Written by Saša Špiranec
There is no middle ground with Babić. It is one of those varieties which give either a mediocre wine of an ultimate experience without a match. We have witnessed this for decades as the popularity and market demand for Babić was never lacking, but the amount of truly good labels could always be counted on one hand. The only constant in the category of superior ones was Gracin’s Babić, the rest had their brief moments, occasional pitfalls, but most often a dull mediocrity. However, the situation is dramatically improving in the past several years. Along came Matošin, and excellent Babić at a moderate price which should be a part of any ambitious wine list, then Prgin with a quite solid wine, and the new brand Testament is promising, from the former vineyard of the famous Kursan brothers, former subcontractors of Vinoplod from Šibenik. The wines mentioned will be part of a larger topic devoted to this variety, but today we want to divert your attention to a completely extraordinary wine, one of those one meets once or twice in a lifetime. The wine is called Markus Franz Ferdinand, a Babić made by passionate enthusiast and perfectionist, Zagreb garage winemaker Danijel Szabo.
The secret to a good Babić is not fruitiness or aroma, characteristics which make many varieties attractive on the market, but in concentration, minerality, depth, polished tannins and lively acids which balance the Mediterranean spirit of the wine. The biggest quality of the Babić variety is the ability to preserve freshness and liveliness in the Mediterranean climate. As if it is naturally immune to being overly ripe and jam-like, characteristic which in warm and dry areas can seriously endanger the balance of Syrah, Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon or even Plavac Mali. The harder the conditions it is grown on, the better the wines coming from Babić. The rough and stingy nature in the Primošten environs, covered in sun-washed rocks, with periodic and jealously guarded pockets of soil, is in fact perfect for Babić. We cannot see a better purpose for this piece of land on Earth than to harbour this special variety. On the other hand, when it is relocated to more fertile fields to raise yield, it loses its unique character. When tamed by being strung up and schooled, its depth and intensity pale into mediocrity. In its true and only homeland, where it offers the most, the micro cosmos of the Primošten wine region, there are positions more special than others. One of such is Podgreben, a one hundred year old vineyard planted in 1914 and dedicated to the death of heir to the Austro-Hungarian throne Franz Ferdinand.
The vineyard, after a full century of offering fruit to the family which planted it and managed to retain ownership, it still bears grapes with special characteristics. Old vines are rooted in the karst and cracks in the stone hundreds of meters deep, extracting nutrients from those depths when there are none anywhere else. Huddled into a bush during hot summers, its large and thick leaves hide form the sun only three to four grape clusters, the most they can bear in such conditions.
The quality of the grapes is unparalleled, the pure essence of Babić which Danijel Szabo flawlessly recognized, bought off, specially selected and prepared only three hundred bottles of unforgettable terroir wine from it, from vines whose branches were cut since 1914 until today with the same Austro-Hungarian scissors with an engraved year, by several generations of the same family. What is inside this bottle is not only one of the best red wines of Dalmatia in history, but also living history, witness of life and death of generations, fruit of love of caring people and good farmers. A unique experience.
MARKUS FRANZ FERDINAND BABIĆ 2015, price 1.099 kn (in the winery), rating 96+/100
The highest rating we have every given a dry red Croatian wine ever. Although harvested in 2015, there are many years ahead of this wine, probably even decades of life. It is an exceptional sample of wine of collectionist value which we expect to be at its best in 3 to 5 years. It was tasted alongside other recent Babić wines which it overshadowed so much in quality that we will repeat the tasting soon in more egalitarian conditions, with similar wines, which won’t seem as thin cousins of this perfection. It is adorned by concentration and depth, black cherry is the dominant fruit, with fine smoke and Mediterranean cherry in the background. Tannins are firm, but ideally polished, acids are lively, but moderate, balance between fullness and liveliness ideal, lingering is measured in minutes, and the aftertaste is intense and lively, completely dry, with an impression of coarse and salty minerality in the finish. Drink it with aged steaks or only with ripe and salted cow cheese, in the evening, in the company of those who can appreciate fine wine as much as you can.
Translated from Jutarnji List, for the original click here.