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What our expert thought of Kozlovic Teran




about this wine About this wine
 
Some of you are new since May, so I hope the old hands will forgive me for rehashing a little background on Istria.  It’s a beautiful region of vineyards, olive groves and stone hilltop villages, with 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.
 
After the fall of the Venetian Republic in 1797, Istria changed hands a bewildering number of times.  Within just 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 white Malvazija Istarska and the red Teran, which is the most-planted black grape after Merlot.  Merlot seems especially at home here; Oz Clarke has said that Istria may well be the world’s second-best Merlot terroir after Bordeaux.
 
Merlot is also easier to grow and ripen, and its wines are more approachable than the notoriously tannic and acidic Teran.  But producers persist with Teran because, well, it’s theirs, and their determination is starting to pay off in a new wave of wines that showcase the grape’s wild herbs and earthy dark fruits while taming the fearsome tannin and acid levels that traditionally accompanied them.
 
The hand-harvested grapes for this wine come from 28-year-old vines planted in Kozlović’s south-facing Žmergo vineyard at 240m elevation.  South-facing slopes are key in getting Teran to ripen fully.  They went through a distinctly short 5-day maceration and fermentation, followed by 8 months aging in very large 30hl oak barrels.  Short fermentations limit the extraction of tannins from the grape skins, while aging in such large barrels softens the wine without adding much in the way of oak flavours.
 
the tasting The Tasting
 
Even having spent a relatively short time in contact with the skins, this is still intensely coloured - a deep-ish bright crimson.  Istrians claim Teran wine is the colour of hare’s blood.  I’ll take their word for it.
 
The medium nose is a bit wild-smelling at first but improves with air, becoming increasingly fine.  Both red and black fruits appear - raspberry, sweet cherry and blackberry - along with lots of herbs including, unusually, tomato leaf.  There are some interesting vegetal notes too, reminiscent of damp undergrowth.  Adding to the complexity are a spicy whiff of black pepper and a minerally tang of iron.
 
On the palate this is fully dry, inky and concentrated.  It’s medium-bodied, but has more than medium intensity.  Distinctly fresh acidity frames juicy black fruit - blackcurrant and sour cherry.  There are some well-tamed tannins adding structure but they aren’t drying. I can’t detect any oak.
 
The spicy, peppery finish is quite long, with sour cherry and cranberry flavours.  It stays juicy as the acidity triumphs over the tannins.
 
Assessment
 
This is remarkably like a good red Bordeaux, but with some northern Rhone Syrah (ink and pepper) and perhaps a little Tuscan Sangiovese (sour cherry) added to the mix.  Despite having plenty of flavour, there’s nothing new-world-y about this one.  With its uncompromising dryness, firm acidity and complex but unshowy flavours it’s clearly built for food.
 
Kozlović have a reputation as a high-tech, new-wave winery, but this is a distinctly old-school wine: like a red Graves from Bordeaux but with an Istrian twist.  It’s the opposite of those flashy fruitbomb wines that impress hugely at first then rapidly become hard work to drink.  This minor masterpiece of understatement just gets better with air, time, food… and each sip.


Tasting notes

Appearance
clear deep-ish bright crimson
Nose

Intensity medium

Aromas red & black fruit (raspberry, sweet cherry, blackberry), herbs (lots inc. tomato leaf), vegetal (undergrowth), spice (pepper), mineral (iron). Improves with air.

Development developing
Palate

Sweetness very dry

Acidity medium++

Body medium (12.5%)

Tannins medium-, smooth not drying

Intensity medium+

Flavours juicy black fruits (sour cherry, blackcurrant)
Finish

Length medium+

Flavours spice (black pepper), sour cherry, cranberry, mouthwatering
Other notes
Like claret with a dash of Syrah. Understated but complex. A food wine. No detectable oak.


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