A new vintage from the Domaine Koquelicot winery has been presented recently at the Vivat wine bar in Zagreb. Despite its French name, the winery is actually located in a picturesque Istrian town of Gračišće, halfway between Višnjan and Poreč. The owners are Croatian-French spouses Jacqueline Marovac and Olivier Ertzbischoff, and their wines present a happy combination of Istrian terroir and the French wine style and tradition.
Jacqueline was born in Rijeka, but she left her town and led the globetrotting life – which led her from England and Canada to Asia, Chile, Africa and France. She is an epidemiologist by profession, and she loves to enjoy life and knows the lifestyle and wines really well. Olivier Ertzbischoff is a retired cardiologist, but also an expert on good French, and especially Burgundy wines.
When they moved to Istria which they adore, Olivier began to think about starting the wine production. In order to learn how to do it, he would take part in grape picking and cellar activities of well-known Burgundy wineries such as Anne Claude Leflaive and Bachelet, and he also learned about the production of biodynamic wines. Although he recently obtained an oenologist diploma, excellent wines have been produced under his leadership for some time now. Special among them is the Belaigra Chardonnay, the Kontempo sparkling wine, with no added yeast and with a bit of sugar residue, but also the Nomad Cabernet Sauvignon.
The name of the winery is the French word for poppy, which is their favourite flower which signifies health in vineyards – but written with the initial capital K – fitting for the Croatian language. The young winery is celebrating its fourth birthday but has already gained an excellent reputation in the Croatian market.
Since they travel a lot, they do not have their own vineyard but rather buy the grapes. They pay great attention to the cellar process where their wines mature in barrels brought from Burgundy, from the Francois Freres barrel shop, trying to make them more natural. Their first vintage was 2013 and they immediately won numerous national and international medals, including the most important ones from Decanter.
We have attended the first tasting of the new vintages, mostly 2016. The Kontempo Blanc de Blancs sparkling wine, which has received the silver Decanter in the past, got its name because the creators were trying to make it follow the times (con tempo). It is a zero-dosage sparkling wine made exclusively from the 2015 Chardonnay, but with just 2 g/l of sugar residue. It is a great aperitif sparkling wine, but it also goes well with oysters and fish.
Epicuria is a label which has in the past received the bronze Decanter and has been named after the Epicureans, and the hedonistic ways of its creators. We tasted the wine from 2016, made exclusively from Chardonnay, which goes excellently with truffles and is the best wine in this series. Also very nice is their Belaigra, of a pronounced Burgundian style, named after the combination of the name of Belaj, where they used to have their cellar, and Gračišće, where they are now. We tried the 2017 vintage, and there are still many years of maturing ahead of this wine which could make it even better. The Fugaz 2016 is a Malvasia, which we would not immediately identify as such, but it is an excellent wine, named after the falling star in Spanish.
We also drank the Nomad red coupage – made from Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon and Terrano – from 2016. It was most liked by the female part of the audience at Vivat, which recognized the good prospects of this still young but very interesting wine. The wine was named after their son Demian who lived a nomadic life with his parents, while the wine named after their daughter (coupage of Malvasia and Chardonnay), Santa Chiara, was not tasted this time, just like the other sparkling wine, Luna, named as such after one of the tasters described it with the feeling “of being on the Moon.”
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