Tasting and visiting Clai
A little while back, we had the chance to traipse around Istria and catch up on many of the wineries that we either weren’t able to see or simply didn’t exist during our last visit several years ago. It was remarkable to see what a changes had happened in these few years. The wines, despite the horrid 2010 harvest, have stabilized so well as to create a wonderful definition as to “what” an Istrian wine is.
Of course in the middle of all the internationalization you find Giorgio Clai threatening to throw a monkey wrench in to the entire process with his stridently natural approach to winemaking. Set up in Northern Istria (which is what people see as the oh-so Tuscan-esque part) on the ridge that the village of Krasica straddles are Clai’s vineyards. In the distance the waters of Adriatic shimmer and in the foreground, a grinning Giorgio emerges from a day working in the fields.
Incredibly hand’s on, he’s one of those winemakers who fully believes that the wine is make in the vineyard, not in the cellar–a concept lost on many of his contemporaries in the region. The results are admittedly varied. In good years, he gets mind blowing wines that are like nothing you’ve tasted before. In bad years, well, you just get a wine. But, this is how it used to be prior to Mondovino/Parkerization and for us, it was a welcome change.
As most tastings seem to go in Istria, it starts with a bottle, moves on to another and before you know it, Giorgio is pulling out unlabeled “experiments” oozing with bizarre and never seen before promise of something gorgeous. His red ventures are solid, but as with the general theme of Istrian wine, what really shine are the whites. Deep and lively, the wild course of their non-interventionist vinification process shines.
Some of the warmest people you’ll ever meet, stopping in to see Giorgio and his wife, Vesna is one of those “must do” points on any enotouristic vaunt through Istria.
Ancestral Wine Cellar - Khikhvi 2014 95
First harvest of Khikhvi. Light apricot notes, peach skin, lemon peel. Citric in the mouth, fresh, lively acidity, vibrant. Very holistic, full and deliciously good.
100% Khikhvi · 12% · 30GEL
Petriaant Marani - Khikhvi 2015 94
Bruised red apple, touch of lemon peel, limestone minerality, and some white pepper notes at the back of it. High acidity and full in the mouth. Luscious, involving, elegant wine.
100% Khikhvi · 14% · 25GEL
Domaine Augustin - Adéodat Blanc 2016 93
Lemon and white peach, strong kick of salinity, and toasted notes. Very fleshy and full on the palate, peach notes more prominent as well as Meyer lemon, medium plus acidity and a lengthy finish.
100% Grenache Gris · 14.5% · 20EUR
AA Badenhorst - Secateurs Red Blend 2012 93
Forest bramble with ripe red fruit, touches of cherry, ripe red plum, tiny bit of prune, cumin, anise, black licorice, wet cement mineral note, underlying fig jam. Crisp medium plus acidity, medium tannins, medium plus length, medium alcohol, overall medium plus body that’s ripe and lively but super fresh and balanced at the same time. Bit of rugged wildness to it but doesn’t get out of hand. Easy to drink but with just enough underlying complexity so that it stays interesting.
56% Syrah 27% Cinsaut 6% Grenache 4% Cabernet Sauvignon 7% "Others" · 13.5% · 12EUR
Domaine Treloar - Motus 2015 93
Dark ruby, minor rim. Big, mighty bouquet of red cherry and other brambly forest fruit, vanilla, almond blossom, orange peel, and cocoa. Rich and full on the palate with a wealth of tannins still integrating, leading into a crunchy, lingering finish.
80% Mourvèdre 10% Syrah 10% Grenache · 14% · 14EUR
Domaine of the Bee - Cuvée 2015 93
Ruby with minor garnet rim. Rich red fruits with an underpinning of ripe plum, orange peel, licorice, cocoa. Broad, round tannins with a touch of toast and sweet cocoa in a long finish. Manages to stay very light on the palate despite the higher alcohol.
50% Grenache 50% Carignan · 15% · 25EUR
Tchotiashvili - Khikhvi 2014 93
Apricot, yellow peach, orange peel, and a touch of honey. Quite complex aromatically. Orchard fruit much more prevalent in the mouth with young apricot notes. Rich and elegant, touch of astringency in the finish.
100% Khikhvi · 13.1% · 28GEL
Domaine Augustin - Adéodat Rouge 2015 92
Medium ruby. Fresh red cherry, raspberry, and young strawberry, lifted and breathy, saline tinge along with light stoniness and rosemary and garrigue. Fresh red fruit on the palate, medium acidity but still light on the palate, fresh, and while the alcohol sticks out a little, holds and excellent, long finish.
Grenache Carignan Mourvèdre · 14.5% · 20EUR
Domaine Fontanel - Prieuré 2014 92
Dense ruby with brick flecks. Crisp red fruits, lifted by a waft of volatility making for a light nose with a spicy licorice and leather component. Crisp and lively with red cherry fruit in the mouth and a nudge over medium acidity. Nice, lingering finish.
50% Syrah 25% Grenache 25% Mourvèdre · 14.5%
Cave Abbé Rous - Cornet & Cie Blanc 2016 92
Peach, orange peel & blossom, honey, dried apricot, and a hint of green apple. Very nicely balance in the mouth, green apple notes more prevalent, medium plus acidity and a lengthy finish. Fresh, lively, very pleasing wine to drink.
60% Grenache Gris 25% Grenache Blanc 5% Marsanne 5% Roussanne 5% Vermentino · 14.5%