List of best Istrian wines
Croatia has always been among world’s top quality wine producers. Buuut, unlike Bordeaux in France or Rioja in Spain, when Croatia pops up in your head, or to be precise Istria in our story, wine does not immediately spring to your mind as something you would connect with. Istrian wine production has lit up the entire Croatia’s wine scene, while slowly gaining prominence throughout the world. At the moment, Istria is producing some of the top- notch wines to rival world competitors. The heart shaped north-west corner of Croatia is developing a tourism niche based on the wine production itself, much like France or Italy. The explosion of modern wine making in once dozy market, coincided with the rise of all together boutique tourism in Istria. The connection between tourism and wine is inevitable and incorporating it in a tourism offer as a whole is an ongoing task, and vital for the final regional success.
Moderate Mediterranean climate, conditioned by the sea currents and seemingly constant breezes, has blessed Istria with at least four viticulture-wise fertile soil types. That kind of diversity is primarily meritorious for multitude of wine varieties. Cultivated sorts in Istria are, starting from the most cultivated Malvasia, Chardonnay, Muscat, Pinot Blanc, Pinot Gris, Sauvignon Blanc, Trebianno Toscano, Zlahtina, Red Merlot, Teran, Cabernet Sauvignon, Refosk, Borgonja, Cabernet Franc, and a little of Hrvatica, Barbera, Pinot Noir, and Syrah. With this much diversity, I do not have to exhort you into going for that wine tour that I have been suggesting ever since we began the topic.
Our selection of the best wines in Istria is very conditioned by the time, and I am sure in a year from now, we will update and change some preferences. I have to say that I am very passionate about choosing the right wine for my palate, even harder with the daily menus, and that is why I am quite sure you will find your favorites in my top 15. The list is not from the best on, yet all together are the top of the crop you can find in Istria to try. Diverse, interesting, and fun! Bear in mind that every palate is different, and although some qualities are not to be doubted, your palate might not enjoy them as much. The adventure of tasting is to begin, behold of yourself (and find a ride home) and hold on for a wild ride!
#1 Collis, Trinitas 2015
Cultivated Collis vineyards are located in the western highlands of Istria, close to Rovinj. An extremely favorable location for growing grapevine, a unique climate, quality grape varieties, and long family tradition of wine-making created perfect conditions for producing high-quality wines. The vineyards of this spectacular wine are located 100 meters above the sea, with the aging process of 12 months in barrique barrels, Trinitas is dominated by the flavors of berries, sweet and sour cherry, and vanilla. Teran and the mild tannins make this wine unusually elegant.
#2 Roxanich, SuperIstrian 2009
Roxanich is actually my above all favorite. It is a personal click between me and the wines that come out of this winery, located near the picturesque village of Motovun. The 2009 was quite outstanding with long-lived wines in all Istria, and the Teran came out just superb. The SuperIstrian was bottled in 2015 and as every other decanting wine without filtration always during waning moon. 40% Cabernet Sauvignon, 40% Merlot, and 20% Borgonja. Big and wild, full body's medium tennis and acidity, almost purple color, this gem's vinification is done with each grape variety macerated individually for four weeks. It is the top of long lasting flavorish fruity taste.
#3 Kozlovic, St. Lucia Noir 2012
Considering how hot and dry Istria was in 2012, considerable expertize was required to achieve good result, or even excellent one as did Kozlovic with this one. St. Lucia is the combination of mostly Merlot with Sauvignon Blanc and Teran. The color is rather expected deep ruby, quite intense on the nose, developing spicy notes. Dry on the palate with fuller body and rather high acidity with tannins firm and ripe, this wine is certainly warm with a touch of Istrian freshness. The wine is still young, and by the 2018, it will be just the right age.
#4 Franc Arman, Cabernet Franc 2007
Excellence and innovation in the production of award winning, distinctive wines are brought to the fruition in the family's wine cellar. Five meters underground in oak barrels and stainless steel tanks the radical Istrian varietals come to life. This elegant varietal red wine tastes dry and lively, with deep ruby red color the dark fruit flavor with a hint of herbal spices emerges right as you swallow. Rounded with a slightly bitter finish it is perfect for red meet. Remarkable on the palate, rich in context, persistent in full form, the long lasting toxic aroma.
#5 Giorgio Clai, Ottocento White 2014
Couple of days ago, I read the interview with this winemaker that truly explains what is this about, and how did we come to differ the normal wines from the rest. He says he does not produced biodynamic wines or biological ones for they require a certain dynamics in order to discipline wine itself. The closest is the organic wine. Impassionedly describing the organic matter of the grapes, Clai does not use any pesticides, any chemistry, with only organic manure, no selected yeast, no added sugar, no clarification. Yes to decanting and bottling wine with the phases of the moon. Self-taught winemaker Clais is a complex character, exactly what he bestowed upon his wine. A warm dry September that year produced some excellent fruit, but the summer was unusually cool and cloudy, so mildew was rampant generally for winemakers, but not for Giorgio Clai. Despite the challenges, the hard work was worth it. The coupage of Istrian Malvasia with Pinot Gris, Sauvignon and Chardonnay combined perfectly into a bottle of surprises. Ottocento is a dry white wine fermented on the skins in open vast, without the addition of either yeasts or enzymes, and aged in wooden casks. With strong aroma of lemon curd, acacia blossoms, caramel and clementine, makes it easy to drink – beware! It is full and rich, orange and salty, with a little pinch of barrel. Gorgeous! Grande wine for grande moments, for grande food, and grande company!
#6 Moreno Coronica, Gran Teran 2009
Coronica's wine is highly influenced by the organoleptic characteristics of the grapes. The crucial role is played by the red soil, blended with calcareous stone, only to make the ideal setting for a fertile growth. I dare to say, probably Istria's best Teran producer. Unusual on the nose, still quite closed, concentrated and dense, even after hours in decanter. The earthy aromatic aspect is what makes Gran Teran stand out, together with fruity flavor that is deeper and more vinous. Neutral tannins and the taste of young make this Teran quite special. Gran Teran is not made every year, only with suitable grapes.
#7 Matosevic, Grimalda (red) 2012
Grimalda at its very beginnings was a step into a completely new direction for Matosevic. The first stylish and qualitative terroir wine of this house. Persistent and exotic aroma, with accentuated minerality. Grimalda red is a blend of Merlot and Teran, in ratios 85-15. The grapes are complex due to low yields, on very sunny terraces. The wine is macerated and fermented on marc for up to two weeks, following which it is aged in Allier troncais oak barrels for around 15 months. After that, it is further blended and aged. This Bordeaux style wine is best after 5-7 years. With pronounced freshness and minerality, as well as long finish, despite the young vineyards, Grimalda is big.
#8 Degrassi, Terre Bianche Cuvee 2014
From the very beginning, the production is committed to the superior quality and the preservation of continuity in Degrassi cellar, successfully rising wine that invites us all to share moments and the rituals of pure existence. Great wine from great producer, Cuvee made of Malvasia, Chardonay, Sauvignon Blanc, and Viognier. Beautiful straw yellow color with golden shine, fine density, rhapsody of aroma on nose. From ripeness of fruits to great floral and herbal notes, dry, warm, soft, and nice freshness, like the feeling of home. Wonderful.
#9 Trapan, Uroboros 2012
Bruno Trapan is quite a character of young generation wine makers. Trapan wine making is a family business, and as a younger winemaker in the market it can be quite challenging at times. The winery itself is state of the art, and the wine remarkable. Golden yellow glare is just a hint of the processing method, with the green glare as an infraction of the aging potential. Uroboros is true Istrian Malvasia that charms your nose with toasted almonds in butter yet turning into floral hints. Complex, in the mouth the whole specter of fruitiness arises. Bouquet of herbs and flowers, with a bit of fruits, maybe pear and apple, all to leave the starting almonds in the long lasting aftertaste.
#10 Kabola, Amfora Malvazija 2009
The use of amphorae in the wine making process has enabled increased maceration for Kabola. For this kind of vinification, the grapes are carefully selected from the white clay soil. This amber-colored wine is abundant in aromas, from the notes reminiscent of raisins and dried figs to delicate notes of honey and cognac. The wine is rich, long lasting and harmonious. To all lovers of authentic and unadulterated wines we recommend Malvazija Amfora, which is at the same time hiding its noble origins and inviting us to taste it and reflect on simple values bestowed upon us by the earth.
#11 Dobravac, Teran Fuga
Quality Istrian wines from the Dobravac family cellar ensuring an exceptional enological treat, for every one lover. The tasteful divine wine will provide a unique experience of fused flavors. 100% Istrian Teran with high of 14% alc. vol., experienced without any headaches. This teran has a nice ruby red color with light edges, clear and thick. The intenseness of aroma is accented in fine and pleasant notes. The opening on nose is marked with vanilla, followed by berries and cherries, only to finish with dark chocolate and cedar with cloves and cinnamon on top. The wine is excellently dry, warm, soft and substantially fresh, fine tannins and minerality. Strong well-balanced body is ready and harmonious like a true music. Ageing potential is at least seven years and earlier only if decanted and served in large Bordeaux glasses.
#12 Deskovic, Teran 2012
The Deskovic's household is situated on a vineyard and olive-grove surrounded hillock in the vicinity of the village of Kostanjica, not far from the town of Groznjan. It is perfect for anyone yearning for immediate contact with nature and enjoying the magical challenges it offers. They offer typical Istrian delicacies produced at the agro-tourism household, including homemade prosciutto, cheese, pork fillet, many award-winning house wines, extra-virgin olive oil and different herb brandies. Just the right place to enjoy their surprisingly luxurious Teran from 2012 vintage. Sharp on the nose, primary herbal aromas well developed, to roasted nuts and smoked. Dry lasting taste of this amazingly great Teran.
#13 Benvenuti, Teran 2013
As I have already mentioned the 2013 was quite harsh for Istrian wine makers. Good potential to start with, but inconsistent, very mixed autumn weather, making almost impossible to decide about when to harvest. Although, it was better off for whites, it seems that some reds like this Teran had gone beyond any expectations in Benvenuti cellar. One of the key Croatian red varieties, Istrian Teran is the most important one for the region with the special place in local history. This wine comes from vineyard in Spanjole about 300m above the sea level. Fresh and complex at once, with harmonious structure and acidity that opens a lots of aging potential for at least another 10 years. Only 6000 bottles aged in oak for 24 months, following 20-day maceration. Tamed wild character of this variety and promoted beauty, thus, teranic acids are used to balance the concentration and maturity that are achievable only in Motovun vineyards. Even after an hour from decanting, the wine seems to burst with fruits on the nose with the sharpness of alcohol. Very spicy and as if slowly softens the palate, due to aging in wooden barrels, different to other Terans because of the unexpectedly embedded acids. Despite the crazy 14.7%!!! alc. the mouth recognizes density and tannin showing cold quality, at the same time essential and therefor highly drinkable.
#14 Cosetto, Mozaik 2012
Mozaik is a cuvee of Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, and Istrian Borgonja. Borgonja is local Istrian variety that, alongside with more popular Teran, is an excellent representative of Istrian red grape varieties. Many people compare Borgonja to the French variety Gamay, although science has proven that these two are not exactly the same variety. Mozaik is matured in oak barrels for 15 months, and then another five months in the bottle. The wine owns its ruby tones, and rich almost sweet taste. It is most unusually elegant wine with rich tastes both young and mature at the same time. Pairs with almost anything.
#15 Pilato, White Pinot 2010
Pilato Family Farming is situated in the village Lasici, on the West coast of the Istria peninsula. In this family farming, the production exists for already three generations. In previous years, it dealt with the mixed production as most of the other farms such as agriculture, livestock farming and vineyard farming. In this microclimate, the White Pinot gives grapes of very high quality and this wine has extraordinary characteristics. It has nice bright yellow tone with greenish shine, while at the same time, the aroma is very well accentuated and fine, fruit dominating with the scent of the green apples and pears of the soft flowery notes. It tastes as pleasant freshness; it is round, soft and fruity.
The good wines are hard to find on the supermarket shelves, which is an open invitation to visit Istria year around, and select the best for the wine tasting experience. A trip winery or even a wine holiday is a definite winner. Enjoy your stay in Istria and award your taste buds with some of the world's finest wines. Wines of Istria are undoubtfully premier world class, with ambitious small producers and already now vintages that get better with age. Wine varieties are although traditional, with great developing potential slowly but authentically climbing up the ladder. Strong domestic market is a safe ticket for a sellout, year after year. Once Istria and the winemakers’ ideas get in your head you will discover eventually that all those who have marked the Istrian wine scene are people with strong personalities, clear vision, firm beliefs, high business principles, focused also on their communities and the wellbeing of the same. Without this closed circle, there would be no quality wines, nor Istria as the leader of Croatia's effort to position on the wine map of the world. With the taste of wine on your palate, leaving the vinery, you will feel content of the experience lived and the life itself, sharing the values of Istrian wine heritage. The wine cellar in Istria is a place where you will always learn about Istria, its climate, soil, impressive landscape and rich cultural and historical heritage, together with customs and habits of her people. All this life complexity, free of any barriers, true and beautiful with a glass of outstanding wine. A world of their own, the one we would all enjoy to be locked in permanently.