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Drinking off the beaten path - Valibor, Torleta, Batic

In case you needed a food pairing suggestion,

Torleta put one on the label. Haha! If you travel to the end of the Pelješac Peninsula in Southern Dalmatia you can take short ferry ride to the island of Korčula. This lush Croatian island of pine trees once had nearly 10,000 acres of vineyards and then phylloxera hit in the late 1800's and acreage dropped to present day levels of about 1,000 acres. Torleta is run by young Frano Banicević whose great-grandfather had established the winery. Pošip is the primary grape grown on the estate. The 2020 Pošip "Special" bottling comes from younger vines and spends less time on the skins (about 2 hours) than is traditional, creating a light, fresh white wine. There is a hint of floral, but not overwhelmingly so. Mostly you get crisp stone fruit and a nice balance of acidity to keep things lively on the palate.

 

2020 Pošip "Special"

The 2018 Badasconyi Budai from Válibor is a high acid, low alcohol (11.5%) white wine from Hungary's Lake Balaton region. The grape, Budai, was once highly regarded along the banks of the Danube near Budapest pre-phylloxera. Today there are less than 17 acres grown in Hungary. The winemaker, Peter Vali, ferments the grapes in tank and then ages it in a combination of stainless steel tank and barrel for about 6 months. The 2018 vintage was picked about a month later than usual, so the acidity is lower. This fact is surprising to me given the zippiness of the wine, but as the importer of Válibor explained to me, Budai can have such high acidity "it can degrease an engine". The late pick allowed for some botrytis, adding weight and texture to the wine. This is a wine I was sampled on more than one occasion and only recently brought it in the store. I don't know what took me so long, especially since my notes each time raved about this wine with multiple exclamation marks to drive home the point. This wine has lots of personality and has a unique flavor profile. It is a perfect wine to begin, or advance, your exploration of Hungarian wines.

 

2018 Badasconyi Budai

The Batič winery is located in the Vipavska Dolina (Vipava Valley) within the Primorje wine growing region of Western Slovenia right along the Italian border.The land enjoys both a Mediterranean and Alpine microclimate. At Batič they take a very traditional, natural approach to making wines. The importer explains it thusly, "The signature methodology of the Batič estate is knowing when and how to do nothing. Highly selective hand harvesting, extended maceration (particularly native white grape varieties), fermenting in open topped Slovenian wooden vats without temperature control, and only using indigenous yeast are the major means to this end." The 2018 Zaria is a true orange wine with the varietals - Pinela, Zelen, and Rebula - spending about a month on the skins in large open top oak vats, and co-fermented until dry. There is nothing funky about this wine, though as the best extended skin-contact whites (in my opinion) are, drinks more like a red wine than a white. The wine smells of church with incense and beeswax aromas and the flavors are long and complex. This isn't a wine you to just sip on its own. No, it needs a meal or rather, it deserves one. 

 

2018 Zaria

 

Pilaf, steamed patty pan squash, a Russian salad of tomatoes, cucumbers and red onion dressed in unrefined sunflower oil and Čevapčiči

The photo above is of one of my all-time favorite summer meals. Pilaf, steamed patty pan squash, a Russian salad of tomatoes, cucumbers and red onion dressed in unrefined sunflower oil and Čevapčiči. I make my Čevaps with half parts ground lamb and half parts ground beef, one pulverized onion, salt and pepper, all to taste - that's it! To start this meal, while grilling the meat, I might enjoy either the Pošip or Budai, but when it comes time to sit down and eat, I would reach for a glass of the Zaria. This, I think, would be an ideal meal for the Zaria to shine. 
- Anya Balistreri

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