Friday, December 30, 2011

Report from ... Croatian Wine Dinner at Wildfire - November 3, 2011

Now there are some wine events you go to just for their curiosity factor … and to be honest with you this was one of those evenings.  I can count on one hand the amount of Croatian wine I have tried and would not need many of those fingers to count the memorable ones.  But tonight I find myself at Wildfire Steakhouse at the north end of Toronto with three winemakers from Croatia in attendance … 6 wines are being poured with dinner, two from each winery: Trapan, Matosevic and Saints Hills.

60% of all Croatian vineyards are planted to a grape called Malvasia, a white grape that seems to be the calling card for Croatia, either as a straight varietal or as a blender.

To start the evening we had a selection of passed hors-d’oeuvres along with two wines, a red and white – the white was a Malvasia, while the red would best be described as “just wine” … unfortunately neither was more than average.
Sit down dinner opened with salad

We moved onto the 2nd course which consisted of Pink Grapefruit and Arugula Salad with honey walnut dressing, candied walnuts and goat cheese … this proved not only to be a tasty course but a real delightful pairing with the Matosevic Grimalda White 2009 (*** ½+) a blend of Chardonnay (50%), Malvasia (25%) and Sauvignon Blanc (25%) aged 12 months in French oak.  “Grimalda” is a place located 300m above sea level where the grapes for this wine grow.  Flavours were quite white fruit driven with good mouth-feel and acidity – the wine improved with each sip (which is always a good sign).

Third course was wild mushroom and ricotta ravioli served with another Malvasia based wine, this time the grape made up a majority of the blend (61%) with only Chardonnay as its partner … this one proved to be a little over-ripe and while the first few sips were interesting you found yourself getting tired of the wine quickly.
Beef tenderloin served with Syrah - see pic below

Fourth course was charred beef tenderloin, which gave us a chance to sample some of the heavier reds from the country, one of the wines was an absolutely horrid mess, but the Trapan Syrah Shuluq 2009 (*** ½+) was a real surprise.  15 months in French oak gave this Syrah hints of cinnamon and spice, with raspberry and white pepper and a good acid balance, but there was an abundance of oak here, though it helped with the long elegant finish … this was by far the best wine of the evening.  I heard rumour that the price of this wine was somewhere north of fifty-dollars, which, aside from some of the nasty flavours, was the real drawback of many of the wines we tasted tonight: the price and of course their inaccessibility on wine store shelves.  If the prices come down that will solve one of the problems and maybe will get more people to at least take a chance on these wines …
Best wine of the night


Miquel said...

Good to hear that you had a chance to sample a food and wine pairing from these makers. The Balkan-focused pairings we go to are always enjoyable as most all of these wines quite enjoy food.

One thing though where you say, "60% of all Croatian vineyards are planted to a grape called Malvasia" (or Malvazija as the Istrians spell it) I think they might have been referring to maybe 60% of Istrian vineyards being planted with that grape as all three winemakers have vineyards there. I also seem to recall that 60% figure being tossed around the last time I was in Istria as well.

Over 2/3 of the Croatian wine production is in the interior where Malvazija isn't planted and then there's the southern, Dalmatian region, where they don't grow the Istrian type either.

And yes, except for the Saints Hills, you won't see many of these wines in the US as no importer wants to bring in a $50 Syrah when the market is flooded with so many for less than $10.


Bruno said...

I'm really happy with this article. The only thing is that this is not a 50 dolar wine, probably it would be arround 30 US in the US & Canada market! still i really enjoyed the whole tour we had, we learned a lot and hopefully we will be present more in the coming times!
Thx for this review!
Best wishes for the New year!

Bruno Trapan