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What our expert thought of Kozlovic Santa Lucia

about this wine About this wine
Istria is a beautiful region of vineyards, olive groves and stone hilltop villages, but it has a very complex history.  The only sustained period of political stability it has enjoyed since Roman times were the five centuries when it was part of the Republic of Venice.  The culture and cuisine remain very Italian to this day.
After the fall of the Venetian Republic in 1797, Istria changed hands a bewildering number of times.  Within only the past hundred years it has been successively part of Austro-Hungary, Italy, and Yugoslavia, and today it forms the north-eastern corner of Croatia.  Most of it does, anyway; the northernmost sliver of the peninsula belongs to Slovenia.  That border is just a few hundred metres north of the Kozlović winery, while only 20km further north lies the Italian border and the great port of Trieste.
Through its national identity has been fluid and fractured, its winemaking tradition has been much more cohesive.  Istria is home to two native grape varieties: the red Teran and the white Malvazija Istarska (“Istrian Malvasia”) which comprises the majority of Istrian vineyards and from which this wine is made.  Malvasia is not a single grape variety but a whole family of them; this one is perhaps the best, at least for dry wine.
And this particular wine has some claim to be the best example of the grape, since a previous vintage was declared the best dry white in Croatia by a team of visiting British critics in 2011, and another won both Gold and Trophy at the International Wine Challenge in 2013.  As with the Greek white we featured two weeks ago, the lack of an international reputation means that even the country’s best wines are affordable… if you can find them at all.
This is Kozlović’s flagship white, made from fifty-year-old vines growing in the acclaimed Santa Lucia hilltop vineyard.  The grapes are hand-harvested and carefully sorted at the winery, before being crushed and left to macerate at low temperature (5°C or so) for more than five days.  Skin contact before fermentation like this is rare for whites, and five days is almost unheard of except, interestingly, in nearby Slovenia.  The wine is then barrel-fermented using wild yeasts and aged in large 3200 litre oak barrels for a year, followed by three months in stainless steel before bottling.
the tasting The Tasting
The colour is a rich medium gold, probably as a consequence of all that skin contact.
There’s a complex, medium+ nose of blossom (acacia or perhaps elderflower), stone fruit, and orange peel.  There’s also a really distinctive nutty, biscuity scent that’s a bit like oatmeal but more like wheatgerm.
On the palate it’s richly textured, fullbodied and spicy, with flavours of peaches and nuts.  There’s a creamy texture with buttery hints (probably from malolactic fermentation) and very subtle, well-integrated oak.  It really builds in the mouth.
The finish is warming and spicy (almost peppery), with mouthwatering acidity that was hidden until now.  It’s got nutty flavours and a hint of bitterness (bitter almonds), and it’s very long.
This reminds me a little of a white Chateauneuf, with its floral scent, palate weight and slight bitterness.  But this has fresher acidity, and those orange peel and wheatgerm notes are quite unique.
This is a wine with a real sense of place.  It isn’t aping any international style and it’s made from the local grape variety to match the local cuisine.  It’s distinctive and different, and it positively revels in that.

Tasting notes

clear medium gold

Intensity medium+

Aromas blossom (acacia/elderflower), stone fruit, oatmeal/wheatgerm, orange peel

Development developing

Sweetness dry

Acidity medium+, but well-hidden until finish

Body full

Intensity pronounced

Flavours peach, spices, nuts. Very subtle oak. Creamy texture with buttery hints

Length long

Flavours warming, spicy (almost peppery), bitter almonds
Other notes
Builds in the mouth. Very big finish.

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