Written by: Saša Špiranec
The Istrian wine scene is always on the move. Concentration of quality has been a permanent resident for long, but the distribution of that quality has been changing with year. Once almost all the quality was in the vineyards of a small area near Buje in the very west of Istria where Kozlović, Kabola, Coronica, Degrassi, Matošević, Clai, Veralda, Katunar and many others are located. In other parts of Istria there were only a few first class winemakers, such as Radovan near Višnjan or Arman near Vižinada. Things began to change dramatically a dozen years ago and have been so since.
In southern Istria Meneghetti and Trapan turned up, Dobravac near Rovinj, Agrolaguna in Poreč began to make some of the best Istrian wines in Festigia and Festigia Riserva labels, Roxanich had a vineyard nearby, next to Radovan the Saints Hills winery erected an excellent vineyard where they grow the Nevina, while the largest changes went on in the Motovun area. On a very small area four excellent wineries are located: Benvenuti, Fakin, Tomaz and recently Ipša. Today the Buje area is only one of the wine regions with wines of excellent quality as others have equally good or sometimes even better grapes. The last good news comes from the Poreč area. In Fuškulin, between Poreč and Vrsar, is the Damjanić winery which has for years been producing some of the finest fresh Malvazijas of Istria with an IQ label, as well as some very fine reds based mostly on Merlot and Borgonja. Famous critic Oz Clarke once stated, after tasting Istrian Merlots, that Istria is the second best Merlot terroir in Europe, and he was not wrong.
Merlots in Istria have freshness and balance which is rarely accomplished in other regions, while Damjanić red wines based on Merlot, such as red Clemente, are the best confirmation of such acclaim. Damjanić is a new member of the Istrian wine scene hall of fame. Although present on the market since 2005, only in the past few years he went from a talented to one of the best winemakers of Istria. Last summer at a rating of fresh Malvazijas his was declared the best. The Akacija Malvazija has been for some time in the very top of aged Istrian Malvazijas, and coupages Clemente White and Clemente Red are intelligent wines balanced to perfection, belonging in quality and longevity to wine lists of the most prestigious restaurants. The development path of the Damjanić winery was gradual. Quality rose for years, never faltering.
Experienced piled on, reaching its pinnacle in the past five years. Confirmation came from London recently where two of his wines, Clemente White 2015 and Malvazija IQ 2016, won gold medals and 95 points. It was the International Wine Challenge, probably the strictest competition in the world with multiple and repeated blind tasting of each medal-crowned wine. It is the first great success of a domestic winery in this year, opening a new season of hunting trophies and medals. Both wines also made the final selection for the IWC Trophy, to be held in April of this year.
DAMJANIĆ MALVAZIJA 2016, 65 kn (in the winery), 90/100
A truly perfect Malvazija which will not desist in intensity or savour once past its current adolescent age. The wine is full of taste, seductive minerality, lingering on the palate and tongue long after a sip. It has ripe fruit aromas, with an attractive freshness in the finish. Pure, fine, super balanced classic Malvazija calling for more at the finish. In quality far beyond its category, to remain so for another year or two. Can be enjoyed on its own without a meal, but will present fully with fish such as bream, sea bass or flounder.
DAMJANIĆ CLEMENTE WHITE 2015, 125 kn (in the winery), 93/100
Comes from a harvest which gave numerous large wines in Istria. Composed of 60 percent Malvazija, 30 percent Chardonnay and 10 percent Pinot Blanc. Matured in French barriques for 12 months with a minimum of 6 months more of maturation in the bottles. The wine has a full body and full taste, rounded and rich in the mouth, with an attractive sensation of ripe fruit and fried almonds. Scent is dominated by peaches and tropical fruit, mixed with mildly toasted tones. Long lasting and with a glorious texture marked by fullness and abundance, but not lacking in character or firmness. A great wine.
DAMJANIĆ CLEMENTE RED 2013, 150 kn (in the winery), 91+/100
From a moderate and classic vine growing harvest of 2013, which was not dry and did not give wines of high concentration, but was lovely and harmonious, with plenty of fruitiness and freshness. Composed of 60 percent Merlot, 20 percent Cabernet Sauvignon, 10 percent Teran and 10 percent Borgonja. Has a strong terroir seal such as, for example, Gran Teran by Coronica, with an intense, lively and long taste where acids play a major role, with lots of red berry fruit such as blackberry and blueberry and with a bit more black sour cherry at the end. Firm and ripe tannins, finely smoked finish, with great potential for aging of at least ten years from harvest. An ideal food wine going great with steaks and other juicy, but not overly spicy red meats.
Translated from Jutarnji List.