Country Location: Croatia
Soil so red it stains your hands, a native red variety with off the charts acidity, and a family dedicated to tradition with an eye for innovation.
The people. Over the centuries Istria has been occupied by the Romans, Goths, Franks, and Bavarians for short periods of time. The Republic of Venice on the other hand had a solid 500+ year run. Although briefly a part of the Austro-Hungarian Empire until the World Wars, it was briefly once again a Province of Italy until 1947 when Yugoslavia was created and Italy ceded the territory. Despite the back and forth, Italian culture and language are firmly rooted here along with its Slavic heritage. Pasta, olive oil, Prosciutto, and sardines are all standard ingredients. As proof of this multicultural past, the Terzolo winery is owned by Roberto and Tanya ‘Tercolo.’ The previous spelling of their old Istrian sur-name included a ‘z’. While Istria was under Italian control this Slavic ‘z’ eventually became the ‘c’ in their name today. To honor the long tradition of their family and the land, the wines are once again labeled as ‘Terzolo.’ Roberto has championed a terroir driven Teran and has recently taken the Gold Medal at Vinistra, the most prestigious association of winegrowers and winemakers in Istria.
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 Hapsburgs 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.
In the vineyards. The Tercolo family’s 5 hectares of vines are located in the northwest of the Peninsula and only a few kilometers inland of the ancient port city of Poreč. There are two dominant types of soil suitable for wine growing on the Istrian peninsula: iron rich ‘red soil’ (Terra Rossa) and the marl and flysch heavy ‘white soil.’ The Terra Rossa is king in terms of Teran. Although closely related to the Slovenian variety Refošk, significant clonal and morphological variations exist between them. One of the main morphologic differences is that the back of the Refošk leaf is smooth while the Teran is hairy. Leaf texture aside, what really separates Teran from the pack is that it can easily accumulate an average 16% of sugar and over 10g/L of total acids. Despite no shortage of sunshine, a warming coastal influence, and a mild winter, acidity and ripeness rarely lose sight of each other while the Terra Rossa imparts a unique brand of copper toned minerality.
In the cellar. Grapes are hand picked and quickly taken to the winery for sorting. While sticking to traditional methods such as 2-3 weeks of maceration and 100% malolactic fermentation, one modern departure is that everything takes place in stainless steal. Free run and press fractions are vinified separately then blended before bottling. The winery as a whole is kept simple, clean, and organized.