Into the Wild… Discovering Italy’s Outliers

It’s easy to forget that the political borders we respect today as “Italy” or “Slovenia” or “Croatia” were once (in some cases very recently), entirely different.  This is just another layer to the complexity and intrigue that defines the world of Italian wines. As a winemaker and curator of Italy’s history, what do you do with this?  If you’re Lidia and Joe Bastianich, you create a label of wines to help explain…

I was in the Lake Tahoe PlumpJack bar last night with Bastianich’s National Sales Manager, Caroline Salz.  We were super excited to find the Bastianich Adriatico Malvasia on their wine list (thanks Henry Wine Group!)  Caroline explained that this wine is made from a special clone of Malvasia Istriana, particular to the vineyards of Croatia bordering the Adriatic Sea.  She also shed some light on the Bastianich connection to this part of Italy.  Lidia Bastianich, America’s matron of everything deliciously Italy, is originally from Pula, a town on the Istrian Penninsula, which at the time was part of Italy, although today it is within the confines of Croatia.   Adriatico is a series of three wines Lidia and her son Joe Bastianich created, which represent the best viticultural expressions from vineyards bordering the Adriatic Sea, including Lidia’s Croatia.  The Malvasia is absolutely stunning!

The Adriatico Malvasia is a rich, luscious wine with enough acidity to make your mouth water and a beautiful layer of tropical fruit.  Pure indulgence on the palate.  The really special part of this wine though, is the nose.  At first very mineral-driven with lots of wet earth and sea-breeze.  Then the white flowers begin to show through- mystical, perfumed and seductive.  As the wine warmed in the glass the aromas began to really come alive with citrus blossoms and pineapple, tea leaves and something vaguely spicy- cardamom maybe?

As is standard within the Bastianich empire, the wines are handcrafted, and the winenmakers are renowned cultural treasures.  In Croatia, Bastianich partners with three local phenomenons, Matosevich, Degrassi and Kozlovic come together to produce a truly phenomenal wine that speaks from the heart of a singular and beautiful terroir.

The three wines in the Bastianich “Adriatico” portfolio represent the borders of Italy’s winemaking traditions near the Adriatic Sea- a Tocai from Friuli, a Ribolla from Slovenia, and a Malvasia from Croatia.  These “confini” represent some of the most beautiful enological traditions in Italy.  Although some of these areas are not considered “Italian” today, Italy’s cultural heritage still lives and breathes in these places.  The vines remain, even after society’s political allegiances change.  A Croatian vineyard today was an Italian vineyard yesterday, was a Yugoslavian vineyard…

Just another reason to revel in the lovely winding path of cultural identity in Italy.