Posted on 21st Aug 2010 @ 1:34 PM
The Other Mediterranean: Piquentum and Verus Tasting 3-5pm
Dimitri Brečević grew up in Jurançon in the French Pyrenees, studied wine making in Bordeaux, worked for season at Domaine de Chevalier (Hello!), followed by stints in New Zealand, Australia and Burgundy before returning to his father's hometown in Croatia in 2004. Piquentum is the latin name for the medeval hamlet of Buzet in the northern part of Istria where he founded his winery. He makes two wines: a Malvasia and a Teran, an old clone of Refosco.
Istria straddles the northern Mediterranean and sub-Alpine. The soil is a wine friendly mixture of iron-rich red clay and white chalk. Aromatic, firm, high acid wine country. Dimitri built the winery in an abandoned Italian water cistern. No skin maceration. No temp control during fermentation, ambient yeast, extended lees aging. Stainless steel. No oak. Hotter fermentation temps means the wines are less overtly grapey and more tertiary and proteiny.
Teran is Dimitri's red wine. Spiky acidity is mollified by low yields. Fermented in stainless steel. 9 months in 500 liter hogsheads. Easily one of the most compelling, alive mineral driven reds I've tasted this year.
Verus: Latin for true. Master of Wine Angela Muir, turned fellow MW Jancis Robinson and thereby the thirsty UK wine market on to these young fresh fellows from Slovenia. Verus was founded in 2007. The company has 10 hectares of it's own vineyards.
"Slovenian grapes are excellent to work with and the choice of New Zealanders was no accident. Although there are red grapes in Western Slovenia, its crowning glory is white wine: from dry through to classic sweet dessert wines made from a fine handful of international and local varietals [she means ‘varieties’ – JR] each with its own crisp, clearly defined character. The fruit potential shines through even the faultiest winemaking. Not only is the terroir spectacular for white grapes but also, for nearly two decades now, the vast majority of Slovenia’s growers have been signed up to a system of certified sustainable viticulture.
"The vineyards are a joy and utterly beautiful, many on terraces that curl gracefully round the contours of the hills giving exceptional sun exposure, shelter from more northerly cold weather, fine drainage and good access to mineral subsoils. Slovenia is surrounded by Italy, Austria, Hungary and Croatia. It has everything: Alpine landscape with winter ski-ing and summer walking and fishing; access to the glorious Dalmatian coast and a splendidly unspoilt, rural feel to it. Considering how close it is to us and how easy it is to get there now, it is amazing how long it has taken for us to catch on to Slovenia as a travel destination at least for short breaks.
"Verus is the result…the first vintage of the new company …and, for a first vintage, the wines are showing textbook results…all drinkable, all true to their different varietals and to their very lovely origins. I was thrilled to bits to introduce my friends, Danilo, Bojo and Rajko, who own and run Verus, to Mark Hughes, another friend who has worked with me in the past, and even more thrilled to learn that Mark has been out to see the vineyards and winery and placed his first order in what I hope will be the beginning of a long and fruitful working relationship for both companies."
Speaking of Jancis, MW, on the 2007 Verus Sauv Blanc:
"Furmint, known in Slovenia as Šipon, is of course the classic white grape variety of Hungary’s sweet, golden Tokaji but an increasing proportion of it, even in north east Hungary, is now being vinified dry and shows just how noble this grape variety is. Since about 2003, Hungarian growers have been experimenting with making dry whites from this fiery grape, trying out oak ageing and lees contact, and some of them even seeking out specific terroirs most suitable for dry white wine growing. (There is a strong parallel here with what is going on in that other traditional sweet white wine territory, the middle Loire, where an increasing proportion of Chenin Blancs are now being grown specifically for dry wines – see Dry Chenin – the Loire’s new weapon).
"It would seem as though the Verus team has been absorbing all these lessons for this is a delightfully well balanced wine that, like a great Saar Riesling for example, is low in alcohol but high in extract, acidity and – character! This Verus Furmint is only 12% alcohol and is wonderfully refreshing but the grapes are so high in acidity that it was not picked until the beginning of October. You could certainly drink this wine now but I don’t think there is any hurry whatever to drink it and would like to see how it evolves over the next 12 mlonths at least. Most of these Slovenian grapes were cool fermented for three weeks in stainless steel but 15% of them were fermented in new French barriques, and a certain amount of lees stirring has also played its (delightfully non obvious) part in adding extra layers of fiery, eastern European flavor to a wine that really should titillate your taste buds."
Oh, and did we mention they make a Sauvignon Blanc. Yep. They do. It's crunchy and mineral.