In classic post holiday season fashion, I’m just now writing the January newsletter on the 10th. January feels like you need to pop the clutch going up a hill in order to get things going again. No push button start to this month. It’s also a time when the pendulum starts to swing the other way in terms of drinking. While of course a champion of all things sparkling, aged, sweet, fortified and so on throughout the holidays, now I crave a solid and refreshing table wine – ideally in liter form. On a practical level, wines like this not only help us atone for some perhaps overextended purchases, but also mark the return to casual dinners and that end of the day glass or two. Keeping this in mind, here are some liters to help transition into the New Year. Ironically, the smallest country in the portfolio has our largest selection of liters – Slovenia. About an hour’s drive south of Graz, the heart of Austria’s Styria, and just north of the Slovenian city of Maribor, we find Silvo Črnko (Chair-n-ko). This is an impossibly fertile region littered with apples, hops, pumpkin seed oil and wine at every turn. … Continue reading Liter-ally, the Only Way to Start the New Year
Take a good dose of nationalism, a slightly larger dollop of history, and fuse it with taking the best from what’s around you and creating something new. This Slovenian and Istrian container is emblematic of changing flags and political systems forcing winemakers to make something that can’t be taken away from them. New co-fermented liters from Štajerska and Dolenjsko. Sanguine Teran, Refošk, Malvazija and Vitovska from both Istria and the Kras. The singular (and extremely limited) Batič wines from Vipavska Dolina. And finally, an iconic example of the most planted grape in Croatia. The borders move around, but the land and people often don’t. In 1993, Željko Adžić scored for the Croatian National soccer team and helped defeat Ukraine 3-1 — hero status in Croatia! In 1998, he left soccer to follow his larger passion for making wine in Kutjevo (interior Croatia), working with his father Antun full time. Slightly prior to 1993, Cistercian monks founded a winery in Kutjevo in 1232. It still stands and produces Graševina (Grash-eh-veena), the most planted grape in Croatia. The Adžić family continues this tradition. Graševina is high in acidity, has great weight, and carries both residual sugar and botrytis well. In Kutjevo, where … Continue reading Border(less) Regions are Great for Wine
When French eonologist Stéphanie Berecz founded Kikelet Pince with her husband Zsolt in Tarcal, Tokaj, she wanted a name that was easy to write and pronounce. She chose Kikelet, which means springtime in Hungarian or more literally “out-waking” (“ki” meaning “out”, “kel” is “to wake up” so “kelet” is technically “waking”). Kikelet refers to that moment when the young buds open up and the first spring flowers start blooming as the snow melts. Stéphanie told us when we visited the winery some years ago that she was enchanted by the fact that there was a Hungarian word for this moment and that she named the winery after it. So Spring is in the air and we start craving for brighter, more fruit-forward wines that can be paired with green salads, spring vegetables and fresh fruits. Kikelet’s Hárslevelű and Furmint wines are delicious Springtime wines, quite mineral and savory and full of stony fruit flavors. Also from Hungary, the Gilvesy Bohém Cuvée is a fragrant and zingy blend of Olaszrizling, Pinot Gris, Rhine Riesling and Sauvignon Blanc, the Gallay Bistronauta White (60% Pinot blanc, 40% Zenit) is an aromatic and easy going bistro wine, and the Pfneiszl Zefir is a refreshing … Continue reading It’s Springtime! Megjött a kikelet!
It seems that in the last few years, Blaufränkisch (German for blue Frankish) has become Austria’s most successful red wine variety. It’s not a new grape: based on its name, we think that it had been growing in Central Europe since the Middle Ages. The name Fränkisch comes from Franconia, a German region praised for its quality wines in the Middle Ages, and so at the time, grapes that were producing superior wines were called Fränkisch. Better rootstock, denser plantings, better cover crops management and nuanced winemaking explain the recent rise in quality with more and more Blaufränkisch wines showing great complexity and finesse. Some producers describe Blaufränkisch using the “triangle” comparison: the grape has the elegance of Burgundy Pinot Noir, the pepperiness of Northern Rhône Syrah, and the structure of Piedmont Nebbiolo. Its home is Burgenland where many of the finest examples are grown. Carnuntum, a region just southeast of Vienna, is also a source of quality Blaufränkisch where they are especially fresh and elegant. Burgenland was part of Hungary until 1921, when most of it was annexed as Austria’s ninth and easternmost state after the dissolution of he Habsburg Empire. The exception was Burgenland’s capital Sopron, which was … Continue reading The Rise of Blaufränkisch
An hour’s drive from Ljubljana in Southeast Slovenia, the Dolenjska wine-growing district is one of Slovenia’s largest wine growing region. Thanks to a combination of alpine and continental climatic influences, its gentle, south-facing hills at the edge of the woods are ideal for growing grapevines. The region is famous for its light, fruity, low-alcohol reds, especially the Cviček, a traditional, slightly sour red wine made by blending red and white grape varieties. Made in the same light and fruity style, try this Pinot Noir Rosé from the family-owned Martinčič winery: showing a lovely pale salmon pink hue, the wine is dry and tangy with a refreshing round palate. With only 11% alcohol in a 1 Liter bottle, bring it to your next picnic with a cured salami and a fresh loaf of bread.
15 wines is a lot to get through without losing you after this sentence. However, there is a salty, tart, and often nutty line that connects them all from the Bay of Trieste down to Southern Dalmatia. These are our table wines for the summer. For the past few years, we’ve brought the Martinčič Cviček liter in from Dolenjsko (in between Zagreb and Ljubljana in Slovenia). This tongue-twisting blend of red and white grapes must be between 8.5-10% alcohol and dry by law. Now we are finally adding two more liters to round things out – the 2016 Modra Frankinja (Blaufränkisch) and 2016 Modri Pinot Rosé (Pinot Noir). They are both around 11-11.5% alcohol, incredibly low in SO2, and are impossibly fresh and full of character. Chill all three down and let them come up at the table. Roughly 2 hours West and a bit south by car and you hit Istria (Istra in Slovenia). Dominated by Malvasia Istarska, Teran and Refošk, the diversity by soil and proximity to the Adriatic is immense. Keeping with the liter theme, the 2016 Santomas LNG Refošk is our Dolcetto by the sea in that it satisfies the pizza/pasta needs but still lends itself … Continue reading The Tart, Salty and the Nutty from the other side of the Adriatic: Summer Wines from the Balkans
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. 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… 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. … Continue reading Mon Chérry…
Launched in 2012, Wine Awesomeness is a popular wine club focused on helping millennials learn about cool wines from around the world without being pretentious. Their curatorial team, led by a Food & Wine Sommelier of the Year, “combs the globe to find the coolest, craveworthiest wines. This is vino you don’t see everyday, but will want to drink everyday.” The club was recently reviewed by Reviews.com, a website providing Product reviews, testings, and comparisons. The Reviews.com team looked at twenty online wine clubs and reduced the list to eight contenders and three final picks, based on how well they introduce curious drinkers to the depth and breadth of the world of wine in a affordable way. Wine Awesomeness was their pick for the Best Wine Club for Beginners: For the beginning wine enthusiast, Wine Awesomeness delivers a great experience at an affordable price (even the name seems targeted for a millennial audience). A price of $45 gets you three wines a month, and you can choose among red only, white only, a variety pack (including the chance for rosé or bubbly), or a $75 mondo pack featuring six wines. Each delivery arrives in a fun blue box with a … Continue reading Wine Awesomeness: Best Wine Club for Beginners
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! 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 … Continue reading A caron of refreshment
In preparation for this year’s holiday we have shared our favorite wines sourced from along the Danube river to enhance your celebrations. All of these wines are distinct in their own way but sure to pair beautifully with everything on your holiday table 2011 Kabaj Rebula $26.95 I first learned of the significance of cranberry sauce to the Thanksgiving table while skating on frozen cranberry bogs in Massachusetts with my then young children. I’ve since traded the bogs for the backyard orange trees of California. The best cranberry sauce is a simple and quick relish made with fresh cranberries, freshly-squeezed orange juice, peels, and sugar. No wonder the orange Kabaj Rebula wine from Slovenia pairs so well with that dish! Falling somewhere between a white and red, the wine has intense tannins contrasting with a funky, spicy orange-blossom aroma. It has excellent minerality, and a very enjoyable rich long finish. No need to switch to red for me. This wine is a perfect match for the Thanksgiving table for the recognized 100 Top Winery of 2015!” — Eugénie Cabot 2014 Martinčič Cviček $14.95 In the interest of eating and drinking for as long as possible on Thanksgiving, Cviček (Tsvee-check) is … Continue reading A Danubian Thanksgiving