Website: Coronica Winery
Country Location: Croatia
Beauty is produced by nature or humans, the gifted wines of Moreno Coronica are the product of both.
The people. Coronica was established in 1992 by Moreno Coronica after the fall of communist Yugoslavia. His family has lived in the village of Koreniki long enough for it to carry the old spelling of their sur name. Today he lives in his family home with his wife children and father who still prefers to speak in Italian. Moreno’s interpretation of Istrian terroir differs greatly from that of his contemporaries, yet more classic examples of the indigenous Malvazija and red Teran cannot be found. He is dismissive of wines that boast of flavors foreign to Istria, like tropical fruits, as for the ‘market’. To quote Moreno, “wine must taste like wine.”
He professes a faith in the terroir of Istria and its indigenous varieties and strives to develop his own ability to interpret them. It is interesting than that he is also a proponent of technology in the winery. Most of all because Coronica wines don’t feel “fashioned.”
The appellation. Istria is the largest peninsula in the Adriatic, Croatia’s westernmost region, and borders both Italy and Slovenia. While only 1750 square miles large, over 280 miles are coastline with 35% covered with oak and pine forests. The climate is maritime Mediterranean, but the terrain is extremely diverse allowing for a multitude of microclimates.
Croatians often think of Istria as either blue or green respectively. In the green interior, the largest truffle ever found in the Motovun forest weighed in at 1.31 kilos and merited a place in the Guinness Book of World Records. Istrian truffle pedigree goes all the way back to the classical times of ancient Greek and Roman emperors as well as later being served at the French Court and to the Austro-Hungarian aristocracy. The great Latin lover Giacomo Casanova noted the native red wines in his famous memoirs. The Habsburg even built a dedicated railroad from Poreč to Trieste called the “Wine Railroad.” Granted, winemaking suffered under the Federal People's Republic of Yugoslavia, but since independence from Yugoslavia in 1992 there has been an incredible rebirth. All in all, indigenous grapes like Malvazija Istarska and Teran coupled with the mineral rich white and red Karst soils echo the salinity of a pristine coastline and the pungency of truffle-ridden forests.
Owing to its location wind is a regular phenomenon. From the north “Bora’” blows cold in the winter, while in the summer “Jugo” brings violent intermittent storms from the south. Composed primarily of limestone there are a multitude of soil types. Winemakers consistently praise whatever their vines are planted too, be it red, white, grey or black soil. The truth is that, the conditions of Istria are such that Malvazija and Teran can be successfully grown throughout. Both varieties do an excellent job of capturing the effects under which they were grown without sacrificing their essential character. Each produces full flavored often exotic wines. Malvazija should be aromatic but not perfumed, textured, savory, not overtly fruity and with a gentle bitter almond pinch on the finish. Teran is a variety with particularly high acidity and aromas equally gamey, woodsy and fruity. Without its acidity it is simply not Teran. On the coast Malvazija tends to be spicier and fuller bodied and Teran more fruitful and chewy. In the cooler, rocky inland, Malvazija is lighter and more restrained, while Teran can be resinous and puckeringly acidic.
In the vineyards. An hour drive south from Trieste, Italy, just outside the port town of Umag, Moreno Coronica maintains 75 acres of vineyards planted in the area’s famous rust colored “Terra Rossa.” Underneath this nutrient rich clay is the solid limestone that defines the topography. Summer is sunny and hot. In the late afternoon the inland “Mistral” breeze cools the vines. This helps to preserve acidity and encourage the grapes to grow thicker disease resistant skins. Three fourths of the vines are Malvazija, the remainder Teran and Merlot. Any closer and they would be at the tide line. This proximity to the warm Adriatic, coupled with the distinctive ‘Terra Rossa’ soil account for the scent of sea mist and the deep minerality signature of Coronica wines. Moreno’s immaculate vineyards are grown without the use of fertilizers, pesticides or herbicides. The history of the indigenous variety Malvazija Istarska dates back to possibly before the Venetians. Over 30 types are grown around the Mediterranean. Although Teran is closely related to the Slovenian variety Refošk and the Italian Terano, though significant clonal and morphological variations exist between them. Both are vigorous high yielding varieties. Crop thinning and green harvest are commonly used to control this. Grapes are harvested in multiple passes and sorted, by hand.
In the cellar. The objective of the winery is function. Located amidst the vines, during harvest refrigerated rooms receive the grapes so that everything can be properly sorted and processed together at optimal temperatures. Even cold, this room filled with Malvazija smells amazing. Grapes are vinified in stainless steel with cultured yeast at controlled temperature, followed by extensive time on the lees. This typically is also in stainless steel, though small amounts of Coronica’s Gran Malvazija, Gran Teran (the only Teran he produces), and Merlot are aged in a combination of new and used French Barrique. By the time this is read, construction of Coronica’s new winery and cellar will likely be complete. Despite the scale of the project, production will increase only modestly. Moreno’s primary objective is to attain even greater control over the wine making process.