The high quality of Istrian wines is achieving an increasingly wider audience. The wine fair VINISTRA, held annually in Porec every May, together with the World of Malvasia, under the same auspices, held a couple of weeks before, does much to focus on just how many top quality wine producers there are in Istria.
The fair is held over three days, which is just long enough to get around the hundred and twenty stands, mostly from Istria but with some Dalmatian and Slovenian visitors.
The importance of Vinistra is born out by the appearance of both the Prime Minister, Tihomir Orešković and President, Kolinda Grabar-Kitarović at the opening ceremony and who continued to visit many of the exhibitors and enjoy their wines. Certain exhibitors were noticably worried at the thought of meeting these exalted personalities, but they needn't have worried. Good wine conquers all ! Dr Caroline Gilby, the internationally recognised Master of Wine, headed the awards jury.
Whilst the fair showcases the many grapes grown in Istria, the popular indigenous Malvasia and Istrian Teran were in the majority. Vina Fakin from Motovun got the award for the best young Malvasia, as well as picking up another eight gold medals for their various Terans and Muškat žuti. The neighbouring Vina Tomaz secured a well deserved gold medal for their Teran Barbarosa 2013 as well as for their 2015 Merlot. Merlots also brought gold medals for Legovina, Fiore, Marijan Arman, Bruno Ferenac and San Tommaso. It was a good show for Terans, with gold medals for Geržinić, Benvenuti, Cattunar and thirteen others.
Red cuvees brought gold for Kozlovic's Santa Lucia Crna, as well as for Damjanić's Duuro Istriano and Pino Rossi's Bocca Rosso Cuvee, to name just three.
Geržinić's Teran Rose got them a gold, as did Korado Jakac's Rose Elison. Geržinić's 2015 Sauvignon did the same.
Degrassi's Syrah Reserva 2011 got them a gold.
Chardonnays were well represented, with Medea, Košeto, Marijan Arman and Pilato all securing gold medals and many others getting silver medals.
Benvenuti's superb Corona Grande easily got a gold, as did their 2011 Muškat San Salvatore that I enjoyed with the Vinistra Gourmet lunch dessert on Sunday.
Ritoša from Porec got the highest score of the three golds for Cabernet Sauvignon.
With so many superb wines at the show, this is just a snapshot. There were many other gold and silver medal winners. There were also interesting newcomers, like Domaine Koquelicot, one of two Istrian winemakers with French connections, who does interesting Chardonnays and Malvasias.
Of the many gold medals awarded for Malvasias, which are judged seperately at the prior World of Malvasia competition, Cattunar got the highest score, with Vina Deklić not far behind, although the points for the golds for many of Istria's better known names were so close as to make it difficult to seperate them. The World of Malvasia isn't just about Istrian wine and wines from Slovenia, Italy and even as far away as Lanzarote were well received.
It being Istria, which this year received the accolade for producing the finest olive oil in the world in the internationally respected Flos Olei listings, there were also olive oils being judged and Marko Geržinić proved that he doesn't just make good wine, as he got a gold for that, as well.
Istria isn't just about wine and olive oil, quite apart from its myriad physical attributes. It is also about some of the finest food in Europe.
Each year, Vinistra hosts a gourmet dining opportunity, for which prior booking is necessary. This is a real bargain, as four course meals, prepared this year under the supervision of three different excellent chefs, accompanied by a different wine for each course, were available for just Kns100.
Friday's lunch was organised by Vinko Frian, the chef at Stancija Kovačići from Matulji.
Vina Tomaz's 2015 Rose accompanied turkey liver pate with onion chutney and sausage made from the indigenous Istrian Boskarin cattle. It was followed by something similat to samosa, stuffed with veal and a puree of cauliflower and asparugus. Fakin's 2015 Malvasia went well with it. For the main course we had some tender Boskarin skirt, slow cooked,with aromatic polenta, that paired beautifully with Benvenuti's robust 2012 Teran. Dessert was a very pretty cream of semolina and orange and it matched perfectly with Gerzinic's 2014 Muskat. Everything was beautifully presented.
There were different menus on the Saturday and Sunday. Sunday's was from Navis at Opatija.
The wines from Kozlovic, Benvenuti and Pilato made it a very enjoyable experience on the final day.