Born and raised in California, the hardest part of adjusting to life on the East Coast has been learning to love (ok – more like survive) the long, cold winters. Sipping on a glass of wine while soaking in a bubble bath I find does wonders.
This past weekend as temperatures dipped down into the teens, I enjoyed a glass of Štoka Teran Rosé Peneče (Pet-Nat) 2014 with my bath. Because there are less bubbles in a Pet-Nat than Charmant or traditionally made sparkling wines, it makes for a more refreshing and easier to drink beverage. This gently sparkling Rosé is a little hazy in the glass, with a slightly salmon hue. The nose offers notes of wild strawberry, juniper berries and freshly baked brioche.
I enjoyed my glass of Teran Rosé Peneče alone, but in Slovenia the Štoka family serves it alongside the air cured ham that hangs over their barrels in the cellar.
Here’s to making it out of winter alive and in good spirits!
Anne Krebiehl MW offers this traditional recipe in her latest article for Wine Enthusiast. Read the full piece here.
Known as Lekvártascherl in Austria and Barátfüle in Hungary, these plum dumplings are a delicious example of Central European sweets. The best wine pairing would be either an Austrian eiswein or late harvest wine from Hungary. Here are a few we recommend:
Plum Dumplings Recipe Recipe courtesy Michal Rabina, Eisenstädter Mehlspeiskuchl, Schloss Esterházy, Eisenstadt, Austria
2 cups boiled, peeled potatoes
3/4 cup quark or fromage frais
3/4 cup unsalted butter
2 egg yolks (save the whites for another use, or discard as desired)
1 whole egg
1 1/2 cups flour, plus extra for dusting
1 teaspoon lemon juice
1 teaspoon finely grated lemon zest
1 teaspoon finely grated orange zest
2–3 drops of vanilla essence
Pinch of salt
Jar of thick plum jam
Vegetable oil, to brush
2–3 tablespoons unsalted butter
Fresh breadcrumbs, to taste
Powdered sugar, to taste
Finely grate potatoes. Mix grated potatoes well with fromage frais, butter, egg yolks, egg, flour, lemon juice, citrus zests, vanilla and salt until firm. Bring large pot of slightly salted water to boil. Fill bowl with ice water.
Lightly dust work surface with flour. Roll dough to ⅕-inch thick. Cut dough into 4-inch squares. Fill each square with plum jam. Fold into triangle, sealing carefully with fingers.
In batches, plunge pockets into boiling water. Reduce heat and simmer until they rise to surface, about 5–8 minutes. Scoop pockets out with slotted spoon, and plunge into ice water.
Drain pockets, and brush with oil. When ready to serve, melt butter in frying pan until it starts to brown. Add breadcrumbs and sugar. Dredge pockets in the crumb-butter. Dust with powdered sugar and serve. Yields 15 to 20 dumplings.
Bordeaux vigneron Samuel Tinon, settled in Tokaj with his family after making wine all over the world. His wife, Mathilde, a wine journalist, tells their extraordinary story in a matter-of-fact way, but even her words are soaked with the beauty of Tokaj. “Wherever we were in the world, we always just thought about Tokaj, coming back here. The botrytis is perfect here, and we were fascinated by the aszú. We were on a quest, to discover the aszú berry”. In fact, “aszú”, the Hungarian word for the noble rot, botrytis, does enjoy the climate of Tokaj. Nights of thick fog are followed by warm sunshine in the fall, allowing the healthy development of botrytis.
Today’s wine is dry Szamorodni. Partially botrytized bunches are picked as a whole (versus berry-selecting for an aszú wine) and fermented, resulting in Tokaji Szamorodni. Being really popular in Poland, the name “szamorodni” comes from the Polish word “as it is”, or “as it grows”.
What makes this particular Szamorodni so unique and wonderful, is that Tinon went back to the original, traditional way of making this wine: aging it in partial barrels and allowing flor, the surface yeast to develop.
The result is extreme complexity: aromas from the indigenous grapes furmint and hárslevelű, mingled with those from the botrytis and flor aging, not to mention the tertiary aromas that come from bottle aging!
Nutty, earthy, mushroom notes lead to flavors of apricot, honey, and green apple.
This 2007 Szamorodni is lively, and still has years of life left in it for us to enjoy this incredible wine of Tokaj.
With its 130 indigenous grape varieties — including the original Zinfandel — Croatian wine is attracting interest around the globe, but how easy is it to sell Croatian wine in the Zinfandel heartland of California? Paul Bradbury from Total Croatia News interviewed Frank Dietrich and his team from Blue Danube on January 31, 2016, who are doing exactly that. And with great success.
Here are some of the interview’s highlights:
Wines from Eastern Europe selling in a wine heartland such as California sounds like a tough sell. How did you come up with the idea and tell us how you started?
We hail from Europe and returned to Europe to build marketing and sales for a fast growing American computer company. After our return to California we decided to leave hi-tech and start Blue Danube Wine, an import company dedicated to the wines of the ancient wine regions along the Danube River and the Eastern Mediterranean. We knew a lot of wine was historically produced here. Our hopes that the wines would become better over time have been confirmed vintage-by-vintage. It has been an exciting journey so far.
The new, young generation of wine makers active today in Central, East, and Southeast Europe has connected with the wine world at large, and at the same time is rediscovering the foundations of their region’s viticulture. The region as a whole is regaining its pride and self-confidence. All of this has helped us tremendously to bring these wines to the attention of American wine lovers and wine professionals alike.
Croatia is of course the home of the original Zinfandel (the grape Crljenak Kastelanski) and Californian Zinfandel is world famous. How are you raising awareness of the Croatian roots, and what levels of interest are you experiencing?
Our customers are very interested in the Croatian origins of Zinfandel, a grape variety from which the most popular American wine are made but whose background was unknown. We make it a point to mention the link between the grapes as a frame of reference, while also noting the differences. There are some who are quite surprised when they taste CK and discover a much leaner, more savory wine in comparison to many opulent California expressions.
Jean Michel Morel makes Bordeaux style reds in Slovenia with class and a quiet energy. Bordeaux varieties have existed in Goriška Brda, the region where Kabaj is located, just over the Italian border, for over 200 years. At only 15 miles from the Adriatic, Brda sees mild winters, an early spring, and an extended growing season. The extreme temperature differences between the Alps and the Sea, and their close proximity to each other, make wind in the area a constant phenomena, to the north an ideally situated ridge of limestone protects Brda from ‘Bora’, the worst of these. Brda’s prized hills of marl and flysch, are the hardened remains of an ancient limestone seabed, sculpted by the slow action of rain and river. Their steep slopes offer an infinite range of vineyard exposures and micro climates. The unique conditions of the region produce elegant wines that will age gracefully but drink beautifully today. Kabaj’s passion for his wines is evident in every bottle.
Cuvée Morel 2009 is a Merlot-based Bordeaux style blend that is structured and serious, an hommage to Jean Michel’s native France. Could easily pass for right bank Bordeaux with plums, dusty leather, espresso, mild oregano in its aromatics. Palate is sleek on entry then fans out with red and black plums, damp earth and a firm grip on the finish. Clean, precise, detailed and delicious. If this said Bordeaux on the label it would be $100+. Pair with roast leg of lamb to coax the savory meaty flavors out of this wine which is still a baby.
Dalmatia is beautiful, but it receives more than its fair share of attention. Croatia’s Istrian Peninsula and Kvarner region, while perhaps less dramatic than Dalmatia, make up one of Europe’s most diverse landscapes. As one drives, the panoramas oscillate between mountain vistas, windswept limestone beaches and misty vineyards. You can wash down scampi on the island of Krk with a light briny Žlahtina for lunch, and after just an hour and a half drive west into Istria, eat for dinner hand rolled Fuzi buried in white truffles with sappy red Teran. It is one of our favorite areas to return. Around every corner is a new dish and in every cellar a new wine.
We have just received a shipment from Slovenia and Northern Croatia. Among the wines are two distinctive new reds: Coronica Crno from Coastal Istria and Šipun Sansigot from the island of Krk in the gulf of Kvarner.
The rare Sansigot is the latest release of Ivica Dobrinčić of Šipun on the island of Krk. In addition to making wine from the half dozen hectares of vines he farms, Ivica also operates a grape vine nursery aimed at re-propagating ancient native varieties. Ivica says most of the 20 plus sorts he is cultivating will have to be the work of his 4 sons if they choose to continue with this family business, which is what he and his wife Željka hope they will do.
Originally from the island of Susek, Sansigot became a favorite sort on the island of Krk before practically vanishing along with most of the islands vines. Planted to the clay and limestone soils in the protected interior valley outside their seaside home of Vrbnik, Ivica’s Sansigot is light, aromatic, and sea inflected. It will take many more plantings and many more wines before it can be said that Sansigot is a sort we understand, but the distinctiveness of Ivica’s wine shows that the effort is worthwhile. This is a fascinating process to drink along with.
Moreno Coronica’s new wine “Crno” has an almost opposite story. A producer farming more than 50 hectares in the village of Koreniki on the Istrian coast, Moreno is considered one of Istria’s benchmark winemakers. But faced with variable and cool conditions throughout the summer of 2014, he opted to make an easier drinking, lighter, less extracted or oak influenced red cuvee instead of the rich, sunny reds he is often noted for. The 2014 Crno is 80% Teran and 10% each Cabernet and Merlot.
Whatever role the international sorts play, it is the Teran and the Terra Rossa soil that dominate the character of the wine. Bright and spicy with notes of myrtle, thyme, orange, clove and the region’s characteristic briny iron note. We do not know if it is a one-off or something Moreno will, or even can, reproduce, but we certainly do find that it transports us back to Istria.
As the very welcome rain was pouring down in Northern California last weekend, I suddenly wished I could have shared my Moroccan spiced fish stew dinner with my East coast relatives and colleagues who were stranded by what we now are calling the record-setting blizzard of 2016. I opened a bottle of the relativity low-priced, but great quality red wine from the well-established Southern Hungarian town of Villány: Gere Portugieser.
Since German settlers brought innovative techniques and the Portugieser grape with them to the region, it has become a local treasure. The winemaker, Attila Gere, first took interest in the future of Villány wines while tasting the home-made versions served by his father-in-law. Gere became obsessed with the potential of the area and when the Communist regime was dissolved in the early 90’s, Attila Gere winery was established.
In Hungary, the grape was once known as Kékoportó or “blue Portuguese” but has been renamed Portugieser in recent times. Aged in stainless steel after fermentation in wild yeast, the wine has a deep color, and is more fuller-bodied than wines aged in oak. The variety’s naturally low levels of acidity mean that Portugieser wines should be drunk in their youth.
It was an excellent complement and stood up well to the spices in my Moroccan fish stew.Whether you are looking at pairing a red with a hearty peasant soup, a lamb stew or even a wood-oven fired pizza, the Gere Portugieser will not disappoint with its wild berry flavor and full-bodied bite. Salud!
Try the Moroccan fish stew for yourself:
3/4 c. couscous
spicy stewed fish
11 oz. white fish
peeled tin of chopped tomatoes
Handful of chickpeas
2 cloves of garlic
1 fresh red chilli
1 tsp cumin seeds
½ tsp ground cinnamon
½ tsp tumeric
½ tsp ras el hanout
pinch of cayenne pepper
Handful of fresh basil
Salt / pepper
Pour the couscous into a bowl and drizzle over 2 tablespoons of olive oil. Squeeze about ¾ of the juice from one lemon into the bowl, add salt and pepper, then slowly add boiling water until the couscous is covered. Place a plate or clingfilm over the bowl for 10 minutes to allow the couscous to soak up the water.
Place a large saucepan on a medium heat. Finely chop the chilli, crush the garlic and pick the basil leaves from the stalks. Set aside the smaller leaves and roughly chop the larger leaves.
Add a tablespoon of olive oil to the saucepan then add the chilli, garlic, all spices, and the chopped basil leaves. Stir well then set the fish fillets on top.
Add the tinned tomatoes and chickpeas then squeeze in the remaining juice from the lemon. Once the sauce has started to bubble, put a lid on the saucepan, turn down the heat and simmer for 8 minutes until the fish has cooked through.
Taste the sauce and add more seasoning if required. Spoon the couscous into a large bowl then top with the stew and scatter over the smaller basil leaves.
Only Coronica can get away with something like this. The “CO” logo alone is sufficient incentive to buy a bottle.
Immediately the distinctive Teran spice is apparent on the nose. You can smell, and taste, a wild, iron-like character. Coronica blends Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon along with the Teran which can be felt on the palate. Beautiful simplicity that is not easily accomplished. Coronica is a skilled master after all. Even his simple table wine is a true, serious wine. Perfect for everyday consumption.
Hearty, lively, sleek, with no tannic roughness or any components demanding more time to soften and mellow. Ready upon opening the bottle, with a very drinkable 12% alc, suitable with many dishes.
I am quite sure this wine, aside from a small percentage perhaps, has not aged in any wood, yet I am confident many will comment on certain “woodiness” on the nose.
Both aromatic sensations and well balanced vinous acids are features of a wine ideal for casual consumption. For example, I was endlessly thankful how it paired with my BBQ Cheeseburger pizza 😀 Comfort wine for comfort food!
Cliff Rames, founder of Wines of Croatia and sommelier, writes about indigenous Croatian grapes making the most impact in the United States market for Total Croatia.
On January 21, 2016, I asked the top three American importers of Croatian wines to reveal which Croatian wines were best sellers in 2015 and provide clues about what new and exciting developments await in 2016. So grab a glass of your top Croatian wine and check out revelations below, listed alphabetically by producer, with tasting notes and added commentary by the importers about what made the wines successful in the U.S.
“Plavac Mali has a much thicker skin than any of the three native grapes in the Bibich R6,” noted Danch. “The Miloš Plavac is a wine built to age. Grown in an impossibly terraced limestone amphitheater on the Pelješac peninsula along the Adriatic Sea, it is fermented and aged in Slavonian oak and is richly textured and mineral driven. We often refer to it as ‘Nebbiolo by the sea’for its age-ability, grip and acidity.”
Eric goes on to say this about what to look forward to from Croatia in 2016:
“In 2016 we are excited to offer the 2015 Toreta Pošip from Korčula, a bright, briny and aromatic white wine from a sunbaked island appellation—a beautiful expression of the terroir. We will also present the 2013 Šipun Sansigot from Krk island, produced from grapes planted in pure pink Karst limestone and kept cool by the bura wind. It is a pungent yet light red with low tannins, low alcohol, and truly alluring aromatics—a perfect seafood red! Finally, we are excited to introduce the 2014 Coronica Črno, which is a blend of 80% Teran, 10% Merlot and 10% Cabernet Sauvignon from Istria. Coronica’s Gran Teran reigns as a benchmark red for the region, and the Črno is great introduction to the ferrous flavors of the terra rosa (iron rich red soils) of Istria. Ripe and balanced, this is an ideal jumping off point to explore the vast diversity of Croatian Teran from other producers like Piquentum and Terzolo. What ties all of these wines together is a true sense of place, high quality-to-price ratio, passionate winemaking, great farming, and a focus on native grapes. Croatia is an exciting country to drink!”
As I opened our bottle of Piquentum Terre Refošk 2012 last weekend, this reminded me of our trip to Istria in fall 2014 and our visit to Piquentum and its owner, Dimitri Brečević. I am afraid to say, we first missed the place and had to call Dimitri for assistance. For our defense, there was no obvious sign from the road that could indicate the winery, just big industrial doors leading to an underground Italian water cistern. Fortunately, we found Dimitri waving at us as we were retracing our steps.
Being raised in Jurançon in south-western France, Dimitri speaks a pleasant musical French. It was a friend of his Croatian father, as he explained to us, that found this water cistern at the bottom of the medieval town of Buzet (Pinguente in Italian). With an average temperature of 10ºC (50ºF) throughout the year, this was the perfect place to make and age wines.
There are no vineyards around Buzet, which is better known for its truffles, and some of Dimitri’s best vineyards are a few miles away, around the historic town of Motovun.
In some way, Istria is a “new old world”. Contrary to France, explained Dimitri, there’s a lot to learn in the region if one wants to really understand which grape varieties are best suited to which terroirs. His best Malvasia comes from an old-vine vineyard owned by an old lady. Unfortunately, her children seem unaware of the rich quality of the fruits and want to replant the lot with lavender.
Dimitri makes 2 different reds: a Teran and a Refošk. They are often considered the same grape but there are morphological differences between the two and they also taste differently.
Like Teran, the Refošk has a purple-violet color and smells like tart red berries but on the palate, it is much less acidic. Well balanced, it has an earthiness that really shined with our sauteed wild mushrooms. Add a dash of fresh pepper to enhance the wine’s spiciness and share it with friends, this wine is just the most convivial.