The Italians named their hilly area in the northeast, known for excellent white wines, simply - Collio. Or, translated - hills. In the Rovinj area, however, there aren’t any large hills, only practically one hill. But not just any hill, from its peak at only 100 metres from sea level the view stretches to Rovinj and Rovinj islands on one side and Brijuni islands on the other. Young wine maker Juraj Mastilović this was enough to play with the Latin language and name his farm, as well as the winery, simply - Collis. Hill!
“Our vineyards, and the entire farm, are literally on the highest hill in the Rovinj area and we turned this fact into the name of the winery. It’s no special height, compared to vineyards that are at much higher altitudes we almost aren’t on a hill, but this one is only 500 metres from the sea, you get the feeling that you can jump from the hill into the sea and that’s why it’s different. You can smell the sea, always a breeze, not a lot of moisture... And in the vineyards we use natural compost from our cows, we don’t add any industrial products, everything is done by hand,” Juraj tells his wine story which is among the youngest in Istria.
Juraj and his family opened the farm, near the Kokuletovica village, 300 metres of gravel road from the main road between Rovinj and Bale, to the public on July 1, 2016, and the first wines - Cuvee, a coupage of Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon from 2014 and a Terrano and Malvasia from 2015, were bottled just recently.
“This is only our first tourism year. We began with small quantities, but with superior quality. We are currently distributing only in the Rovinj area, mostly selling at our doorstep, as many guests come to the farm. Some come only for the donkey milk and then decide on the wine, others come for the olive oil and also happen upon the wine, as they did not expect it. And when they see the animals...”
Juraj does not needlessly mention the animals which are the first to come into sight as you enter the farm. There are donkeys, Istrian cows, until recently also a Boškarin bull, while three Bassets will incessantly run around you, the guardians of the estate.
“The Bassets mostly fight with wild boar who come to the vineyard and start fights. We had to take one to the vet, he was all torn and bloody, the second entered a badger’s hole, the third was bitten by a viper, lots of events. With them we don’t need any alarm, as they are always barking and reporting movement. They are family members, we’ve had them forever, three litters with eight each, entire Rovinj and Pula have our Bassets,” Juraj says.
At the Collis farm, completely fenced with Istrian stone, the feeling of an Istrian village transformed into a Noah’s Ark is completed by Tonka, Mara, Kika, Tina, Nina, Leo and Dalmatian, donkeys who have an entire hectare of space just for themselves, with another soon to be deforested for them. They will then be joined by Viola, Galiarda and Tele1, Istrian cows... At the location of the current cow stable, apartments will appear.
“That way, besides us who live here, this ambience will be enjoyed day and night by our guests!”
When Juraj’s father, famous Rovinj lawyer Mirko Mastilović, bought the land in 1988, his intention was to relieve some stress and escape from the town to solitude, at least for the weekend. He had no idea the entire Mastilović family life could someday move to “the hill.”
“Not to mention thinking about the entire land cultivated and enriched with content that, by the reactions of numerous visitors and guests, truly is impressive. In the beginning only a hectare was spruced up for the estate, everything else was a forest. Then we built a house, gradually moved in and began living here, and then step by step the farm began to get a completely new look. It is a huge job, especially when I remember that the area around the house was an incredible five hectares. Today we have over 500 olive trees, offer donkey milk to guests and when we soon complete the terrace on top of the hill we will organise wine tastings and look all the way to Italy and the Alps!”
But that’s not all; hidden among the flowers, on the way to the top of Collis lies an old, red Fiat, made by Zastava in Yugoslavia, in which Juraj and his brother learned their driving skills, bought be their father since it’s “better to learn on a Fiat than on a motorcycle.” That’s how it was, Juraj began driving it with 12 years, creating in wintertime, when there was no traffic, large, dense clouds of dust on gravel roads nearby. The Fiat was not discarded, just put away, maybe the family tradition of driving practice in the old-timer will be continued some day...
Juraj approached wine production passionately. For the Cuvee, with 75 percent Merlot and 25 percent Cabernet Sauvignon, he will say it was aged in used barrels of American medium burned oak, while rating the Terrano as “fresh and quite fruity, no tannins and high acids, also not bitter - drinkable enough, served chilled.” For the Malvasia, from which “we don’t want another Sauvignon Blanc,” he will begin to use the first indigenous Istrian yeast, not hiding his pride of the Malvasia Rustica, with only 50 litres and note for sale. Malvasia Rustica will surely become the jewel of any enophiliac who gets his chance to taste the wine!
“Honestly, I rarely show the Malvasia Rustica, only offering a taste to those I rate are looking for something more. It’s a Malvasia we boiled, with a total of 20 days on grapes. Spontaneous fermentation, all natural, from the 2015 harvest, done the old fashioned way, but is more rounded than other Malvasias. Malvasia as it used to be,” so described it Juraj.
I would add the Malvasia Rustica probably wouldn’t pass any serious wine rating, it’s full of acid vapours, smells of glue, but - it is contagious! Will the story of Malvasia Rustica be continued or is this only Juraj’s youthful attempt at recalling a better past of wine Istria, will be seen soon. I think he liked the idea...
Juraj is a passionate footballer, played for Rovinj, now wearing the jersey of nearby Bale. This fact I mention as a sporadic footnote to Stancija Collis, as there are so many things to talk about there - wine, animals, cars, football, olive growing, donkey milk... Or maybe, Swiss Franc loans? As Juraj’s father Mirko, lawyer and former judge, was the first in Croatia to see a full judgment against a bank for overpaid interest per a Swiss Franc loan. It was in the summer of 2014, around the same time when the last preparations for the first harvest were underway in the vineyards of Stancija Collis...
For the original and more from the Vinske Priče blog on wine, click here.