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Meet the ‘New King’ of Croatian Sparkling Wine

Photo Credit: Silvija Munda

Photo Credit: Silvija Munda

Krešimir Ivančić is a young winemaker who was among the first in Croatia to introduce the technology of producing wine and sparkling wines with cold maceration, a method that enables the production of wines and sparkling wines with a strong floral and fruity bouquet…

Krešimir’s family has been making wines for generations and they have a long tradition of winemaking. Their vineyards are located on the highest parts of Plešivica over 400m above sea level, facing south which allows them to produce premium grapes.

He has been hailed as the “new king” of Croatian sparkling wine. In this interview with Wine&More he talks about his famous wines, the Croatian sparkling wine scene and more.

There are a growing number of people who give up their 9-5 daily routine to dedicate themselves to a life in a vineyard. It is often a case that winemaking starts as a hobby, and becomes a lifelong passion. What is so magical in vines that captivates people?

First of all, you have to be in love with nature and accept it as your ally. I have to say that vine growing is a physically intense labor because vine doesn’t need a master, but a servant. There has to be a right combo of love for the nature and commitment to what you do. Passion is something you either have or don’t have; if you’re passionate about something, then you can understand and feel the emotions we feel for nature and the work we do.

Some people handle vine growing and winemaking as a business and are commercially very successful because marketing and good pricing strategy can create a good product. This is not my story. Our wines require a lot of effort and are not designed to fit the mainstream demand in order to gain profit asap. Profit is not our main goal. Our wines are a result of love, passion, dedication, technology and specific terroir that we live in.

Krešimir Ivančić (Photo Credit: Ana Rogač)

Krešimir Ivančić (Photo Credit: Ana Rogač)

People say you are the “new king” of sparkling wine in Croatia. Do you think Plešivica is really the Champagne of Croatia?

There are a lot of similarities between Plešivica and Champagne, but there are also a lot of differences. If we’re talking about a success on a national level, then yes – Plešivica is surly the Champagne of Croatia. This region has been known for its tradition in production of sparkling wines so it’s no wonder they are said to be the best in Croatia.

Our soil is somewhat alike to the one in Champagne, but this is about it. Comparing to Champagne, Plešivica is located further south so we have higher insolation. Moreover, we are on a higher altitude and have a mountain protecting us form the north which is why we can say that our grapes are of a better quality for sparkling wine production.

I don’t think of myself as a Croatian king of sparkling wine. However, I must say that our sparkling wines are unique and different as we manage to encapsulate intense grape aromas in the wine. We can thank this to the highest quality grapes coming from the best and highest positions in Plešivica. It also helps we use top notch technology for sparkling wine production.

Why did you decide to focus on sparkling wine? Are you generally thrilled about bubbly or inspired by your microclimate and grape varieties?

Sparkling wine is generally a great challenge for every winemaker. I personally like both challenges and commitment, so it was only a matter of time I’ll get sucked in. After we mastered the process of cold maceration and realized this method results in wines with prominent primary and secondary aromas, we just had to apply this technique in sparkling wine making.

At the same time, specialized yeast for secondary fermentation appeared on the market, which has a minimum interaction with the wine allowing it to keep its basic characteristics. We combined the two, and even the first batches of these sparkling wines were impressive and the rest is history, so to say. Today we are still learning and perfecting every single detail with a special focus on producing grapes of the highest quality. Generally, we want to show a wide range of flavours and aromas our sparkling wines have.

2

Brut, Rose, Dark Side, Lady, Zero. You are one of the few winemakers in Croatia going for such a wide range of sparkling wines. What are their differences (except grape varieties) and do they depict the territory from Plešivica?

Griffin is the name of our sparkling wine selection and the name originates from our family’s emblem from the Middle Ages. This fearless mythological creature is a combination of an eagle and a lion, and it was believed its job was to protect the Dionysius’ wine crater.

Griffin Brut is our first sparkling wine, made of Muller Thurgau. Its freshness and fruitiness as well as its strength and elegance correspond with Griffin’s boldness – and that’s how it got its name. Griffin Brut is the first sparkling wine from Plešivica, and one of the first ever in Croatia, graded as “vrhunsko” (top quality). Unique characteristics of Muller Thurgau, our terroir and top-notch technology resulted in a very balanced and attractive sparkling wine – floral, fruity, and well rounded. Its yellow-green color evokes freshness and makes you want to drink one more glass.

Griffin Zero is made of Chardonnay. It is brut nature – no sugar or liqueur added. Thanks to malolactic fermentation and battonage, its flavor is rich and well balanced, and its nose is citrusy and fresh. The combo makes it very pleasant and refreshing.

Griffin Lady is a sec sparkling wine full of flavors and very appealing to ladies, hence the name. It pairs nicely with desserts.

Griffin Rosé is the first Croatian sparkling wine made of Portugizac (a Croatian synonym for Beaujolais). Prtugizac has the ability of quickly developing fruity aromas which makes it ideal for fresh and fruity sparkling wine. We take pride in its beautiful rose color accompanied by a significant fruitiness on the nose and pleasing aromas in the mouth.

Griffin DarkSide is our recent creation. It is a unique brut red sparkling wine, also made of before mentioned Portugizac. Dominant fruitiness (raspberries and sour cherries) is in balance with a touch of tannins we got from aging the base wine in barrique barrels. You can easily drink it in any occasion – with or without food. It pairs nicely with pates, game meat, desserts or just as a digestive. Welcome to the DarkSide – at least for a moment.

Photo Credit: Ana Rogač

Photo Credit: Ana Rogač

There is a trending topic among winemakers – reduction and/or no adding of SO2. You are also a supporter of this trend. How do you argue and apply these principles?

SO2 is important within the wine as it serves as a preservative. However, in high quantities it does a lot of damage to the wine. High S02 wines are unpleasant, closed, have minimal aromas and flavors, and often don’t meet our expectations as we drink them. There are many prerequisites to reduce S02 quantities in a wine.

First of all, you have to have 100% healthy grapes with good performances. This requires a lot of work in the vineyard. For example, we are trying to boost foliage in order to get the plant itself to feed the grapes. Foliage also defends the grapes from too much sun, protecting them from dehydration and sugar increase which immediately causes lower acidity. Moreover, cold maceration reduces components that “eat” natural S02 so we practically don’t add it until the end of the fermentation. Some of our wines, Chardonnay sur-lie for example, gets S02 just before bottling.

These methods we get a wide range of floral and fruity aromas that are pleasant and long lasting as well as wines with a good aging potential.

The world of gastronomy has for years now been focused on local ingredients. Sincere winemaking and natural wines are highly appreciated within connoisseurs. It is proven that at this moment a so-called “no name” winemakers can easily get on the wine lists of world’s best restaurants. Do you consider yourself a true and sincere winemaker? Are your wines gourmet wines?

Our wines are extremely sincere and unique with a specific character. If you look carefully, you can taste all the love and passion we put in making them. They are very natural and allow you to feel the grape varieties, which is the hardest thing to achieve. We’re gaining more and more recognition every day which motivates us to try even harder.

Best restaurants are working hard in maintaining their status – they’re looking for best chefs, best ingredients and consequently the best wines. The type of wines we are making are an ideal companion to high end cuisine.

Photo Credit: Silvija Munda

Photo Credit: Silvija Munda

You can find more wine about wines in Croatia on Wine&More.

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