This week my brother (a seller of mortgage-backed securities) left for his first trip outside the United States. He is now in Croatia, homeland of his wife Ana. And last night, Daniel Pedisich, an importer of Croatian wine, himself of Croatian descent, arrived at the restaurant with a selection of his selections. A former worker in software, Daniel is now full-time importer and is finding growing interest in wine from this part of the world, where the locals have long stuck to their own varieties and winemaking styles.
Along with the many things I learned last night about Croatian wine, is that it’s really bad to taste wine just after you’ve eaten a pepper-crusted filet on a summer squash and heirloom tomato ragout with goat cheese. But Daniel arrived right as I was sitting down to eat.
Daniel showed up with his girlfriend Melissa and their new puppy, a puggle (cute!) named Lino (if I’m spelling this correctly), which means lazy in Croatian, and a number of wines from Alen Bibich, who comes from a family of winemakers and eventually got in the business after spending some time with that most famous of Croatian winemakers, Mike Grgich.
(Here’s one example of why not to eat pepper-crusted filet before tasting wine: one of the first wines I tasted was a chardonnay from Hungary — Daniel shows wines from other importers in a cooperative agreement — and it smelled delicious, like a candied green apple. Then I tasted it and it tasted like nothing. At the end I tried it again and it was creamy, fruity and very good. The wine: Szoke 2006 Chardonnay. Hungary is the next hotness.)
The Bibich wines I tasted: Three made from the debit grape, which is not in the Oxford Companion to Wine, an all-stainless version, an oaked version and the top-of the line Lucica (diacritical mark is not in wordpress’s roster). Each bottle, Daniel says, contains the grapes of two vines. The vines are 47 years old, and the wine is aged 16 month in American oak. Like the Damijan I tasted last week, the maker suggests serving it at room temperature.
I found all three wines to smell like library paste, kind of waxy. Is this good? Is this bad? Is this what debit smells like? I don’t know, I’ve never had it before. To put it in WSET terms, I guess I’d say it has a mineral smell, as mineral covers all such aromas like tar. But at the same time, it’s lively and has a greenish smell in the background, like crushed leaves. They all had a smooth mouthfeel, with the oak tannins perceptible in the two that saw oak.
Here’s another minus of tasting wine at dinnertime in a restaurant: it’s dark; you can’t see the color.
But the Lucica had a juicy finish that mingled with talc and mineral. “That’s the limestone,” Daniel said as he held up a picture of Croatian vineyards that showed the white limestone soil.
More fun debit facts from Daniel: it’s phylloxera resistant so the French imported quite a bit of it during the late 1800s to supplement their dwindling chardonnay supply. And it’s called debit because it used to serve as currency.
More on Daniel’s wine in the next post.