Istria does not stop to surprise! Thanky to my friend, business partner and guide – Zdenka of Istriana Travel – I visited one of the most interesting traditional wine cellars in the country. Not only it is traditional but it is a wine cellar that produces only sparking wine using only the traditional method.
The village of Vrh and its surroundings are famous for wine growing and production of quality wines. It is also said that from the bell tower in Vrh, one can see 130 towns, villages and churches in Istria! Did not check this time since I did not feel like climbing up the bell tower after all the wine that day…
There are two interesting legends about the origin of sparkling wine production in Vrh.
The first one tells the following story: when Napoleon’s army conquered the area around Buzet, a young girl found a wounded soldier in the Mirna valley. She helped him recover and in return he revealed to her the secret of making sparkling wine.
The second story says that the recipe for making sparkling wine was given by priest Vranić, originally from the Italian region of Trento which is well-known for its wines.In the 19th century the priest convinced the townspeople of Vrh to start producing sparkling wine for the needs of the church.
But, it is most likely that the origins of the production are tied to the local noble family of Wolterschtein who taught the locals how to produce the sparkling wine back in the early 1800s.
So, we met Mr. Grbac in the wine cellar for some small talk about the traditions with few glasses of his “Butilija bijelo” – white sparkling wine.
What is wonderful and so authentic about Grbac sparkling wines is that the whites are made of local malvasia, rose sparkling wine and red sparkling wine made of teran. It is said that in Vrh, almost all wine growing families, were making sparkling wines but now only Grbac family is known for it.
We tasted white and it was truly superb. Had all the qualities of the top class sparkling wine with really long lasting very small bubbles. And the taste is quite good although a bit more mineral at first than I prefer. Nevertheless, a perfect drink for breakfast!
And then we moved to the main wine making cellar.
Grbac family is using the traditional methode champenoise to produce their wines. Only 1200 bottles are produced which makes it easy to produce in the traditional method with hand turning the bottles on the special rack…
We really enjoyed our short meeting with Mr. Grbac and definitely getting more people this way on our wine tours in Istria. The sparkling wines Grbac are only 70 Kn per bottle which is dirt cheap! We discussed a bigger production but it will not happen as the Grbac family wants to keep it small so they enjoy what they are doing. Such a cool answer in the times when all sorts of folks are trying to become big and important winemakers overnight! Nothing wrong with that but I am always looking for something more unique and “hidden”.
Also, Mr. Grbac showed us a traditional method of popping a cork with the sword! Well…there were not really swords in picturesque Istrian hillside so he uses traditional tool: kosir!
Awesome wine in the awesome land – Istria is still “Terra magica” and drives me nuts when people are not aware of the fabulos wines, food and traditions this wonderful part of Croatia has to offer.