A Wine Odyssey

POSTED ON 08/03/2014

Occasionally, but not that often, a wine tasting comes along that not appeals to the palate and the mind, but to the soul too. So it was with ‘The Voyage’, a wine tasting showcasing quality Mediterranean growers’ wines put on by the Theatre of Wine shops with importers Vino Nostro and Eclectic Wines.

I had met Leo Gracin on a visit to Croatia and here was my hero in person. Gracin is a charming winemaker who has done much to revive the fortunes of the native babić grape. By planting afresh in the stony, windswept terraces overlooking the Adriatic at Primošten, he has succeeded in drawing the lifeblood of the grape from unpromising terrain to produce the distinctive 2009 Suha Punta Gracin Babić, £32.80, a red with spicy, floral aromas whose earthy, savoury dark fruit is richly textured.

The hero of Istria based in Croatia’s heart-shaped peninsula was not present at the tasting, but a couple of Moreno Coronica’s wines were. His 2012 Malvazija Istriana, £15, is wonderfully fresh, intense and apricoty with a saline mineral quality that’s mouthwatering from start to finish. Coronica’s tour de force is his terra rossa-based 2008 Teran, £31.80, a bright, vivid red with the most succulent cherry-sweet fruit and damsony freshness imbued with a peppery twist of spice. ‘Teran expresses the Istrian peasant but mine comes from Oxford’, Coronica said when I visited him.

The cross-section of distinctive local Croatian grape varieties at this tasting including pošip and graševina and not least plavac mali, a red Croatian speciality related to zinfandel that adapts well to the rocky hillsides and sunny climate of the Dalmatian coast. It can be powerful and the 2009 Bura-Mgurdić Dingać, £42, from the Pelješac showed just that in its rich, sweetly dried and concentrated, amarone-like fruit, while the 2011 Tomić Plavac Mali from the Island of Hvar, £20.20, is made in a more modern style, all bright, spiced plum and damson fruitiness with elegantly layered, ripe fruit freshness.

After tasting a particularly good pinot noir-based champagne-method rosé from Bulgaria in the 2008 Edoardo Miroglio Metodo Classico Brut Rosé, £16, it was time to catch up with another Mediterranean hero: Haridimos Hatzidakis, aka Harry. Hatzidakis is a grower on the island of Santorini working wonders using the so-called bird’s nest method of vine-pruning (circular, lying low to the ground) for his superb wines.

Best of his whites for me was the 2013 Santorini, around £12.50, Waitrose , Tanners, Vinoteca, Wine Society, made from the assyrtiko grape, a wonderfully mineral, fresh white, almost chablis like in its bone-dry intensity. I loved his red too, the 2010 Mavrotragano, £29, all succulent, bright liquid cherries. Other than stockists mentioned, the wines are available from Theatre of Wine, Greenwich and Tufnell Park; 02034902147, www.theatreofwine.com.

Something for The WeekendSomething for The Weekend

Something for the Weekend 8 March 2014

Night In

2012 El Patito Feo Garnacha Graciano, Navarra

Behind the Ugly Duckling label is a fine swan in this fresh, spicy tinto whose ripe fruit with its blueberry and blackberry flavours is nicely defined and supported by a lively freshness. £8.99, buy 2 = £6.74, Majestic.

Dinner Party

2012 Dolcetto d’Alba, Piemonte, G.D.Vajra

The bright fruit of this charming North-West Italian rosso shows a vivid cherrystone quality before dissolving softly and refreshing with a mouthwatering damson-like nip of acidity. £15.99 - £16.99, Corks of Cotham, Martinez Wines, Sheldon’s Wine Cellars, The Wine Reserve.

Splash Out

2009 Michele Chiarlo Reyna Barbaresco

Fragrant and delicate, the seamless sweet and savoury cherryish fruit of this delicious, super-complex Piedmontese red is supported by the typical backbone of acidity and firm, textured tannins of the region’s nebbiolo grape; drink now or hold. £32.95, Jeroboams shops.


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