April 2019

this month’s wine selections

The Tornai family has been making wine 1946 on Mt. Somló. Endre Tornai, the founder, started making wine on a one acre vineyard. Today the family owns 56 acres and its third generation is now engaged in the everyday tasks of wine production. This producer's wine is mainly sold on the Hungarian market, although there’s an increasing interest from the export markets too; these are not easy wines to find!

The Tornai estate is planted with varieties including Juhfark, Furmint, Hárslevelű, Olaszrizling, Korona, and Sárfehér. Mt. Somló's volcanic rock soil gives the wines a distinctive mineral taste. The southern exposure of the vineyards guarantees top quality ripe grapes. Pruning is done exclusively by hand. Sustainable principles are followed carefully to maintain the vineyards in the best state.

Furmint has hundreds of years of tradition in Tokaj, however, in the past 15 years the grape has been rediscovered and spreading all over Hungary. According to Matt Walls, British wine consultant and writer, “it’s got everything you could desire in a grape, being a rare combination of powerful aromatics, minerality, richness and body. It deserves to be held in the same esteem as better known varieties such as Pinot Gris, Chenin Blanc and Grüner Veltliner. So if you haven’t discovered it yet – start drinking Furmint.”

We bought the remaining inventory of this wine in the US! This is a truly modern and stylish Furmint with the typicity of the Somló mountain. Floral with a touch of minerality, it is very fine and elegant with some exciting acidity. It’s a great match to fresh salads and pasta and also ideal as an aperitif.

The Mediterranean island paradise of Krk was once planted to 25,000 hectares of vineyards. Today there are just 250. Most of the vineyards on Krk are located inland from the medieval sea-cliff village of Vrbnik. The wild roses that dot the hills overlooking Vrbnik are locally known as Šipun.

The autochthonous varieties Žlahtina and Sansigot are championed by vigneron Ivica Dobrinčić, who is actively reintroducing other old local sorts to his vineyards. Three generations of the family live in the family home/cellar. Ivica learned to make wine from his father, but he is the first in his family to make it commercially. His may be the only world-class examples of Žlahtina and Sansigot, offering proof of the potential of the varieties and region. 

Sansigot is a red variety that, before the 1950s, made up about 20 percent of black grapes growing on Krk. It has also grown on the tiny island of Susak to the southwest, where it is described as yielding “deeply colored, full-bodied wines” (Robinson, et al, Wine Grapes).

Šipun’s varietal Sansigot that is light-bodied, with a delicate floral aroma and low tannins—a difference Ivica attributes to the separate location and new winemaking technology. We like to enjoy this as a stand-in for a village level Burgundy!

NV BIBICH BRUT ROSÉ - north dalmatia, croatia

The Bibich Winery is located in the hills of Skradin, 5 miles east of the idyllic port city of Šibenik, along Croatia’s island speckled coast. Across the Adriatic from Italy, it is roughly in line with the wine hills of Tuscany. The vineyards are around the tiny village of Plastovo, and clearly defined by the primitive looking rock pile/walls that are the result of clearing the fields for vines. What plots of soil can be found are just the broken down bits of the solid limestone hills. Although an incredibly picturesque part of Croatia, it was also hard hit during the Yugoslav wars of the early 90’s. 

Nowdays, It is impossible to talk about the Mediterranean wine region of Skradin without mentioning Alen Bibić. In many ways he deserves credit for putting Skradin back on the wine map. A life long native, he learned to make wine from his grandfather. Today, it is his mission to bring the wines of Skradin to international prominence. By doing so, he hopes to sustain the long tradition of the indigenous white Debit and red Zinfandel relatives Babic, Plavina and Lasin unique to his home. Alen also has a taste for Grenache and Shiraz, of which he makes surprisingly Rhone-ish examples. Despite the quality of his wines and the acclaim they have received, Alen believes that the surface is just being scratched. 

We had a hard time swallowing Alen Bibich’s claim that prior to WWII, Skradin made a great deal of sparkling Rosé from the local red variety Plavina, until we tasted his. A precocious Traditional Method rendition redolent of Makarska cherry, almond biscotti and sea mist. Poised, polished, dry and modern. Enjoy wherever you would use the finest fruitful, rosé of Champagne!