19-10-2011

Vina Bibich: The wines of Bibich

With a recent visit from Anthony Bourdain & No Reservations, Bibich is a name (not to be confused with Babić or Babich) that is getting the attention it deserves. Oddly though, the wines that winemaker Alen Bibich produces don’t seem to be well received by some domestic wine critics in Croatia, earning a most undeserved two out of four stars from one a national wine reviewer. We would argue that not only is the rating ludicrous, but that he is one of the finest winemakers in Dalmatia.

Based in Skradin (about an hour from Zadar), the Bibich wines tend to lean more towards New World characteristics (bold and strong qualities), which always comes as a surprise for those tasting them for the first time. The staple vintages of Debit and the Riserva R6 (a blend of Plavina, Lasin and Babić) are great, food-centric wines. On the higher end, his Mantra is a heavenly Grenache, which along with his growing of Shiraz for his Sangreal again makes him a really different winemaker, as these varietals are simply not grown in the area, or barely. Shiraz is now being planted in greater amounts in Croatia, as winemakers are realizing that it is not only a hearty, easy to grow grape, but it also has great color and blends with other wines very well to enhance appearance.

Although all his reds are outstanding, one of the most stellar wines from Bibich is a white called, Lučica. It is very hard to come by, since it is made from some of Alen’s oldest vines that yield just enough grapes for about 2,400 bottles each year. It’s a wine that’s even great for red lovers with strong, well-structured tannins in the body. It makes you stand back and take notice due to its luscious honey aromas and flavors to the nose and body.

The 2009 Debit, although a much lighter wine, has more acidity and tannins to make it pair very well with food. It presents crisp green apple undertones to the body. These elements are slightly similar to the 2008 R5 Riserva which is a blend of Debit, Pošip, Maraština, Pinot Grigio, and Chardonnay which has 12.5% alcohol. It takes on different dimensions due to 12 months in oak. Overall it’s quite neutral, but with a pear nose and slight vanilla aspects to the body. As with the Debit, it will pair extremely well with foods.

His 2008 G6 Grenache is from old vines that are more to the north which were maintained over the years by viticulture students and eventually bought by Bibich. In turn they give the wine a lustrous, dark quality. The nose is full of spicy cinnamon and cloves while the body is balanced with shortbread aspects to it and chocolate tones that come out. The finish has great tobacco flavors and it gets quite plush the more it breaths. A very pleasant wine that is considerably less dry than the name would lead on. 13% alcohol.

You can also read our past tasting notes on the 2004 Sangreal Merlot if you want to get an even broader sense of his offer.

If one is in Croatia, it can be hard to find the Bibich wines outside of Zadar. However, Alen has teamed up with a business partner to run a small restaurant and bar called Alante (Alen and Ante) in the old town of Skradin, about an hour south of Zadar. Skradin is where Bibich cellars are based and a lovely town near the coast worth a visit. As if the town wasn’t enough of a draw on its own, the restaurant serves great dishes that pair well with all the Bibich wines that they both pour and sell there.

We talk a great deal more about the wines of Bibich as well as the other Croatian wineries in our Dalmatian wine guide.

WINES

Álvaro Palacios - L’Ermita 2016
Very light red cherry, raspberry, tea leaves, dried fennel, light touch of anise, bay leaf, dried flowers, touch of fig compote, truffle. Exceptionally light and delicate on the palate, very very fine red fruits, integrated tannins, plush with a slightly buttery, velvety aspect, very long finish.
85% Grenache 14% Carignan 1% "Others" · 15% · 1160EUR
97+ 3 Stars

Ancestral Wine Cellar - Khikhvi 2014
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
95 3 Stars

Álvaro Palacios - Les Aubaguetes 2016
Linear plum and dark cherry notes, powdery cocoa, orange peel and blossom, raspberry at the base along with minor vanilla and dark spice touches. Delicate on the palate, light touches of dark fruit, good wealth of tannins yet held in check, medium plus acidity, very long finish. Needs much more time in the bottle.
77% Grenache 21% Carignan 1% Grenache Blanc 1% Macabeu · 14.5% · 455EUR
95+ 3 Stars

Petriaant Marani - Khikhvi 2015
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
94 3 Stars

AA Badenhorst - Secateurs Red Blend 2012
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
93 2 Stars

Domaine Treloar - Motus 2015
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
93 2 Stars

Terroir Sense Fronteres - Guix Vermell 2017
Crisp red cherry fruit, touch of spice, flecks of pepper, baking spice, compacted, wet earth. Delicate on the palate, stays fresh, surprising high wealth of tannins, long finish.
100% Grenache · 13% · 250EUR
93+ 3 Stars

Tchotiashvili - Khikhvi 2014
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
93+ 3 Stars

Domaine of the Bee - Cuvée 2015
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
93 2 Stars

Aquila del Torre - Primaluce 2015
Bruised yellow apple, bit of fig compote, chalky mineral notes, and hazelnut. Light oxidized touches that work to embellish the wine. Rich palate that carries lovely texture with the age of the wine.
100% Sauvignon Blanc · 13.5%
93 2 Stars