fed whipped pig fat, goose cracklings, paprika laden stews, kolbász, pickled everything and so on 3-4 times a day for 11 days, I still felt compelled to order basically the same thing when finally given the chance to order for myself. I even upped the ante a bit and went right for rooster testicles and cocks comb stew with an Irsai Olivér Fröcs (aka Spritz).

Rooster Stew
Rooster Testicles and Cocks Comb Stew

There was so much delicious fat, bright raw onions, smoke, garlic, paprika, and fermented flavors over the course of the dinner that it was difficult to think about drinking anything other than Hungarian wines. Maybe a volcanic Canary or Etna here or there or perhaps some Chenin or Riesling, but after you had a Tokaj Aszú with over 300 grams of residual sugar, 12 g/l total acidity and 7% alcohol that tastes refreshing, it’s difficult to imagine drinking anything else with this food. And if you’re ever able to tour the five kilometer long 400 year old Szegi Cellar in Tokaj and stand amongst Aszú bottles from the 1920s onward, this feeling is compounded exponentially.

Szegi Cellar
Szegi Cellar: 5 kiliometers long, 400 years old, vintages from the 1920s

Hungarian cuisine and wine are both so riddled with the influences of hundreds of years of invasions, occupations, revolutions and the occasional hayday, that they both scream and embody their national identity. In a typical lunch in Budapest you can find a unique blend of Ottoman, Slavic, Habsburg, French, and Russian techniques and flavors. Perhaps this is why earlier this very week a Hungarian was named the best chef in Europe at this year’s Bocuse d’Or. Hungary is also the only nation in the world to sing about wine (Tokaj) in their National Anthem. This isn’t to say that other countries don’t have this same level of passion for their native food and wine, it’s just that most people in the States don’t know that Hungary is one of them.

Butcher lunch
A butcher’s lunch in Budapest

My hope is that we can start making the connections between why these delicious wines taste the way they do and the people and places they come from. Hungarian wine will eventually get to the point where we are all well versed about soils, iconic vineyards and influential winemakers, but in the meantime we have some great and largely untold stories to tell about whole appellations and grapes. To start, I hope we can find some time to get into the new arrivals from Somló (Apátsági, Kreinbacher), Sopron (Wetzer), Tokaj (Füleky, Tinon, Barta, Bodrog Borműhely), and for the first time, Lake Balaton (Csendes Dűlő). So much salt, smoke, acid, sugar, spice and fruit to drink.