Croatian Winemakers – Goran Josipović: Our Graševina and Pinot Gris Sparklings Play Jazz and Dance Tango

By , 04 Feb 2018, 14:09 PM Croatian Wine Producers
Croatian Winemakers – Goran Josipović: Our Graševina and Pinot Gris Sparklings Play Jazz and Dance Tango Source: Wine Stories

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While Goran and Gordana affectionately called their sparkling Golden, not all shared their exhilaration with a sparkling matured for 24 months on its own yeasts

“We live in Požega and two years ago we realized that in the town our cellar is located in nobody knows we produce a sparkling wine! We put up a jumbo ad and invite locals to try – Slavonian sparkling. Feedback was such that in December, when all the stores are bustling with those cheap carbonated wines sold as sparklings, we sold 500 bottles to people who had never heard or seen us before. They were probably impressed by the name “Slavonian sparkling.” Just like, I believe, they had no idea we used that title on purpose opposing those who did not believe in our life story. We were determined to show that Slavonia has something to compete with – sparklings. And we made it! However, it was never our goal nor did we want to make a Slavonian copy of a champagne but something definitely ours, a sparkling from a variety considered at home in Slavonia. Sparkling from Graševina!”

These are the words of Goran Josipović, the first sparkling winemaker form the Golden Valley who decided to upgrade the wine tradition of his region with something never dreamt of even under high alcohol content. True, since recently a Graševina sparkling is available from the gigantic Kutjevo, but 14 years ago, when Goran and his wife Gordana came to the Graševina Festival to boast of their master’s thesis – the first ever produced Graševina sparkling, the reaction of the public, but of most of the wine world colleagues, were in the least suspicious.

“You’re nuts!”
“When did you hear of sparkling wine in Slavonia?”
“If something is a complete fail, then it is your story of Slavonian sparklings!”

However, Goran and Gordana did not want to cave under pressure. Yes, on one hand they faced a great fear, deciding to enter a story no one in their home region wanted to hear of. On the other hand, all these reactions were additional motivation for them, first-rate challenge, as it is not easy to do something no one shows support or understanding for. At the time when they began producing Graševina sparkling, their colleagues all waved their hands at the notion of pearling, as the Golden Valley held a unique opinion that – it is not wine!

The two of them young, without any previous wine experience, in an area where sparkling is synonymous with a flight to Mars, they decided to brand themselves as sparkling producers from a variety no one before used in such a way!”

“Someone has to be first, things have to start somewhere! It just takes a bit of courage, love for pearls and – a desire for something different. Why do we need another Chardonnay sparkling,” said Goran and Gordana.

The life and wine story of Goran and Gordana are almost a synonym for making dreams come true. They even met at the vineyard of Gordana’s father in Bektež, where Goran, a student in Zagreb without any plantations in his home in Nova Gradiška, decided to come purchase Graševina to make a sparkling from. He wanted to buy only grapes, but it seems his simplicity and honesty “bought” Gordana as well! He could not presume at the time, but it was those two cartons of the first ever Graševina sparkling, Goran’s master thesis, that would be the main wine at their wedding!

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“The topic of my thesis was ‘Sparkling Production in Classic Method.’ I always considered sparkling production interesting, but also complicated, so I constantly questioned - could I do something like that. In the beginning I took sparklings as a challenge. And when we produced our first sparkling, which was quite good, we continued for years to make 100-200 bottles for ourselves, only to go into serious sparkling production five years ago,” Goran said.

For comparison, Goran and Gordana today produce around 6.000 bottles of sparkling wines, and are practically the only serious sparkling producers in Croatia’s east!

“I am glad Goran was persistent and did not want to give up on his dream. We realized in time one cannot give up on their idea and must persevere in the road ahead. In time we came to some new knowledge and our sparklings became even better. After some time the winemakers who probably forgot they wanted to talk us out of this story, came and said they want to try their hand in sparkling production. This is the greatest recognition we could ever have. Based on our sparkling experience and the stance of people towards our idea we could write a book on the change of time and human habits. My dad, for example, admits it himself, he was our strongest critic in the beginning, and he has completely changed his opinion. We often find him in a situation of explaining to customers the secrets of sparkling wine, and he is brilliant in clarifying the price which, considering ‘how many times bottles must be rotated by hand and how much attention sparkling wine demands in the cellar’ – is too small,” said Gordana.

Just like in 2016 they notified locals of their existence in Požega with a jumbo ad, in December of 2017 they surprised their fellow townsmen with a new ad. It explains they Graševina Sparkling will from now on be known as – Jazz.

“The ad is dominated by a saxophone, a glass ad bottle of the Golden Sparkling and the sign – ‘Music in the Glass!’ Considering our son plays the saxophone, my wife and I adore jazz as music for the best musicians, and we personally strive to be just as good in winemaking, the name Jazz came naturally. As students we had good wine with good music in any situation and that proved an ideal combination. When our son decided to, without our help, to enrol into music school and choose the saxophone, it was a fantastic feeling. We already had golden Graševina at home, then came a golden instrument, it was time for a Golden Sparkling named Jazz to become our family story!”

While Goran and Gordana affectionately called their sparkling Golden, due to the fantastic golden color especially evident in the clear bottle, not all shared their exhilaration with a sparkling matured for 24 months on its own yeasts. In fact, some wine critics did not like their Graševina sparkling at all. But Goran and Gordana did not want to compromise. They decided to remain true to their idea and bend under criticism, as they say “most do like our sparkling!”

Not everything went easy for Goran and Gordana, they had to build their story upon their own experience. There was no price at which they would change their basic idea of Graševina as the raw material. Yet, they had to compromise in adding some Rhine Riesling to Graševina, as Graševina gave a good body and aromas, but did not have enough acids.

“We literally learned to make Graševina sparkling on our own mistakes, there were spills too, but every novelty and test we did on small quantities, around 20 bottles, so failure with such small amounts could never be called catastrophic. A serious series would begin only when we would specify the production procedure, then mistakes are not allowed. I believe the problem in such an approach is the fact that no one before has taken to scientifically elaborating the compete process of making Graševina sparkling. Sparkling production is like wine production, 70 percent is general knowledge, but 30 percent are secrets which can cause everything to go in a good or bad direction. And to overcome those secrets, people need to get into sparkling production and experiment. And that’s an ongoing process which does not give answers in a year! Especially since with sparklings the road from harvest to market takes up to three years… To be more illustrative, it can be compared to a large winery employing one person to deal only with sparklings which would logically be up for serious production in ten years! It’s a tough school which we painstakingly passed, but we now have a product which we find satisfactory and most our customers do too. As far as I now, no one before went into Graševina sparkling production. I now know of Kutjevo, but they produced it after us!”

But the story of the Golden Graševina Sparkling, or Jazz, is not the only reason for true wine lovers to adore this winery. Goran and Gordana claim they are original in Croatia by the Brut Rose sparkling from briefly macerated Pinot Gris. Which will in the future be called – Tango!

“Both Jazz and Tango confirmed our expectations based on the estimate that varieties proved fantastic as still wines must be a good base for sparkling wine! As we perfected the process through some ten years of playing around and finally arrived at sparklings we wanted, now we could finally identify ourselves with them and call them names which show who is behind the,. We already explained Jazz, and tango is simply a dance Gordana and I are in love with. We love to dance, and consider tango the best. And this Brut Rose, this Tango, will only be additional motivation for Gordana and I to attend a dancing school in Zagreb and finally make ourselves learn it. Dancing was always something close to us. We understood every wedding invitation as a dancing invitation and it is hard to imagine any event with a dance floor in the Požega area or beyond which we don’t go to. Just like we don’t miss any concerts in Požega, Slavonski Brod, Osijek, even Zagreb, which we also visit for the cinemas, something missing from Požega.”

Recently their little daughter, upset over some decision he made, snapped at him: “You know nothing, except make that beer of yours!” For Goran and Gordana, it seems, the toughest mission at home is – to explain to kids the difference between beer and wine…

Translated from Wine Stories.

Croatian Winemakers

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There are more than 2,600 registered winemakers in Croatia, a phenomenal number for such a small country. The majority of these are not commercial, and produce for their own needs, but more than 500 winemakers are registered to sell their wines. The range of winemaker in Croatia is as diverse as the grape selection - from large coopertives to small family producers - and the personalities are egos provide many a colourful story.

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