05 July, 2013

Learning about Malvasia at Cattunar Winery, Brtonigla, Croatia (Istria)

The tourist board warns that Istria may enchant you. It's true.  This heart shaped peninsula a little to the right of the cuff of Italy's boot, protected by the Alps to the North with a long coastline is an adventure you should consider.  Biking, diving, etc.  But more than anything else:  Wine!

Well, and food. 

 Not so far from the Hotel San Rocco in Brtonigla, we visited the Cattunar Winery where we got a tasty and informative lesson on the Malvasia grape, as well as tasted through some of the winery's interesting indigenous (Teran) and international varieties (Chardonnay, Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon).  

Malvasia is the star white variety in Istria.  It has a lively fruity character and is generally made in a low alcohol style, according to the great Istrian website, where you can find out more about visiting and even get info on a festival dedicated to Istrian Malvasia here  It just passed this June 15th, so perfect time for you to start planning to attend next year ;)

They do something fascinating at Cattunar, which is produce Malvasia wines made from all four unique soil
types and bottle them according to color of soil.  I loved the chance to taste the difference the soil type made given that the producer, variety and year were identical.  Holy terroir, Batman! Tasting all four highlighted the difference between the soil types. 

All the wines were tasty and fresh.  There were subtle difference in color (don't be distracted by the yummy ham)--->

Rouge: You can see the dense, rich red soil in the picture above that I took outside the winery.  In the glass, this wine had round peach and Gala apple aromas.  The mouthfeel was medium, it was less silky than the rest.  And it finished with white peach flavors

Blanca:  Planted in white limestone soils, this wine had dancing aromas of pineapple.  The mouthfeel was soft and smooth.  It had pleasant juicy flavors.  While the finish was short, it had quince and strawberry.

Black: Lots of floral notes of acacia and flavors like acacia honey. Lingering finish.

Grise:  Round full aromas of peach and white flower.  Floral, peachy stone fruit flavors. Medium body mouthfeel. 

Wine Rorschach! They made us list our top two favorites and each of us had different pairs.  All in all a fascinating exercise.  Cattunar also gave us a little history lesson. .  The region was famous for wine back in Roman days.  The Empress Livia boasted that Istrian Teran was her elixir of youth; she lived to be 82, so might have been on to something.   At Cattunar, they informed us that the premium wine industry in Croatia is undergoing a rebirth. Under communism, all wine was produced as bulk wine regardless of quality, so there was little incentive to develop.  With the "reboot" that occurred in the 90's, they have been able to take the raw materials at hand, and grow quickly.  The folks at Cattunar have a redevelopment phase of their own.  Thirty to forty years ago, the winemakers had only 7 hectares.  Now, they are one of the largest producers with 20-30k bottle production.  Their next phase includes building a 20 room guest house, where visitors will be able to experience more Istrian gastronomy side by side with the wine. 
It seems to be working!  They have won this local prize two years in a row. 

Be sure to add Cattunar to your itinerary when you go.  And for an easy, breezy vacation planning experience, leverage the great work of the Colours of Istria: Click here to see all the help you can get planning your dream vacation [Unicorns and rainbows not included--but you will likely find them anyway]

We visited as guests of the Istrian Tourist Board.  Here is how to find Vina Cattunar

Z.O. Wine Cattunar
Nova Vas 94, 52474 Brtonigla
VAT: 92198392908 • MBt: 91301564
Tel. 052 720 496 • Fax. 052 774 138
EMail: info@vina-cattunar.hr
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