Krešimir Ivančić, a quantum vintner from Plešivica on the wings of Griffin

Perhaps it would be more understandable to say that Ivančić’s wines and sparkling wines are binary, but we wouldn’t be forgiven by our linguists – quantum physics implies that energy can not take all states in a continuous sequence within a given range, but is limited to individual, discrete value; includes dualism. Now replace the word physics with the word wine and all will be clearer … if it is not, we will say this: tasters of Ivančić’s wine and sparkling wine are either totally enthusiastic or very confused with the unexpected smells and flavor that – firstly – they say they don’t like them!

Krešimir Ivančić, soon a forty-year-old vintner from Plešivica (an unfinished student of the Faculty of Electrical Engineering and Computing and economist), a passionate fisherman, a two meter tall man who had to learn to dive in order to put bottles of sparkling wine in the under-the-sea wine cellar can talk about wines hours. Ivančić’s family has been in wine business for generations, and in 1953. Krešimir’s grandfather Milan received a diploma at the First District Exhibition in Jastrebarsko which “testifies that the wine tasting jury gave gold diploma for his exhibited samples “. Father Milan continues to work in the vineyard and Krešimir became involved eight years ago.

Prizes
And he immediately threw himself on the production of sparkling wine. “I wanted to make a sparkling wine with variety characteristics, fruity smells and tastes to recognize the variety from which it was made …” – Krešimir starts a story while standing in a small wine cellar next to the vineyard and pouring a glass of Griffin Brut, the first sparkling wine he produced, to his old friend Šoki from Jaska and the two of us. Krešimir studied wine production with a lot of passion – as he studied all the business he has ever done – because “wine is love and passion first, and then only business.” Therefore production of his wines is not large, but the quality is unquestionable! The best proof of that is a number of awards he received.  We will mention only some from last competitions: this year’s 6th World Cup Grading of Portugieser Du Monde sparkling wine Ivančić Griffin Rosé was proclaimed champion, and silver was awarded to the champagne Griffin Dark Side and to the Portuguese Dark Side Barrique. The recently held Russian Black Sea Forum wine evaluation Griffin Brut became sparkling wine category champion, while Griffin Zero and Griffin Dark Side won gold medals. The first vintage of Sauvignon Blanc of 2017 also won gold medal, making Krešimir particularly proud of.

Unusual methods of vinification
But in the beginning (and even today), that was not the case. The unusual vinification methods weren’t approved and there were plenty of “don’t do that, do as our ancestors did” style remarks. Fortunately, there was no such opposition inside the family and they all joined the enological adventure together. “Since I’m not an oenologist, I looked for help from the oenologist Goran Marmilić and I have read, researched and experimented a lot. Most of experiments were unsuccessful – and when I realized that wine is not something that happens by itself – you can define it in advance and to design it to the smallest details – I have opted for the production technology that is recognized in the world, but is not well known here. “It is a method of cryogenic maceration, which almost doesn’t use sulfur at all, and because of low temperatures no organisms such as bacteria develop, but with the help of enzymes strong smells and flavors are extracted that later allow the fruit base to remain in the wine.” That is why Ivančić’s sparkling wines are different because it is common that after second fermentation the longer the wine is in the bottle, the acidity drops and the yeasts increase the aroma – but are always very similar.

Sparkling wines are mostly made to have as much acid as possible, which give them freshness and neutral aromatic base, but at Griffin you can find the characteristics of the wine variety they are made of – in contrast to others that reflect the yeast that was created by autolysis. Strong wines are caused by large amounts of sulfur, they are not balanced because smells and tastes do not get along and the potential of the wine unfortunately remains unutilized. When he made the first sparkling wine in 2012, he protected it from oxidation at low temperatures in refrigeration chambers (between 1 and 3 degrees Centigrade) immediately. Therefore he did not need sulfur as a preservative, protecting against acidification and bacteria. Even the first Griffin had about ten times less sulfur than other sparkling wines. Because of low temperatures, sulfur is likewise not used in maceration, so soaking of grained grapes in the new wine (or wine) in order to extract smells, colors and aromas from the grapes can take much longer, without unwanted consequences. Maceration is additionally fueled by enzymes (biodegraders) that also function at low temperatures, so that the wine meets the sulfur at the end of the process – and even then the lowest possible levels of sulfur are used.

Vineyards and wineries
But Krešimir points out that everything begins in the vineyard and tells us that he was helped by a large number of varieties growing on Plešivica, since studying each of them taught him the most about grapes and how to approach it, depending on the year and the weather conditions: “the more attention and love you give to grapes while they’re still on the vine, the better the wine is later.”

Ivančić winery currently has vineyards in many places, as well as most winemakers in Plešivica do because the vineyards are small and very scattered. Some have been planted about a hundred years ago and the highest one is at 400 meters above sea level. They are flooded with more than 2,200 sun-hours a year, almost a one fifth more than is the average on the continent. The latest one was planted with a sauvignon variety few years ago. There are about 40 wine sorts around, but most of them are Müller-Thurgau (Rizvanac), Portuguiser, Chardonnay and Sauvignon vines. Ivančić buys some of the grapes from local winemakers – of course, only if it meets their criteria. Grapes are picked up manually because the positions are very steep, and you can not even get in one of the vineyards without special spiked shoes.

Currently Ivančić’s winery has 9 labels, including 5 sparkling wines, 3 white wines and one red wine. It produces about 25,000 bottles a year and distributes it all in restaurants, wine shops and on their doorstep, and there is already a list of reservations for this year’s harvest!

Vinarija Ivančić
Vinarija Ivančić, 9 etiketa (photo by SZ)

Sparkling wines of the Ivančić winery
The first series, Griffin Brut, was made in 2013 and “it was so good that I realized that I wanted to produce sparkling wines and wines in which you can feel every taste and the smell of the variety, so you do not have to be an expert to know whether you like wine or not” – continues Krešimir as we swallow the first sip. The true sparkling wine for summer season, fresh, dry (3.5g sugar) and with fruity aromas is made from a fairly neglected Rizvanac variety. The sort that was thought to be the crossbreed of Riesling (Rizling) and Sylvaner Green (Silvanac) was thusly named, but more recently it is called Müller Thurgau, after its breeder Herman Müller of Swiss Thurgau (new findings point to Madeleine Royale as its other parent rather than a Sylvaner Green). Griffin Brut became the first sparkling wine with the premium wine label and thus confirmed Krešimir’s concept of modern wine production.

Before we continued tasting other sparkling wine, Krešimir told us where the name Griffin came from: as a noble family, due to certain merits of the empire, Ivančić family had to pick up the coat of arms and chose the mythical beings – griffins – beasts with a lion’s body and eagle’s head. Eshil called him Zeus’s dog with a bird’s beak that doesn’t bark. According to Greek mythology, the griffin keeps the entrance to the crater of the god Dionysus, so it is only logical that he guards the bubbles of Ivančić’s sparkling wines.

The dark sparkling wine Griffin Dark Side really pulls to the dark side – you can not stop drinking it. Produced of another undervalued cultivar – Portugizac (Portuguiser) – the wine most commonly consumed when young and aging was thought to be an impossible mission for the variety, Ivančić spitefully made an excellent sparkling wine. Griffin Rosé, which won gold medals at the Portugizer du Monde world championships for a number of years, is a confirmation that even the Portuguese can produce truly remarking sparkling wine. “I think that Portuguese is God-given sort, ideal for sparkling wines as it has great acids and exceptional fruitiness.” Both Portuguese sparkling wines are exceptionally fresh, juicy and drinkable.

Griffin Zero is actually the first Ivančić’s sparkling wine, made in 2012, but it came out to the market last because of its long ripening on the yeasts. It is the top sparkling wine without the addition of sugars and liqueurs in a variant of brut nature, which is the world’s most precious sparkling wine because it requires the best quality of basic raw materials. Fresh and fruity, creamy and elegant, it is the choice of any fan of extra brut sparkling wine.

Vinarija Ivančić, kušanje u kleti
Vinarija Ivančić, kušanje u kleti (photo by SZ)

Wine labels of winemakers Ivančić
The Ivančić Single Vineyard from 2016 is a combination of fullness and body of chardonnay and the freshness and fruitfulness of Müller-Thurgau coming from the highest vineyard on Plešivica with a unique position with fully facing south exposure, which deserves a special treatment and a single vineyard label! Grapes are harvested together and processed together, not mixed later. Because of the cryo-maceration, tertiary aromas are not even felt, even though the wine has been in the bottle for a long time, but primary and secondary sorts are still very much highlighted. Firstly, you sense Müller-Thurgau’s notes, fresh fruit and flower, while you feel the chardonnay with a soft, full body in the flavor and that is the quality of the variety, the battonage process (stirring settled lees back into wine) and work on the sediment for another year and a half. With only 12% of alcohol, the wine has a nice body which is normally the characteristic of stronger wines.

Another extravagance from the cellar Ivančić is Dark Side Barrique 2016, a tranquil Portuguese from the sunniest positions on Plešivica, which rested in wooden barrels of American oak produced in Hungary for 8 months, a paradox for wine that is commonly drunk young and fresh. It is extremely fruity, elegant and fresh wine with mild tannins.

The latest winery label is Sauvignon Blanc from 2017, of which Krešimir is particularly proud of because the first vintage was awarded in the competitions. It is a wine with characteristics that are rarely found because it is the most specific white variety with reductive aromatics, which white wines usually do not have. Reductive flavors are actually wine deficiencies, but in Sauvignon Blanc it is a positive quality. The wine is fresh with fruity, floral and herbal aromas, rounded in the mouth with strong texture and only 12% of alcohol.

For the end, we tried Ivančić Griffin Chardonnay Sur Lie, a wine that is sold out in advance every year and which you have to book in advance if you want to drink it! The wine was aged for 18 months in oak barrels on the lees, with no sulfur added. By Batonnaging the wine, Ivančić got the wine with expressed body and fullness, with long aftertaste and like all his wines it kept the freshness and fruitiness of the variety.

Krešimir is currently experimenting with the laying of wines and sparkling wines in the sea depths, where they are ageing in a completely different way from wines in a wine cellar – we can hardly wait for the Coral Griffin label to be ready for disgorging and, of course, – tasting!

 

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