Central Istrian wine tour
Be among the first to taste wines coming from the picturesque terroir surrounding the Lake Butoniga, wines that wine conoisseurs still have to discover. You’ll taste crisp, outstandingly mineral and complex wines that are brave and original like the people who make them – Dimitri Brečević, Dario Sirotić, Anton Grbac, Marko Fakin and Benvenuti brothers. The whites here are mostly made from Istrian Malvasia, indigenous white variety whose subtle aromatics spiced up with flinty accents will seduce everyone. Teran, another old Istrian variety, produces a dark red wine, earthy and mineral already in the nose, feral and lip-smacking acidity that lingers long in the finish. It is a wine with a particular character that either like or hate it if you taste it straight.
However, taste Teran with traditional Istrian dishes and I am sure you’ll fell in love in this red that has nothing to do with most of red wines you have ever tried. We’ll check this out during our lunch in one small family tavern in the area. Here you will also learn the basics of pairing local food with the wines we tasted.
This adventurous tour is for curious wine enthusiasts seeking for new palate stimuli but also for those who love scenic landscapes, tamed hills and tranquility of countryside.
More about winemakers and the lunch break:
Although below you’ll find descriptions of five wineries, we’ll visit only three of them. Winemakers can be very busy in the vineyard or the cellar so it often happens they don’t have time to welcome us.
The visit starts underground, in a water cistern in disuse, below the historic hilltop town of Buzet. These cold and long corridors are now the home of Piquentum winery. Here we’ll meet Dimitri Brečević, a French-Croatian guy, who ferments his wines using native yeasts and believes in minimal intervention in the cellar. His Malvasia, Teran and Refošk, grape varieties indigenous to this region, are lately receiving a lot of buzz in the USA and UK.
To come to Sirotić winery we have to take narrow country roads, so steep and curvy that you’ll feel like on a natural rollercoaster passing over green hills. We’ll admire the vineyards planted on steep slopes with perfect southern exposure that dive in into crystal clear waters of Lake Butoniga, the most important fresh water reservoir of Istria. We’ll disturb the silence of hilltop hamlets with ancient stone houses until we arrive to Medveje where Dario Sirotić will wait for us. His Teran is rustic and mouth-filling, while the crispness and minerality of his award winning Chardonnay will remind wine connoisseurs of a good Chablis.
In the village of Vrh (literally translated – The Peak) we’ll admire the panorama of the Central Istria. If it is open, we’ll have lunch in tavern Vrh famous for its filled fuži pasta. Otherwise, we’ll go for lunch in another family owned tavern after we come down in the Mirna river valley.
A short walk from konoba Vrh will lead us to Grbac winery who produces a very limited number of boutique sparkling wines under the name Butilja. These wines are handcrafted from Malvasia, Teran and other indigenous Istrian grapes using the classical (Champenoise) method, believed to be brought to Vrh by priest Ivan Vranić who came in Vrh from Gorizia in 1874.
You will enter Zen mode when you visit Benvenuti brothers’ vineyards with a view of the hilltop medieval town Motovun. These relatively young guys are famous for their Istrian Malvasia cultivated on white soil rich in clay and limestone. The unique terroir gives this white wine, the emblem of Istrian winemaking, more delicate, elegant tones and bigger complexity than the usual Malvasia cultivated on red soil. We won’t leave their cellar without tasting Malvasia San Salvatore, a high-end wine made from dried Malvasia grapes, that is a perfect example of meditation wine.