Give the gift of “Explore 4” without the commitment!
SommSelect’s “Explore 4” surveys the vast landscape of wine and breaks it into small, digestible bites. Each month, we select four bottles that fit a theme, allowing members to experience a diversity of styles while developing their own palate preferences. It’s an ongoing exploration of wine through a sommelier’s eyes and there’s no more effective, and enjoyable, way to learn about wine.
This edition of the Explore 4, offered as a one-time purchase, is an in-depth look at what’s afoot in two emerging wine regions: Slovenia and Croatia. Although both countries have wine cultures dating to pre-Roman times, the establishment of a communist government in the former Yugoslavia (1945-1991) resulted in wine production becoming nationalized. With cooperative-style wineries focusing on mass production, quality plummeted—nor was there any market in the west for the wines—but that has all changed, dramatically, since these countries seceded from Yugoslavia in the 1990s.
Today, quality wine production is back in a big way; Slovenian regions hugging the Italian border, like Goriska Brda, Vipava, and Kras, are now widely known, while in Croatia, Dalmatian Coast tourism has sparked renewed interest in the local wines. Here’s what’s in the box:
Toreta, Korčula Pošip “Premium” 2021
Hailing from the island of Korčula on the Dalmatian Coast, this evocative Mediterranean white is a pitch-perfect evocation of place. Proprietor Frano Banicević only made his first wines in 2013 (albeit with copious notes about the vineyards and winemaking, and some incredible antique winemaking equipment, left by his great-grandfather). He has committed himself to Pošip (pronounced POE-ship), an exotically aromatic white with great acidity and a light touch of Adriatic salinity. Frano farms just five hectares of vines that overlook the Adriatic in the small village of Smokvica, favoring locations where the vines are protected from sometimes-harsh winds.
Kobal, Sivi Pinot 2022
“Sivi” is the Slovenian word for “grey,” so when you see “Sivi Pinot,” think Pinot Gris/Grigio. This wine includes some lots that were barrel-fermented and others that were fermented in stainless steel, always with native yeasts. A small amount (5%) of this cuvée was aged briefly in barrels, but the majority was aged on lees for six months in stainless steel. The Haloze wine region has an ancient history going back 2000 years, and the town of Ptuj, where Kobal is headquartered is considered the “oldest” town in Slovenia. It is considered one of the most prestigious growing zones in Central Europe, and owner/winemaker Bojan Kobal does it proper justice across a diverse lineup of carefully crafted, resolutely modern wines.
Pomalo Plavina, Dalmatia, Croatia 2021
Pomalo is a joint venture between the importer Vinum USA and “the Begović cousins,” two winemakers from different, but relevant, backgrounds: one hails from northeastern mountains of Slovenia, the other from Croatia’s Dalmatian coast. They produce a lineup of natural, easy-drinking wines meant to capture the relaxed spirit of coastal living. Shining a bright, translucent ruby red in the glass, this is a tangy, refreshing red that would take well to a chill.
Rodica, Refošk Reserve 2019
In 1998, Marinko Rodica, a car mechanic, decided to change careers and become a winemaker. By 2008, the Rodica Family Winery had 60,000 vines and obtained organic certification for its farming. A brand-new, energy efficient cellar was completed in 2012. Today, Rodica estate farms 15 hectares of vineyards, most of them planted to Malvasia and Refošk. This red is a deep ruby-black in color (a Refošk marker), with aromas of black pepper, coffee grounds, black raspberry and cherry, plum, cacao nibs, violets, roasted meat, and turned earth. Medium- to medium plus in body, with good freshness and relatively soft, grainy tannins.