Balkan Wine Box

As you drive up and down the Croatian coast and up into the Karst ridden hinterlands of Bosnia and Herzegovina, there is one constant smell: the combination of herbs and rocks. What “Garrigue” is to the French, “Friškina” is to the Balkans – herbs, rocks and salt baking under the sun. It’s also oddly refreshing. Maybe it’s the ocean air, and maybe it’s the super counterintuitive acidity of the wines and olive oils. Whatever it is, very few smells trigger our olfactory memory so violently. We want Brudet (fish stew), Crni Rižoto (squid ink risotto), octopus cooked under “Peka,” Palačinka (crepes) filled with small fish, and everything bathed in Dalmatian olive oil. Focusing on the Dalmatian coast with a quick jump into Bosnia and Herzegovina (Istrian and Slavonian wines arrive in June), please consider these wines as ideal lubricates for our transition into Spring. Starting on the Island of Korčula off the Southern Dalmatian Coast, three new Pošips from Frano Banicević’s Toreta winery. Pošip is a white grape that can muster a ton of acidity and alcohol if left unchecked. Farmed well on the windy island it can produce salty, aromatic and lively wines. From stainless steel to acacia fermented, … Continue reading Balkan Wine Box

Recent Breakthrough: Cabernet Sauvignon goes with lobster

a great combo: lobster with Batic Cabernet Sauvignon Rose & Enjingi Grasevina. Most of my Christmas’ are spent in Maine at my parents. Their house is on an island in the Atlantic, just off the coast. Winters are both beautiful and brutal. No matter how cold the wind, or rough the seas the seafood remains ridiculously fresh. This year brought a special surprise; soft shell lobster. These freshly molted “bugs” are the unquestionable pinnacle of the lobster world; super sweet and tender. You wont find them far from where they are caught as they are much more vulnerable, to even gentle travel, than there hard shelled brethren. There is no reason to get fancy with them. In fact you can faintly read “steam only, serve with butter” On some of their shells. So what do you drink with succulent lobster in this arctic cold? Big Chard is the standard prescription but we have forced this for years, unless you are drinking properly aged top tier Burgundy the pairing rarely works. So Cabernet of course! The pairing logic: In a form this naked, lobster is best complemented by a soft, full bodied wine. We started with a decent feline scented Sauvignon … Continue reading Recent Breakthrough: Cabernet Sauvignon goes with lobster

The Austrian Side of Pfneisl

The main winery headquarters and tasting room. Windmills along the way. The same day that we paid a trip to the Hungarian side of Pfneisl (which is actually the separate company of Pfneiszl), we also took a trip across the Austrian/Hungarian border that no long exists due to the 2007 Schengen enlargement. After a bit more of a trip, we were able to see how wine making was for the Austrian side of things. As we quickly saw near the small town of Deutschkreutz, winegrowing appears to be going very well. The family has been making wine for over a century in this area and to date now harvests from an astounding 70 hectares (175 acres) of vineyard land. It’s quite overwhelming to stand in the middle of it. This is of course made all the more impressive by the extremely modern tasting room and headquarters that they constructed, which you can see in the photo above. The structure has won numerous design awards and is often featured in roundups of impressive winery architecture. Naturally, buildings are great because you need somewhere to age and taste the wine, but what is of course most important is the wine itself. Pfneisl … Continue reading The Austrian Side of Pfneisl

Exploring the Hungarian Side of Pfneiszl

A tasting out amongst the Pfneiszl vineyards that started with their Sparkelina. Pfneiszl is a young winery on old lands. Or actually, it’s an old winery on its own old lands if that makes any sense. Sopron at sunset You see Pfneiszl (or Pfneisl depending on which side of the Hungarian/Austrian border you’re on) is an old family winery based in both Hungary and Austria. It’s just that in Hungary, the 27 hectares that made up their wine growing lands were seized by the former communist regime of Hungary in the name of collectivization. After that happened, they had to “make due” with the 70 hectares that the family kept in Austria just on the other side of the border. In 1993, these lands were returned to the family after decades of pumping out cheap bulk wine that was mostly sold to Russia. By this time, on the Austrian side they had been making very well-recognized wines and in what must be one of the most incredible gifts I’ve ever seen from a parent, they gave this 27 hectares to their daughters to work up and establish as a Hungarian winery. These stories are not uncommon in the area of … Continue reading Exploring the Hungarian Side of Pfneiszl

Tasting Degrassi at the Top of Istria

Over a summer, two travelers drink their way through the wines of Mediterranean Europe The Degrassis in their awards room. In the very top northwest corner of Istria is a small little tip that juts out in to the Adriatic and is where the two very small towns of Bašanija and and Savudrija. Bomarchese Malvazija It is here that the winery of Degrassi calls home. Of course, they don’t grow any of their vines here, those 15 hectares are around Buje which is much further inland to the east. But here are their cellars and tasting room. They have been doing business in this location since 2006, although the company has been around for the last 11 years. After a brief glance around, it is easily seen that the family has very good taste with everything appointed in handmade furniture and nice, dark fixtures. It’s also here that we learned the difference between Refošk and Teran, which are the same grape. Is the stem of the vine is red, is is Refošk. If the stem is green, it’s Teran. There were also some geographical distinctions in the past that have since faded away, leaving just the confusion about the name … Continue reading Tasting Degrassi at the Top of Istria

Two Tastes of Demian

Over a summer, two travelers drink their way through the wines of Mediterranean Europe Andy Šipetić pours up a taste. Our first encounter with the wines of Demian and the wine maker himself, Andy Šipetić was in Novi Sad, Serbia of all places. It was somewhat logical as we were there for a visit with friends and he was there for the wine festival that they’ve been holding for the last fourth years. While that visit gave us an initial taste of his wines, a lunch with the wines expertly paired to the dishes, and music played by Andy (who used to tour as a guitarist for the Gypsy Kings before making wine full time) we didn’t get a chance to see his winery. For that, we’d have to go to Istria and so naturally, once we got to Istria we made our way down there. The elegant Barrique The Demian winery has been producing in one way or another for about the last 80 years. From 1928 to the 1990’s, they produced bulk wine for Italian producers. For the last 14 years, they started making their own wines and the last seven has seen their brand and production grow … Continue reading Two Tastes of Demian