The journey of North Istrian wines swirls between Istria’s traditional and modern views on the centuries’ old tradition of winemaking. Curiously diverse with authentic sorts such as Malvazija (white) or Teran (red), the region features many small wineries each bringing a unique take on the peninsula’s favourites.
The Kabola winery, our first stop, is an authentic Istrian estate with a farm house, endless vineyards and over a 100 years long tradition of winemaking. Founded upon the mastery of Momjan Muskat, sweet white wine made from an indigenous grape variety of the area, Kabola is today best known as the pioneer of Istrian indigenous Malvazija macerated in amphoras (clay vessels) for 7 months, discovering a whole new personality to this traditional sort.
Following a scenic drive, and possibly a tour of the artistic town of Grožnjan or a light lunch in the countryside, we arrive to the Kozlović winery, repeatedly awarded for both its wines and the impressive modern design of the winery. Sitting atop the hidden valley of Vale near historic Momjan, this estate fits perfectly with surrounding landscapes, just like their wines do with almost everyone. Despite their top class takes on local sorts of Malvazija, like the fresh and fruity Valle or rewardingly complex St. Lucia, and Teran, awarded with Decanter 2014 Bronze for the 2012 vintage, Kozlović is still endearingly known as the King of Muskat, for his playful wines made of this grape, truly honouring the peninsula’s authenticity.
Although the first written records of Malvazija cultivation in Istria date from 1891, presumably the sort was brought over much earlier, by Venetian merchants from Greece. Known all over the Mediterranean, and especially so in Italy, this white sort of grapes thrives on the largest Croatian peninsula and has become somewhat of the Istrian wine country’s signature. A gem in many local winery collections, Malvazija is a true summer delight: straw yellow with hints of golden or green, and a unique flower-fruit potential, Malvazija most often features apple, plum and apricot, but can venture all the way to acacia flower fragrances when grapes are grown on sunny hilltops.