Posts Tagged Croatia

Neither Welsh Nor Riesling, Part 2: Spring Green

11 May 2011

In honor of spring, we feasted on a wonderfully green, satisfying meal of pearl barley risotto with zucchini, mushrooms and fresh basil and a side of roasted asparagus and ramps. To match, I searched for the greenest thing in my wine collection, which turned out to be a 2009 Iločki Podrumi Welschriesling.

The Iločki Podrumi winery lies on the right bank of the Danube near Ilok, the easternmost town of Croatia. Romans manning the local fortress likely maintained vineyards here, and wine certainly factored into the economy by the time the 15th-century “Old Cellar” was built. Capable of aging up to a million liters of wine, the Old Cellar reached the pinnacle of its fame when it supplied approximately 11,000 bottles of wine to the coronation celebrations of Elizabeth II.

(According to Decanter, William and Kate served Pol Roger Champagne at their reception, as I’m sure you’re all deeply curious to know.) (more…)

Iron Maiden

9 May 2011

Many people think of Teran, when they think of it at all, as a varietal, which it is, except when it isn’t.

Officially, Teran can only be grown in iron-rich terra rossa, the karst soils found in specific sections of northeastern Italy, Slovenia and Istria. “Teran” grapes grown elsewhere are merely Refosco (or Refošk). Teran then, by definition, is not just a varietal but an expression of its terroir.

I’d sampled some Slovenian Terans when I visited a few years ago, and honestly, I didn’t like them very much. They may very well have been well-crafted wines, but the notes of iron simply didn’t agree with me. I feel the same way about Bleu, Stilton and Gorgonzola cheeses — however lovingly and artisinally made they may be, I can’t get over the moldy taste. It’s a flaw, I know, but what can I do?

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Correction!

6 May 2011

I recently wrote a post about the 2009 Belje Welschriesling, and my description of the wine concerned the distributor. He thought the bottle I tasted must have been corked.

He provided another bottle for me to taste, and I discovered that he was quite right: The first bottle had indeed been tainted. In retrospect, I should perhaps have realized that notes of “aged cheddar” were not meant to appear in the nose.

I so rarely encounter a corked bottle that it hadn’t even occured to me at the time. Cork taint, according to Wikipedia, occurs in only 1.5% to 7%  of bottles, depending on whether you trust the cork industry or Wine Spectator. (The cork industry is at pains to point out that “cork taint” can also be caused by affected barrels.)

While I certainly didn’t dislike the first bottle of Belje Welschriesling, this uncorked second bottle tasted much better. (more…)

Neither Welsh Nor Riesling: Part 1

18 April 2011

Please also see the updated review of this wine here. The bottle described in this post was corked.

Welschriesling is a confusing varietal, in that it has nothing whatsoever to do with the sweeter, more famous Riesling. And, perhaps less surprisingly, it did not originate in the sunny vineyards of Wales.

All my sources agree that this high-yielding white varietal dates back to ancient times, but there the agreement stops. Some simply call the origin a “mystery,” but others conjecture a Roman or Eastern European ancestry. Now mostly grown in Central Europe, this varietal — especially in the hands of a thoughtful winemaker — can produce some very intriguing wine.

Continuing my Balkan explorations, I sampled a 2009 Belje Welschriesling from Podunavlje, in the far northeast of Croatia. In his weighty tome Wine, André Dominé encouragingly asserts that “The best Graševina grapes come from the area around Kutjevo in the northeast.” (Note: Graševina is the Croatian name for Welschriesling.)

Belje, a  winery dating back to 1697, has earned numerous awards for its Welschriesling, and Robert Parker’s Wine Advocate awarded the 2009 vintage an impressive 90 points, noting “hints of pineapple, water cress and apricot on the nose” and “vibrant fruit of dried apricot.”

I must admit I was a bit surprised when I took a whiff of the greenish-gold wine and smelled…not pineapple. (more…)

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