Blanc Piquentum, 2011 (Istria, Croatia) $20
It’s been a while since a Croatian producer has excited me this much but Piquentum is raising the bar for his neighbors with every vintage. It is a place with a sense of history, now in the hands of Dimitri Brecevic, who was born in the French Basque region to a French mother and Croatian father.
Brecevic studied enology in France, trained at the prestigious Domaine de Chevalier in St. Emilion and traipsed through the world, picking grapes from France to Australia before going to his family homeland in Buzet on the Istrian coast. Since 2004, he has been working in a water cistern when Mussolini ruled the land. The structure served as a war shelter during the Balkans war.
It has a natural cooling system, usually not the least of a problem except for the fact that it is too cold for fermentation to begin without inoculation. Brecevic’s answer for this is to circulate warmer air from outside using a fan to bring the temperature up to a balmy 57 degrees.
At first he purchased grapes but is slowly bringing 11 acres of his own fruit on line. He works organically using a minimal sulphur and copper in the vineyard. The fruit he buys is from organic or truly sustainable growers who pick by hand.
Brecevic gets his Malvasia from an interior vineyard with white, flysch soil that is predominantly stratified sandstone and shale. The fruit was hand harvested, sat on its skins for two days and then the juice was fermented in stainless steel tanks.
In a 2009 interview, he said that he keeps the fermentation temperature lower than others so it would develop over a longer period of time, making it less fragrant on the front end. If you are looking for a Malvasia with acrobatic aromatics, this is not the wine for you. Instead, it has a banana peel aroma with a hint of salinity and pears on the palate. Not subtle, but not flashy; balanced, with complexity and character. 12.8% alcohol
At first it may not impress you but a little aeration might change that. Given where I think this Malvasia is going in the next six to 18 months, I have no issue at all with price and might even say it is going to drink like it is in the $25 – $30 range.