Mon Chérry…

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…

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. 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 … Continue reading Istria, the new Tuscany

#WineWednesday Spotlight #72: Piquentum Rouge

For our friend Marcy Gordon, wine and travel writer and founder of Writing Between the Vines, the 2012 Piquentum Rouge is the perfect wine to bright up a rainy winter day: Dark and dreary rainy night in NorCal calls for something bright and deeply satisfying from Croatia. This 2012 Piquentum Teran grown in the white soils of Buzet, Istria is made by Dimitri Brecevic in his awesome wine bunker. It hits the spot with juicy red fruit flavors and the telltale hint of salinity. This is one of the first Terans I fell in love with. It’s drinking beautifully paired with steak quesadillas. #bluedanubewine #wine #piquentum #piquentumwinery #teran #winesofcroatia

#WineWednesday Spotlight #35: Piquentum Rouge

French-born winemaker Dimitri Brečević is the founder of Piquentum in Buzet, Istria where he grows the three Istrian varieties, Malvasia, Teran, and Refošk. In an old Italian water cistern made in the 1930s, Dimitri aims to make organic wines that express the typicity of the terroir. His Piquentum Rouge 2012, a 100% Teran, was recently tasted by Cliff Rames, sommelier and founder of Wines of Croatia, a website committed to serving as a timely and reliable source of information about Croatian wines for wine advocates and consumers, professional wine buyers and sommeliers, agro-tourists, members of the international wine trade, and the global media. Here is his contribution: 100% Teran of Istria. Thick and viscous, mouth filling and vibrant–but only 12.5% alcohol. Savory with dusty plum, bright cherry, and cured meat notes. Perfect with Italian pasta, charcuterie, and grilled meats. Learn more about Piquentum here.

3 Wines from Central Europe You Need To Know Now

Bottlenotes recommends adding these three Central European wines to your repertoire. For the past decade, wines from Central and Eastern Europe have been something of a sommelier secret stateside. The names can be hard to pronounce (hárslevelű, anyone?), but the best bottles offer exceptional value and tend to work extremely well with food. Here are the three recommended wines: Samuel Tinon Furmint Birtok (Tokaj, Hungary) Sommeliers and wine insiders have been raving about furmint for years. The grape, which is commonly used to make Hungary’s famous sweet wines, also makes an intriguing dry wine with medium- to full-body and high acidity (read: an ideal wine to pair with food). Piquentum Blanc (Istria, Croatia) Croatia may have initially gained some international fame for its red wines, but many sommeliers now feel that the white Malvasia coming out of the country is some of the best representations of the grape in Europe. When made in a dry style, it makes a crisp wine with some weight in the body, similar to dry Chenin Blanc. Orgo Rkatsiteli (Kakheti, Georgia) Georgian wines can be tricky to pin down from producer to producer. Some are quite rustic and oxidative, while a growing number offer more … Continue reading 3 Wines from Central Europe You Need To Know Now

Orange wine isn’t what you think it is

Orange wines, or perhaps more accurately described as amber wines, have been gaining more and more popularity with wine consumers. Writer Robin Shreeves gives these wines a try with the help of Keith Beavers, wine educator and owner of New York City’s In Vino Restaurant & Wine Bar, for Mother Nature Network. What is orange wine? The simple way to explain orange wine is that it’s white wine made like red wine. For white wine, the skins of white or red grapes are separated from the juice immediately. When red wines are made, the juice and the skins are left together for a time, imparting the color and the tannins from the skins, seeds and stems into the wine. Orange wine is made from the juice of white grapes that have contact with their skins for a time before fermenting, imparting an orange or amber tint to the wine. See Robin’s notes on a few of the “orange” or “amber” wines we import: Oil was what jumped out at me the first time I breathed in the scents of an orange wine — although I got motor oil, not linseed. Our host chose Piquentum Blanc’12 from Croatia made from the … Continue reading Orange wine isn’t what you think it is

Top Croatian Wines in the USA: Indigenous Grapes Grow Sales

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. Here are the wines we import: Bibich R6 2012 (Red) 34% Babić; 33% Lasin; 33% Plavina “This northern Dalmatia wine shows more smoke and Mediterranean herbs than heavy, overbearing fruit,” observed Eric Danch, Northern California Sales Manager at Blue Danube Wine Company. “There’s immediate life and levity without compromising its unique character. It’s a wine that can be readily be devoured at a casual dinner party and yet capture the attention of wine professionals.” Miloš Plavac 2010 (Red) 100% Plavac Mali “Plavac Mali has a much thicker skin than any of the three native grapes in the Bibich R6,” noted Danch. “The … Continue reading Top Croatian Wines in the USA: Indigenous Grapes Grow Sales

#WineWednesday Spotlight #9: Piquentum Terre Refošk 2012, the friendly wine

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 … Continue reading #WineWednesday Spotlight #9: Piquentum Terre Refošk 2012, the friendly wine

The Growing Importance of Eastern and Central European Wine Regions

When each month feels like uncharted and often terrifying water selling wines from the Balkans, Central Europe, and now as far as the Black Sea and the Caucasus mountains, it’s refreshing to look back at the progress made. Having just done so, it turns out things suddenly looks slightly less terrifying. We’ve continued to grow as a company, as a portfolio, and continued our proud tradition of steep learning curves. Perhaps most importantly, we’ve seen the market for these wines grow. We owe this growth to your support. As one form of proof, our slice of the wine world has garnered some promising press we’d like to share. All of that hand selling hasn’t gone to waste… The New York Times (Tokaji Aszu Wines Are a Taste of Hungarian Sweetness) and PUNCH (An Uncertain Future for the World’s Most Iconic Sweet Wines) recently covered Tokaj and Samuel Tinon in particular. Imbibe Magazine (East Goes West: Wines from Central and Eastern Europe are turning American heads) (PDF) did a wonderful focus on Central Eastern European wine featuring Fekete Béla, Kabaj, Vylyan, Piquentum, Štoka and Orgo. Vogue even singled out both Štoka (Champagne’s Cooler Cousin: 5 Pét-Nat Sparkling Wines to Try Now) … Continue reading The Growing Importance of Eastern and Central European Wine Regions

Inside Perspective: Talking Wine with an Insightful Croatian Wine Writer

Over the past few months, we have been fortunate to get to know Croatian wine writer, Nenad Trifunović, a bit better. He has also been so generous in allowing us to repost many of his translated wine reviews on our blog to share with all of you. We thought it would be nice to formally introduce him and get a better idea about his perspective on wine. I also encourage you to check out his blog Dnevnik Vinopije (Wine Drinker Journal). It is in Croatian but his insights our worth the effort of translating! 1. Tell us more about yourself. Where are you from? Where do you live? What is your “day job”? I was born in Zagreb, Croatia’s capital city. I had a great childhood growing up here. Upon finishing university, were I majored in Economics, I decided to stay in Zagreb. I work as a creative director at a marketing agency. Fifteen years ago I started as an entry level accountant, fell in love with being a copywriter, and today am a partner at the same agency. 2. Why are you so passionate about wine? My work requires me to have a business focus and writing about wine provides … Continue reading Inside Perspective: Talking Wine with an Insightful Croatian Wine Writer