Drinking wine in Istria
while Bowser befriends some huge truffle pigs

Last year in May, Anna and I went on a cycling trip through north-western Istria to visit some of its finest wineries. The article I wrote about it was published two months ago in the Dutch National Geographic Traveler. Anna was pregnant during that trip and therefore couldn’t try any of the wines I enjoyed so much. We took some bottles home with us, but they are also finished by now. So what to do then? Since we had to go to Croatia to close Anna’s bank account anyway, we planned two days for wine drinking in Istria earlier this week!

Together with Bowser’s godmother Sanne and her boyfriend Melle – who are on holidays in Slovenia and decide to meet us for a few days in Istria – we drink wine made from the three indigenous grape varieties of this area: Teran (for red wine), Malvazija (for white wine) and Momjanski Muškat (mostly for (semi-)sweet wine).

Here they are: Sanne (Bowser’s godmother) and Melle (the person with the firmest handshake in the world).
Here they are: Sanne (Bowser’s godmother) and Melle (the person with the firmest handshake in the world).

We stay in a little village called Momjan. It’s a bit inland on a hill, where we are surrounded by vineyards, olive trees, lavender bushes and medieval villages like Buje. Looking to the west, you can see the sea and with perfect weather conditions even Venice and the Alps are visible. We stay two nights at the Sinković family, who rent out apartments at their farm and serve local, homemade dishes such as wild asparagus and truffles in their restaurant. They also produce their own wine, rakija and olive oil.

It was too hot for Bowser to go wine tasting with us, so we left him behind with the huge truffle pigs of the Sinković family.
It was too hot for Bowser to go wine tasting with us, so we left him behind with the huge truffle pigs of the Sinković family.

Not far from where we’re staying is the winery of Kozlović. Well… it’s a half hour walk. Sanne suffers the most from this. It’s 38 degrees Celsius outside, so that might be the reason. Perhaps it’s the steep road leading up to the Kozlović estate. Or maybe it’s because she saw a snake on the way and started running as fast as she could. Anyway, she arrives with a very red face, but we manage to calm her down with some Malvazija on the terrace in front of the modern building, overlooking the Kozlović vineyards. Sanne is mostly impressed by their very sweet Sorbus, made from the local Momjanski Muškat grape.

The modern building of Kozlović.
The modern building of Kozlović.

Melle likes the sparkling wine RE – a blend of Malvazija, Pinot and Chardonnay – very much. We drink this at the traditional and idyllic-looking Kabola winery, also in Momjan. Kabola is the first and only Istrian winery to use amphorae in their winemaking process: an ancient Greek and Roman technique. The unique outcome is an amber-coloured wine, which is very rich and complex in taste and the ultimate proof that you can produce many different kinds of wines from the Malvazija grape. Unfortunately they are sold out of this Malvazija Amfora, because the weather in the last few years wasn’t good enough to produce this special wine. This year looks very good for Kabola, though.

For Moreno Coronica it’s another story: it’s too hot for his grapes. Anna and I visit Moreno on Thursday morning, leaving Bowser with Sanne and Melle. Our plan is to just quickly stop by, give him a copy of the magazine with my article and buy some bottles to take home. But Moreno doesn’t want to hear any of this. He invites us into his new tasting room for some wine, Istrian pršut (prosciutto) and cheese and tells us how he likes to drink his wine: after drinking his reds, he always finishes with a glass of Malvazija, which is very fruity and refreshing. We think he has a good point – especially in this heat – and follow his example.

Moreno Coronica’s present to us: a 1,5 litre bottle of his Gran Teran, the best Croatian red wine I know.
Moreno Coronica’s present to us: a 1,5 litre bottle of his Gran Teran, the best Croatian red wine I know.

On Friday we leave Istria – the car full of Teran, Malvazija and Momjanski Muškat for at home – to continue our journey to Südtirol in north-eastern Italy. This region is also famous for its good wines, so we might not be done with all the wine drinking yet…

In between all the wine drinking I made time for Tomislav, my favourite Croatian beer. I had to wait almost a year to drink this again.
In between all the wine drinking I made time for Tomislav, my favourite Croatian beer. I had to wait almost a year to drink this again.

The article I wrote for National Geographic Traveler can be found here.

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