On the Third Day of Croatian Vino…
With today’s wine tasters in tow, we headed on foot to one of my fave little restaurants, Lari and Penati on Petrinjska. We found our table and I ordered the wine that I planned on putting under today’s spotlight, only to find out that it was sold out. Tom, who runs the show, rotating roles as the owner, the DJ and all-things front of house shrugged his shoulders and offered up the short but concerted wine list so I could make an alternate selection. But I was set on tasting Roxanich’s new release, Ines u Bijelom 2008, or “Ines in White.”
This particular wine pulled me into its clutches long ago, prior to the first release, when the only way to taste it was from a barrel sample at their winery in Istria’s Nova Vas. These samples proved to be quite varied, depending on the time and even day, perhaps. And the concept is an uncommon one, at best: ferment all different sorts of grapes (7 varietals, to be exact) together, whole cluster, with Roxanich’s trademark prolonged maceration. Then see what happens.
The result has been fantastic, and while I’m often a purist when it comes to wine, and I also have a thing for championing indigenous varietals from their home lands, there is something so intrinsically likeable about this wine that I had to retract my preconceived notions. The chosen varietals are interesting, and proximally-close indigenous, as most of them are from neighboring Italy. But the question loomed large, would we get to taste and talk about this wine today, with this company I invited for this sole purpose?
The problem, it turned out, was easily solved with a quick text message to my friend, Mato. He’s often seen as the face of Roxanich Winery, running winery tours, sales and marketing, international promotions, and even delivery guy (in a pinch). I quickly relayed our quandary and he soon responded that he’d be by with a delivery. Wipe the sweat off my brow, order some starters, and we’re off to a decent start.
The group today was one I was excited to taste wine with. We’re all members of the International Women’s Club, and today this wine and lunch date followed our monthly general meeting. Naomi and Orli are from Israel, Maria’s from Greece, and Renata is Croatian. We’d have a global palate coming together today to chat this wine up.
Orli and I originally bonded when she came on one of my wine tours through Italy. Originally having pitched it to her husband as a “photography trip,” she became a wine lover in no time flat. She snapped all the shots you’ll see today, and she’s a great amateur photographer. Orli does everything in life her own way, and is hands down one of the most well-loved women I have ever met. And while I’m pretty sure she’s not always trying to be funny, she seriously says some of the funniest shit ever.
About 30 minutes later Mato arrives bearing boxes of wine. These savvy chicas are ready to delve into some wine conversation, and immediately the conversation turns to the color of the wine, which is a cloudy marigold color. Naomi compares it to a wine a few of us tasted yesterday, a Slovenian wine by Prinčič, one which they were on the fence about and I loved. It too was an unfiltered white wine which appeared to have been through a prolonged maceration period. Orli comments that she can smell the flowers. And the bees. And feel the car driving up the hill to the vineyard. Huh? I’m not sure what the hell she’s talking about but she’s got me laughing.
The topic then switches to the label, and the name of this wine. Roxanich’s chief winemaker (and owner) Mladen named this wine for his wife, Ines. Likewise, their Chardonnay bears Mato’s wife’s name, Milva. While we’re all dreamy about the idea that someone would name a wine after us, Renata snaps us back to reality by quipping that it’s much better than someone naming their damn dog after you. Indeed.
We go on to laugh and enjoy our wine and lunches.
I met Maria last year when she signed up to take my Wine Basics and Beyond course. She was also a regular in my Wednesday Wine Sessions and also came on the “Italy by Storm” wine trip with her husband, Giorgos. She loves her some sweet wine, and also has a keen appreciation for rosé. But in this past year she’s branched out quite a bit and enjoys a full range of different styles of wine. She really likes this Ines in White.
Then Renata makes a good point. She says that she thinks “you really have to learn to like this wine,” and that the color is a bit confusing, “it’s almost like drinking a red without the color.” I agree and try to see it from this perspective. While I’ve been interested in this category of “orange” wines as they’re dubbed, for some people they’re still quite strange. And people who are especially used to drinking Croatian wines that are really ripe, fresh and fruity, this wine is the opposite, tending toward dried apricot and bitter orange, with some nice spice tones, including cardamom and clove. It’s a totally different animal. Naomi finds it to be powerful, a quality not everybody likes in their wine. Maria agrees but notes that it doesn’t have strong tannins and she also mentions that it’s great with her meal of pork chops and figs.
But Maria has the last word, and maybe this last statement sums it up best: “… I don’t know, it’s just good.”