Istriana Malvazija / Malvasia
7th June 2022
Not on the tip of everyone’s tongue is (Republic of) Croatia when it comes to sparkling wine, relatively unknown and most certainly a missed place on the map by many. A country that borders four others and enjoys a long uninterrupted coastline along the Adriatic Sea. A total population of 4,063,909 as of Sunday, February 2022 spanning 56,594 square kilometres, the capital being Zagreb and it is famed for its UNESCO-listed tourism hotspots. Its history can be traced back to prehistoric times, Croatia was settled in the 7th century by the Croats – Christianity leads the country’s beliefs and its 2,715 hours of annual sunshine can be enjoyed alongside 1,777 km of amazing coastline.
Croatia holds many culinary delights from cured meats, hams and salamis to cheese, from goulash to Mješanomeso (mixed grill). Its host of village food markets, many along the coastline, gives it plentiful seafood delights that make up many local dishes mostly with octopus, squid, fish, mussels, and shrimp.
We mustn’t be overly surprised that any and each country these days are producing sparkling wines, especially those set within the 30th and the 50th degree of latitude, in both the Northern and Southern hemispheres including those slightly outside. Croatia for wine professionals is a delight for wine production though for consumers and those just entering the world of wine it will be a somewhat unknown and untasted country. It is said that grape growing and wine production has a near 4,000 year history in Croatia – Today, the tradition of winemaking is still going strong. Croatia has over 300 wine producing regions, clustered into 4 main geographical areas – the Croatian Uplands, Slavonia/Croatia Danube, Istria/Kvarner and Dalmatia. The differing climates and terrains between the 4 regions produce more than 130 indigenous grape varietals and distinct styles of wine (source total Croatia news).
One of the main regions is the Istria (and Kvarner) which is located at the northern / western tip of the country beneath Slovenia’s 47km of Adriatic Sea coastline. This wine region sees mostly Malvazija, Muškat (white wines) and Teran, Merlot (red wines). Croatia sees only a small production of sparkling wine with over 90% being still wines and less than 5% being sparkling wine.
Istria sees a wonderful wine growing climate with both warm and cool Mediterranean Sea breeze, Alpine freshness during the night and a dry climate aiding disease reduction. Many wineries will be along the coastline and enjoying the red soil terroir with white soil types being more prominent inland. The coastline, one of the main tourist attractions in Croatia, holds an impressive 1,246 islands and islets.
Malvasia (Istriana) is a grape (old world) variety popular within the Istrian Peninsula which produces larger sized berries which then turn green-yellow to full golden in the warmest locations. Flavour characters include floral, blossom, white / yellow stone fruits, mineral, almond. It is a popular choice for local restaurants white wine menu lists and is a recommended choice to pair with seafood and pasta dishes.
Malvazija, which is Malvasia in Croatian, leads us to this article and the discovery of three fine award winning sparkling wines which we discovered via the 2021 Glass of Bubbly Awards in London.
Istriana Prestige 2015 Extra Brut (Silver Medal ‘Gastronomic‘ at the 2021 Glass of Bubbly Awards) – Tasting notes: “Grapes: Chardonnay 20% Istrian Malvasia 80%. Soft yellow floral, citrus, honey on the nose along with hints of toast, croissant and honeysuckle. Toasty, kiwi, yellow fruits and citrus at the close. Refreshing, clean, clear and elegantly produced.”
Istriana Trois Extra Brut (Trophy ‘Oaky & Toasty‘ at the 2021 Glass of Bubbly Awards) – Tasting notes: “Grapes: Malvasia Istriana. Toast, powdered almonds, coffee, dried yellow stone fruits on the nose. Great depth, great quality. Initially toasty (burnt) then drier style comes in with minerals and citrus. Good acidity. Fine dining / gastronomical wine.”
Istriana Terroir 2015 Brut Nature (Gold Medal ‘Oaky & Toasty‘ at the 2021 Glass of Bubbly Awards) – Tasting notes: “Grapes: Chardonnay 20% Istrian Malvasia 80%. Burnt toast, dried apricot on the nose. Flavours are Marmalade on toast initially – WOW! Saline towards the end.“
Co-founder of Glass of Bubbly. Journalist and author focused on Champagne & Sparkling Wines and pairing them with foods.