A Croatian Love Affair

I came across a quote when thinking about this post:

A poet never takes notes. You never take notes in a love affair – Robert Frost

It seemed appropriate to what I wanted to talk about, but it immediately reminded me of that other great line from Robert Frost:

Two roads diverged in a wood, and I – I took the one less traveled by, And that has made all the difference. (From “The Road Not Taken“)

There are so many wine tastings at this time of year, and I really can’t go to too many, but I decided that I would pop into the Croatian Wine Tasting, partly because I was intrigued to learn more about these wines that I really do not know anything about, … and because it was relatively close to where I live.

I was not disappointed (nor, it seems were my friends Jim and Colin)

Knowing nothing about the wines I wasn’t sure where to start, so I went with table 1. Why not? Certainly, at least for me, the Road MOST Travelled was convenient.

I was immediately struck by the diversity of one particular grape, the white Malvasia Istriana (or Malvazija Istarska). There were so many different style. Crisp, fresh. Some with floral aromas, others rich, dense and even loaded with vanillin from oak ageing, but all with a bright, lively acidity. Quite a discovery (even Michel Rolland is getting in on the act).

I continued tasting and learning until I came upon a revelation: Trevor and Judith from Pacta Connect

It seems that these two have a passionate affair with Istria. This passion means that they have dedicated themselves to selling nothing but Croatian wine. In a wine world dominated by pop star wine grapes, big brands from a limited number of countries, and selling at around £4.50, this could be a recipe for disaster.

Except this is no straight commercial venture. They are PASSIONATE (I couldn’t make this any bigger) about these wines, their producers and their stories. It isn’t that they don’t take notes, in fact it is the opposite. They spent years researching the wines and the producers before deciding who to work with – a luxury many importers do not have or fail to even try. It is more that they ignored all the evidence telling them not to bother in the first place. They were doing this … so it was now about doing it justice.

Although I had been picking through other lists, I went through almost every wine on their 3 tables because they were so interesting. It also means I did not do Croatia justice as I ran out of time to move beyond Istria.

The wine world needs more passionate mavericks

Now, there are probably great wines in MANY parts of the world, but we rarely come across them. How are we supposed to know what to try when we go beyond the regular lists we are used to and available everywhere we go?

The wine world needs more passionate mavericks who take the road less travelled, explore where it leads, and beat a path that will, one day, make all the difference.

The range is amazing and worth exploring in person. I believe you can buy from them direct (check out the Pacta Connect site) but they also appear to tour the country, showing the wines at events and tastings, converting more and more wine lovers to the wonders of Istria and Croatia.

Here are a few of my selections:

Clai SV Javov 2009 (Malvazija Istriana) – almost impossible to describe. It was like a dry version of a fabulous concentrated and rich sweet wine. Complex, rich, honey, nut, but dry and with a fresh finish with wonderful length. Gorgeous!

Clai Ottocento Bijeli 2009 (Malvasia Istriana, Sauvignon Blanc, Pinot Gris) – almost a rich, sherry quality to this dry white. Complex and nutty, with some oxidative ageing notes, and still loads of acidity a lift from the alcohol.

Cossetto Malvazija Rustica 2009 (Malvazija Istriana) – Fresh and floral nose, but also hints of clove and honeyed. An amazing aroma promising much, and delivering in the mouth with smoky, herbal and those clove notes. The wine is made from very late harvested grapes that are also left to dry partially in the winery before making the wine, concentrating the remaining juices amazingly.

Coronica Gran Teran 2007 (Teran) – This nose is fab! Red fruit, wood, forest, herb, … and the taste offers all of these with a spicy, rich but still fresh package. Oh yummy!.

Piquentum Teran Rouge 2009 (Teran) – My notes start with “Another wow!”. Almost perfumed red fruit, with a mineral, almost talc-like quality, but dark & wild red fruits of the forest. Bright flavours, the acidity making it dance in the mouth despite the richness, with lots of tannin and a very pleasant finish.

Clai Ottocento Crni 2009 (Merlot, Refosco, Cabernet Savignon) – Amazingly complex. SO much going on it is hard to pin down. Layer and layers of flavour, but never cloying or over the top. Spice, fruit, acidity, tannin, and balance. Reassuringly expensive.