The Wine Bottega

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The Borderland:
Slovenia, Croatia and   Hungary!  

   Friday, March 28th      

New Beer, Drink Quick!
Stone IPA
    Enjoy by 4/20     
Stone Brewing is at it again with their latest release in the 'enjoy by' series.  Super fresh, brightly hopped IPA. Enjoy by Easter for optimal freshness.  Today works too.



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The Wine Bottega

341 Hanover St.

North End, Boston 


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Tiny hillside vineyard on the western edge of Slovenia

We have long been intrigued by the wines of central and eastern Europe.  In many ways Slovenia, Croatia and Hungary offer an uncommon world of discovery; on one hand these regions are extensions of the ancient cradle of early winemaking, thought to have originated in the steps of the Georgian frontier. While on the other hand this are has succumbed to rapid industrialization of production, not giving much thought to quality.  In short we are only at the very beginning  of what should be an exciting wine revolution to watch, and drink. 

Slovenia and Croatia have some particular challenges to overcome; as you will see, they have some far out grape names, tiny regions and unfamiliar words that make up their wine appellations, etc.  In the shop and in practical terms, the major issue is quality and winemaking...while many Slovenian wines are delicious, they are often quite expensive, where as Croatian offerings generally suffer in terms of finesse and precision. 

Tonight we are excited to dive into a new realm of these borderland wines.  A small but dedicated import portfolio has emerged and is representing what is likely the most choice selection of producers available in these early generations of eastern European wines.  To guide us through tonight's tasting we have invited our friend Chas, who has immersed himself in the quirky world of these wines.  We left it up to him to write the following tasting notes.  Please join us for what is sure to be an adventure!

Here's a little map to make sure we all know where we are tonight:

The Borderland Wines of Slovenia, Croatia and Hungary: 

2012 "Jarenincan" Crnko, Stajerska, Slovenia

Crnko, also located in Stajerska, has bottled its renowned single varietal wines since 1984 garnering local and worldwide fame alike. The "Jarenincan" bottling, however, is part of an age old tradition that has just started to make a splash in the States. Not unlike the Edelzwickers of Alsace or the Gemischter Satz of Austria, "Jarenincan" represents a co-fermented field blend of multiple varietals that change from vintage to vintage highlighting only the best characteristics of the harvest. 2012 was anchored in Laski Riesling (no relation to the Rhine Riesling we know and love), Sauvignon, Ravenec (a.k.a. Muller Thurgau often found in Northern Italy), Chardonnay, and Yellow Muscat. The vessel is shaped like a Soviet missile, carries 1 liter in volume, and is finished with a bottle cap. Spring flowers, spice and lychee waft from the glass while stonefruits of peach and yellow plum flesh out this off-dry and broad shouldered behemoth. 

2012 Sauvignon Blanc, Verus, Stajerska, Slovenia
Verus is a triumvirate of particularly ambitious young winemaking friends, Danilo, Bozidar and Rajko, all of whom come from grape-growing or winemaking families. As Slovenia broke free of the Socialist ideal of state run volume production in 1991 these young entrepreneurial spirits found their calling in the continental region of Stajerska in Western Slovenia. They claimed a handful of terraced vineyards cradled in the gently rolling green hills outside of the tiny rural town of Ormoz. They seem to effortlessly conjure precise varietal character through the mineral-rich laden sub-soils and generous sun exposure. The 2012 Sauvignon Blanc boasts a polarizing dynamic on the palate between ripeness and structure found in only the very best Loire Valley whites.

2009 Sauvignon Blanc, "Selekcija", Marjan Simcic, Goriska Brda, Slovenia
I had the privelage of meeting with Marjan at VinItaly last year and I can confidently say that I have never met a winemaker who intrinsically loves his profession more. When discussing the defining terrior of Goriska Brda he worked himself into such a frenzy that his cheeks flushed and his forehead teemed with sweat. His passion for the vine, traditional viticulture, and terrior has certainly created ethereal wines greater than the sum of their parts. Marjan's vineyards are settled both in Collio, Italy and Goriska Brda, Slovenia. The low hills of Brda open towards the Furlanska lowland that supplies warm sea air, considering that the area is only some 20-odd kilometres away from the sea. Turn 180 degrees and one gazes up into the Julian Alps towards the Trnovska Plateau which protects the vineyards from the influence of the colder mountain climate. Made up of thick layers of marl and sandstone called Opoka, the soil of Brda is ideal for growing vines, as the ancient aeolian sediment is very poor in organic material, yet very rich with mineral salts. All of these stars align to contribute to his Sauvignon "Selekcija" which macerates in contact with the skins for 7 days in 4,000 litre conical oak barrels. The finished wine then rests for 12 months in the same vessels before being racked into 500l oak barrels for an additional 12 months. A truly polished "orange" wine that bleeds red, blue, and white.

2009 "Rebulla", Kabaj, Goriska Brda, Slovenia
A hop, skip, and a jump deeper into Goriska Brda one is bound to cross Jean-Michel Morel, a native Frenchman, tending vines with his wife Katja Kabaj, a native Slovenian. Jean-Michel has staged in Bordeaux and various estates in Italy, however his curiosity, and the magical wines of neighbor and "Amphorist" Jasko Gravner, led him to Georgia to study its ancient monastic wine culture. Ultimately, he adapted some of their techniques. Rebula (Ribolla Gialla) has been grown in Brda since the 13th century. Translating to "re-boil", it references the wine's proclivity for secondary, malolactic fermentation. The grapes were hand harvested in late September from the Belo-Vhr and Neblo-Vhr vineyards, de-stemmed, and fermented on the skins for 30 days with wild yeast. Distinctively spicy and orange hued, it has aromas reminiscent of green tea, bay leaf, and a multitude of exotic herbs and spices. Despite a month of the skins, this is not an oxidatively styled orange wine, but rather a white wine with texture without sacrificing acidity.

2010 Plavac Mali, Vinarija Dingac, Peljesac, Croatia
Recently, researchers from the University of California Davis have found the varietal Crljenak Kastelanski (a hybrid of Plavac Mali) flourishing amongst vineyards along the Dalmatian coast in Croatia. Modern genetic analysis has proven that this ancient Croatian grape has the identical DNA structure of what was once thought to be North America's crowning "indigenous" varietal, Zinfandel. Although Plavac is a direct parent in the lineage of Primitivo and Zinfandel, modern viticultural and vinification techniques have altered these relatives drastically.
This bottling is composed of fruit from the Peljesac Peninsula, which extends 40km into the Adriatic Sea. Near constant sunshine beats down on local herbs like rosemary, thyme and oregano which imparts a sweet menthol like herbaceousness and other rugged notes of dried figs, plums and rosehips. In contrast to most wines grown in torrid Mediterranean climates the weight remains rather Gamay-like, lithe & demure, yet retains Plavac's wild edge and distinctive freskina note (scent of the sea) which imparts a finish of nori wrapper, green olives, and sea beans.

2011 Kadarka, "Nagyapam" Eszterbauer, Szeksard, Hungary
Kadarka has a relatively elusive history. Its origins are thought to be of Bulgarian descent, yet the origin remains unknown. It has unfortunately found a home as the anchor to Hungary's insipid jug wine called Bull's Blood. This "gut rot" is consumed by the gallon and usually renders one praying to the porcelain gods. The Eszterbauer's, however, realized the potential of Kadarka and planted multiple clones on different soil types and aspects to prove its mettle. Their crowning achievement "Nagyapam" is an ode to Janos' grandfather and is composed of 9 different Kadarka clones from the oldest parcels of their vineyards. Tradition says drink with roasted goose, but any game bird will do.
All tasting wines are discounted 10% (1-2 bottles) and 20% (3+ bottles) during tasting hours, 5-8pm

This is not new, we just wanted to remind you!