The dark horse of Moslavina winemakers talks to us about his philosophy, love of the Škrlet variety, and new range of Selekcija wines.
Your formal wine education was in Istria working with Malvazija. But you chose Popovača and Škrlet as your focus? Why?
My education in Istria is the outlier, not Popovača and Škrlet! This is my native region, and it's only natural to work with Škrlet, our indigenous white variety. There are only some 100 hectares of it planted, and you can't find it anywhere else in the world. My formal education was in Istria where I went to study oenology right after high school when I turned 18. This was back in 2003, the same year that I bought the land in Moslavina to plant my vineyards. I always knew I would come back.
"This is my native region and it’s only natural for me to work with Škrlet, our white indigenous variety."
People still talk about your 2011 Škrlet Selekcija as a wine that changed perceptions of the variety. What has happened to Škrlet in the decade since then and where is it heading?
Škrlet Selekcija from the 2011 vintage was the first wine that completely happened my way. I planted my vineyard in 2005, build my cellar in 2010, and finished my studies. The grapes were picked at the right maturity, not too early like most others in Moslavina chasing some stupid term like “freshness” to make cheap wine.
20% of the grapes were destemmed and macerated for 7 days in an open steel tank without temperature control. The fermentation was spontaneous with natural yeasts. After 7 days I picked the rest of the grapes, pressed them, and mixed them with the ones fermenting from the week before. Nothing was added to wine except a bit of SO2, and I bottled it after one year aging in steel.
I got some 4,000 bottles and at first even I didn’t recognize how superb it was, I wasn’t aware that I made some of the finest white wine ever in Croatia! Time will tell and even now after 10 years it still drinks nicely, with a Riesling petroleum type nose and complex mouthfeel. It is still one of my favorite wines, but there’s very little left.
So, what happened to Škrlet. Moslavina is cursed to be one of the smallest (and sadly poorest) wine regions in Croatia. It’s not fancy and popular like Istria, Dalmatia or even Plešivica where every year you get dozen new winemakers with new ideas, techniques and progressive (not to say radical) thinking in minimal intervention winemaking.
“Škrlet is getting a little more recognition, but true quality is far, far away.”
Some producers want to make Škrlet into a new Malvazija with all that new fancy and pushy marketing that tries to compensate for a lack of true identity. We have some 10 wineries who produce big quantities to satisfy the market, but mostly it’s cheap wines. This is not my style. I am the only winemaker who is using natural yeasts, no filtering or fining, and lots of manual work in the vineyard without systemic pesticides, herbicies or artificial fertilizers. So, in short, the variety is getting a little more recognition, but true quality is far, far away.
What makes the “Selekcija” line of your wines special? What should drinkers in Singapore take away from them?
My Selekcija wines go through longer macerations in whites and longer aging period in wooden barrels, both for whites and reds. They are more complex wines with a lot of aging potential in the bottle, a decade or more for sure. Selekcija wines exhibit great complexity – both on the nose and in the mouth, higher natural acidity, a lot of minerality and are very food friendly and drinkable as they are not too alcoholic and overwhelming.
What do you think of the importance winemakers put on medals and wine “beauty pageants”?
Ahh, I don’t care for that and don’t think much of it. I don’t like the whole idea of putting scores on wines which presumes that wine with score of 93 is better than wine with a score of 91. Wine is not an exact science and is almost exclusively a personal feeling and preference. Any food and drinks always come down to people’s feelings and senses, there is no right or wrong answer for anything.
"I want to bring my wines to the world, not the other way around."
Where would you like to see wine from Moslavina and Croatia in general evolve to in the future?
Moslavina is one of the smallest and poorest wine regions in Croatia, so realistically I don’t think much will happen here any time soon. We don’t have the sea like Dalmatia, we don’t have great restaurants like Istria, and even there it takes decades of hard works. So I want to bring my wines to the world, not the other way around.
Try the wines
Kosovec Škrlet Selekcija 2017
Kosovec Frankovka Selekcija 2018
Kosovec Pinot Noir Selekcija 2017