When speaking of Istria, or better said Istrian winemakers, then we usually ponder areas around Poreč, Buje, Momjan and others, but the Labin area does not seem to fit in. This is how it was until now, but luckily is no longer. Someone always needs to go first, so others can follow. In the Labin area this is certainly Vina Romeo.
The creator and still head of this lovely story is the now aging Romeo Licul, and his biggest support is his wife Ana. The love and respect between them does not ebb even after over 50 years of marriage. We enjoyed the time spent with them infinitely; they are people who restore faith in love and family.
The operational part of this story is currently led by their daughter Mirjana and her husband, Robert Paliska. If that name sounds familiar; yes, he is a former footballer for NK Rijeka (and some Greece and Austria later), and that love sticks with him today – Roberto still works as a coach, with kids.
The future of Vina Romeo is certainly Romeo’s granddaughter Antonela and her cousin Marin Petrović, who is completing his oenology studies in Italy and plans to return home. Antonela also has a sister, Roberta, who lives in Zagreb, working as a food technologist.
These hardworking people own an estate of some 40 hectares of land, 8 of it cultivated with vines.
Present varieties included indigenous Malvazija and Teran, as well as Chardonnay, Yellow Muscat, Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon, currently producing fresh wines, without any wooden barrels. Wines are harmonious, rounded, with lovely acids, pure variety characteristics and not overly alcoholic.
The variety found in every Istrian cellar is primarily, of course, Malvazija, which is also the case in their cellar, but the Vina Romeo Malvazija differs slightly from most others.
It does not have the typical flower bouquet, present with many others in modern times. It is different, slightly conservative, but with plenty of character and minerality. It brings back memories of what Malvazija used to be like, but this one is schooled, fine, rounded, drinkable and what is important, each glass yearns for another.
Among the vineyards they also have some old plantations of which they are very proud of, as they are vines which give special quality.
As part of their estate they also have two large apartments which are usually full during the season, so the touristic part is also going well and bringing in its share of income. They plan to expand capacity, build a pool and small cellars with 4-5 tables, in which guests could primarily order Istrian dishes, but plans are not limited to just that. Naturally, these are automatically also sales points for their own wines as they already sell more than half their production on their doorstep, which is best.
These are the basics of the Romeo winery, but the people behind it are the essence. Their wines are a reflection of them. Guests return each year because of them.
A long time ago, while Romeo was still young, it could have been sensed that this would be a family with unbreakable bonds. In those times people ran from former Yugoslavia in any way; Romeo too was packed up, only minutes from going off into the unknown, but then he remembered father and mother. Part of the family was already in America and if he left – who would take care of his parents? He stayed – and never regretted it. It was to be expected that for his children and grandchildren family would come first. It is rare to see a family with so much mutual respect and selfless support, with an unseen optimism.
They are advancing slowly, are modest people and are looking to learn, which is important with winemaking, as technology and expertise must be updated. And yet, each of them has a small world of their own.
Grandfather Romeo has a small flock of Istrian sheep; not that he needs to, but just because.
Roberto has horses, those are his pets.
Mirjana cooks and enjoys it; she dreams of a little cellar by the pool.
Grandma Ana is Romeo’s strength and in those years she doesn’t need to be anything else.
Antonela and Marin, they are the future and I will certainly write more of them.
They are quite different, and yet so homogenous. I cannot recall when I laughed so much in those three days with them; always laughter and joy. This enormous joy and energy is felt by people and this is why they return, a bit for the wine, a bit to stay longer. This family is definitely one big positivity and this is felt in their wines. Wines can be good, superior, poor, wine production can be learned, but this life joy and this attitude – one is born with it.
Grandfather Romeo created an excellent estate. Mirjana and Roberto slowly branded it as Vina Romeo, created a foundation for a tourism story and are still at it, and the entire family has raised wonderful young people and that’s their biggest investment for the future.
Just like many times before, the G.E.T. Report is among the first to visit some new and young winemakers and believe us, you will hear plenty of Vina Romeo, we will write much more about them; there will be more awards, from experts and audience.
If you are in the Labin area and do not visit Vina Romeo, I will doubt your common sense; it would be a grave mistake, but I know people who follow the G.E.T. Report are not wrong. And the team behind Vina Romeo is waiting for you.
For the original and more from the G.E.T. Report, click here.