Venje 1998 is a Great Wine, Not Because of Age, but Because it’s Good!

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This is how renowned winemaker Ivan Enjingi from Vetovo near Požega and Kutjevo begins his story on the creation of Venje, a great Croatian wine which in 2004, at the first rating by the British magazine Decanter, won the title of world champion in white wine category under 10 pounds. He planted five excellent varieties. Gray Pinot, Traminer and Rhine Riesling are the great trio of Alsace, the most famous region for white wines. Sauvignon is the most popular variety in the world per glass in wine bars and Graševina is a great Danube region variety which in Croatia, especially Slavonia, gives the best wines. The idea was to make a separate wine from each variety. The very next year, in the first harvest, Enjingi filled several barrels from each variety. There wasn’t enough wine in 1998 for five labels so, as was done before in his region, he mixed them all in a large tank and tasted after a while.

“It was terrible at the first tasting. I meant to throw it all away, but had space in the cellar so the wine remained. Several months later the wine began to show quality and at every subsequent tasting it was better. I realized something could come out of it,” remembers Enjingi.

He was contacted by Ivo Ivaniš, wine consultant and publicist from Dubrovnik, who was asked by Decanter to secure some samples from Croatia for the first rating. Many winemakers turned him down, but Enjingi sent his wines and with a Graševina late harvest 2002 won the title of regional champion and the completely new wine, Venje late harvest 1998, became the world champion. We honoured the drink that made Croatian wine history at last week’s 11th international festival in the Zagreb Esplanade, at a workshop where we gathered all the harvests of this great Croatian wine, some that can’t be found on the market.

The welcome drink for 45 participants who crowded the room meant for 30 was the Graševina late harvest 2002, followed by the world champion.

“Mad good,” I blurted after a sip. Venje 1998 is a excellent wine. Not because it has come of age but because it’s very good. It smells of ripe fruit, has youthful colour, taste is brimming with freshness and time gave it just enough patina to sense it is something special.

Next were the 2002, 2003 and 2004 harvests from a half bottle as it no longer exists in bottles in Enjingi archives (it does in mine). Then came the 2007 and 2008. They are now on the market, the younger being named several hours before best of all rated white wines of the third season of Wine Stars. Then came the 2010, bottles for this occasion. Enjingi says it reminds him most of the champion 1998, which we compared and attempted to predict how 2010 will look in 2028 when it is 18 years old. Then came the 2006. For this wine Enjingi says it is the best e ever made. It’s still in the tank. Occasionally he bottles a small series for tasting. Question is when, and if, it will be sold, or the remaining 25.000 litres will be sipped by friends and connoisseurs. In the end, it should be said the current harvest of this great wine in wine stores is 80 kuna.

For the original and more form blog on wine, click here.


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