Living in Istria, I’m familiar with the wonderful wines available here. Unfortunately, until recently, they have been less well known in the outside world. This is gradually changing.
Istrian wines have started appearing in the UK. Pilato’s 2013 Malvazija appeared in Marks & Spencer, as well as collecting a Bronze in the prestigious Decanter magazine world wine awards for the 2011. Described as havng beautiful shades of green and yellow, it has a fine and pleasant aroma, distinctly flowery and fruity and with a lasting minerality.
The Pilatos have been making wine in Vrh Lasici for over a hundred years and this is now the fourth geneation. During the communist period, grapes were pooled and there was little incentive to improve either the vines or the wines, but in 1994, with the break up of Jugoslavia, Elido started making his own Malvazija and things started to develop from there, using modern methods combined with proper enology training. The family have also benefitted from working holidays in French, Californian and South African vineyards.
These days, they are producing prize winning Chardonnays, Sauvignons, Pinot Blancs, Pinot Grigios and Muskat Bijelis, although 60% of their vineyards are still down to Malvazija, which suits the red soil on which their vineyards are located..
Their Terans, Cabernet Sauvinons and Merlot red wines account for another 20%. The latter are generally barrique wines. They are also looking at creating a cuvee from them. They are producing small quantities of the Muskat Bijeli dessert wine using carefully selected grapes that are then dried for six months, concentrating the sugar, before being made into wine in stainless steel tanks.
The best of their wine is bottled and yields between sixty and eighty thousand bottles a year, with some open wine, mostly to restaurants, on top of that.
With the occasional exception of some red grapes, everything is from their own vines As well as their Vrh Lasici vineyards they have more locally at Markovac and, like several of the region’s finest winemakers, another five hectares over near Brtonigla, where the terroir and aspect is particularly good.
Three generations of the Pilato family
As well as their wines, they also produce up to two thousand litres a year of top quality olive oil.
Visitors are welcome in their beautiful tasting room. Karin Pilato’s ability to talk enthusiastically and knowledgably about all aspects of their production puts her high on my list of wineries to take visitors, who are never disappointed.