Kozlović Winery: A Harmony of Pristine Nature and Fine Wine

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BUJE – We were put in a good mood by Malvazija Santa Lucia. And Teran. We were put in a good mood by anything. Even the sun followed us around during our visit to the winery and the vineyards, as well as during the afternoon enjoyment of good foods and wine in the restaurant Morgan.

Istria welcomed us again the best way possible: with food and wine. Kozlović winery is situated near Buje, just a few kilometers from the sea and at the foothill whose top has been occupied by the sleepy town of Momjan for centuries. It opened in 2013, and it was designed so that it respects and supports the eco-principles: outer walls and the roof are overgrown with greenery, and the interior has multiple details that are the pure opposite of the concrete, glassy and aluminium exterior and accentuate the warmth and the winemakers bond with the soil. And it’s not just the building that oozes the warmth that we need so much in today’s world. It’s all about the people. We felt their smile, the true welcome by the Kozlović family even before the best of food and wine was shown to us.

The modern winery building leans on the old one, creating a unique complex that stresses that the wine cannot be separated from the family that has lived with it and in it for the last four generations. The clash of the old and the new gets conveyed to the tourists in the “Liberty Tasting” and “From 1904 and before” programmes, during which the visitor gets the overview of the family history, since the first tasting room until the modern wine bar – say the Kozlovićs, and stress that it confirms what they said at the beginning, that their winery is a house for the wine, but also a house for the people.

Paolo Basso, the best sommelier in 2013, chose 66 wineries that stand out with quality of architecture and design. The selection of wine varieties, the way it is produced and nurtured and finally the taste and the quality of the final product are usually the basic criteria by which the wineries are valued. Their architecture and decoration of the room where the wine is made, kept and presented to the visitors can be a very valuable item that will contribute to the status and the image of the wine cellar. And that put Kozlović winery, as the only one from Croatia, in the reputable crowd of 66 wineries of the world that Paolo Basso, world’s best sommelier in 2013 included in his prestigious monograph “Sommeliers heaven – The greatest wine cellars of the world”.

It’s a great accomplishment and a dream for many wineries. It’s a trilingual, luxurious edition of more than 300 pages that aims to show the dedication and love that the selected wineries and cellars reflect in their architecture and contemplation of every detail. The monograph by the Swiss publishers Braun Publishing entered the market in early 2016, and is available in major bookstores, and on Amazon and other online book-sellers, where you can buy it for 68 euro.

The life story of the Kozlović family is all about creating top and quality wine from autochthonous cultivars of the Istrian peninsula, and those are malvazija, teran and muškat momjanski (moscatto) . They started with the moscatto, an in the eighties they pioneered, along with a few other wineries, the new style of malvazija that is characterised by liveliness and lightness that accentuate the freshness of the cultivar that leaves many people breathless.

Today they are the fourth generation of winemakers in the family, and own 25 hectares of vines at the first-rate locations such as Santa Lucia, Kontarini and Valle, that are in the west Istria and are among the best wine-growing regions there. Their leading cultivar is Malvasia Istriana, but they also grow sauvignon blanc, merlot and cabernet sauvingnon. The aged malvazija Santa Lucia is among the premium labels made by this winery, and the grapes come from the top vineyard. It is aged by slow fermentation in the large oak barrels, for at least one year. Before going to the market it needs to age in the bottle for another 12 months. It’s a wine for special occasions, which pairs well with the demanding Asian cuisine. Santa Lucia 2011 vintage won the regional IWC trophy in 2013, and vintage 2001 got the award at The Library Collection competition, as the best white wine over 10 years old.

Santa Lucia Noir, the other premium label is a blend of merlot, cabernet sauvignon and teran, and it needs to age in the oak barrels for at least 18 months and at least half a year in a bottle. It is, just like Santa Lucia white made only during the best of years.

Teran remains a challenge for everyone, including the Kozlović winery. Due to the complexity of its flavours, teran made in the good years can be compared to excellent reds from Bordeaux, and is characterized by nice pepperiness and sour-cherry freshness that arrives from the deeper levels. Kozlović teran comes from the 26 year old vines, and it matures in oak barrels for at least 8 months. It goes excellent with game and dishes made with red meat.

The grapes are picked by hand in all our vineyards. That way it’s selective already in the vineyard, and the second control is performed in the cellar, during which any not ripe or damaged grapes are removed – explain the Kozlovićs, who follow the idea that to create top wines in the cellar you have to work really hard in the vineyard. Their most valuable vineyard is Santa Lucia, and they keep investing into cellar modernisation and knowledge of their employees.

Winery now has nine programmes for the tourists that can attend led tastings in three languages. If the weather is nice, the tastings are held on the terrace, with the view of the castle of Momjan and the vineyard in the Valle valley. All of those programmes are integrated into the so-called Kozlović Wine Experience, and the goal is to provide the guest with the complete experience of wine, scenery and excellent service. The tourists can select from the following programmes: Taste Kozlović, Taste Istria, Meet the Estate, From 1904 and before, Library tasting, Sunset on the roof, Back to nature, Wine and dine, and an especially interesting one – BMW & Istria coast drive.

All those that appreciate (and who doesn’t, really) excellent fast cars will find it hard to resist this challenge. It’s project done in partnership with the Tourist board of Istria and BMW. You can book and take the car you want at one of the partner hotels Laguna Parentium, Hotel Kempinski Adriatic, Hotel Melia Coral, Hotel Monte Mulini and Hotel Lone.

And it was those cars that took the journalists to the vineyard itself, and then we walked a few kilometres to the nearby restaurant Morgan, where they were presented with a special dinner within the Dine and Wine programme. Welcomed with 2015 Muškat žuti, and the feast for the palate started with artichoke cream (along with 2015 Valle wine). Next came the red radicchio raviolli (2015 Malvazija) and Fine crestine (2015 Santa Lucia white) Foie grad with peaches and honey was a star in the plate, while the semisweet 2015 Muškat was alongside it in a glass. Veal cheeks with parsley puree with 2014 Teran followed, and cheese selection – Morgan style was offered with 2012 Santa Lucia. And the desert at the end was and true surprise – 2012 Kozlović Sorbus wine – tandem to the berry selection…

And lest it be forgotten: in addition to wine, they produce Lacrime – a brandy made from the muškat, and extra virgin olive oil. It’s a grape brandy produced from the grape residue, with determined and fine personality and extreme softness, aged in stainless steel barrels for 12 months, with 43 percent final alcohol content, while the oil is fruity, spicy, and golden-yellow with green reflections.

So we left Istria and Kozlovići in the early hours of the new day with wonderful memories. They remain committed to their decision to create top, high quality wines of constant quality, no matter which cultivar, which allows them to build long-time relationships with customers, based on trust. You can find their wines on the wine cards of the few Michelin-starred restaurants in England and the Netherlands, and they are also exported to the Switzerland, Slovenia, Austria, USA, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Serbia and Montenegro markets, which further confirms their quality. And our palate deserves only the finest… Isn’t that right?


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