We just got back from Istria, Croatia, where we spent a few days tasting interesting wines and eating superb Istrian ham.
Istria is the northern part of the Croatian coast, a region that is bilingual so if you speak Italian you get along very well. Istria is famous for its malvazia (or malvasia, or malvasija, or malvasia istriana), a white, fresh wine, quite floral and full bodied with a pleasant hint of bitterness. Sometimes the wine maker gives it a fuller style through prolonged skin contact. I was really impressed with these wines.
We also tasted the red speciality, the teran (a relative to refosco). This grape makes a pleasant, fruity wine with a strong personality, sometimes maybe a bit too strong and therefore often blended with merlot.
Istria is by the coast and of course a big tourist destination (not in March though, but that is not necessarily a disadvantage). The landscape is beautiful. The inland is dotted with small villages on the hilltops surrounded by vineyards, pine trees and olive groves.
The olive oil is fantastic, very high class. The Istrian cuisine in general is of very good quality, we are talking really nice ingredients. Dry-cured ham, white truffle, spider crab, sardines and a lot of other fish, fresh from the sea, scallops, cheese made from sheep’s milk, very tender veal, often cooked for hours in the fire place together with onions and potatoes. They also make a lot of honey, sometimes flavoured with truffles.
We had a clear blue sky during our four days in Istria, but I’m sure I would have loved it even without the sun. This is a “new” (but also very old) wine region — definitely to watch out for.