A man must always do something, as only that way his work gets noticed, commented briefly Kutjevo wine maker Vlado Krauthaker the appearance of a brandy with is signature, the newest creation from his nearly 700.000 litre wine production. But, in order for his brandy to be more than just one of the distilled products on the market, Krauthaker made sure not everyone can afford it. In fact, Krauthaker’s brandy is by far the most expensive Croatian hard liqour, with a half litre bottle costing, in his cellar, nearly 500 Kuna!
If nothing else, Krauthaker uses the high price level to avoid his brandy from being mentioned in the context of cheap hard liquor that has degraded the name of this noble drink.
“If done properly, a brandy is the noblest hard liquor. We aim for a long aging in wood, with this one contained for 10 years in oak barrels,” said Vlado Krauthaker comparing his brandy with the most appreciated brandies with the XO label, which in the French label system means extra old brandy.
In price too, he claims, it is on par with such old brandies from their homeland in the La Charente region, around the town of Cognac, where French masters had the idea to use bitter grapes to make a protected drink that would carry the fame of France throughout the world.
“I have long wanted to start brandy production, from the time when I worked in Kutjevo cellars. Some time ago in Kutjevo cellars there was a project due to begin in the 1980s in partnership with the renown French distillery Camus. There was even some brandy created and I participated as a young enologist. With the death of legendary Ivan Jambrović, then the manager of Kutjevo cellars, that project fell through and no one tried to renew it later,” recounted Vlado Krauthaker.
He thought of brandy production when pondering how to enrich the offer of his winery. He is not a fan of sparkling wines and never wanted to go into the production of such drinks, but to be first and best in the production of a Croatian brandy was a challenge from his youth which he finally got around to.
“For this brandy I like to say it is a project I worked on with the Faculty of Agronomy in Zagreb, with my main associate professor Pavica Tupajić. Together we toured France in order to procure alembic, a distillation machine, but we failed due to high prices unreachable to me at the time. So my first brandy series, amounting to 2.000 half litre bottles, was distilled at the Šimić family in Požega, the renown producers of fruit brandies, especially the pear version Viljamovka, while the second series was distilled in Zvečevo. This doesn’t mean we have given up on our own machines.”
For Vlado Krauthaker a brandy is the logical by-product that goes with wine and for him it is the highest level of quality any hard liquor can achieve.
“Maybe I should make another hard liquor such as Komovica, but I’m not very interested in that. Brandy is currently my biggest challenge, and how would a man work if he didn’t have challenges that would enrich his efforts and later, eventually be used commercially. This brandy is already well received, while the high price was necessary due to the size of the project - I wanted a price that would guarantee complete cost effectiveness, regardless of when it sells. This brandy already has its buyers. French cognacs gained large competition around the world, there are more and more good distilled products especially in eastern countries such as Armenia or Georgia, while I recently heard of a very good Turkish brandy. And then there is Spain...”
As a basis for brandy production Vlado Krauthaker used seven different grapes varieties.
“I went into brandy production in a way that is slightly unusual in the preparation of the very young wine that is the basis for brandy production. In fact, we first did a green harvest, when there is 7-9 percent alcohol in the grapes, with this brandy made from seven sorts whose main definition was that they were not aromatic, such as Graševina or Zelenac and some red sorts,” said Vlado Krauthaker.
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