If Kresimir Ivancic and his wines were attributed quantum, babic wines are definitely binary as there are only two choices: either they kick you off your feet (not by their alcohol content, although it is a good idea to organize transport to your home after tasting them) and they give you a long remembered experience or they return you to your childhood while you drank some cheap red wine in some park and next day you had a hell of a headache which few aspirins couldn’t even start to heal.
Ivo Matosin’s Babic (along with Gracin, Prgin and new Testament brand which vineyards are not around Primosten) definitely hits first category – they will knock you off your feet. Szabo’s Markus Franz Ferdinand is however a higher category…
The real Mediterranean terroir wine
Babic has been one of the neglected varieties until recently, and has been increasingly replaced in vineyards with foreign cultivars, although demand for it has never been lacking. There are several reasons: small yields, poor reputation as a mediocre wine – more for drinking bevanda, demanding work in stony vineyards in the Primosten hinterland … Increasing yields by relocating to fertile soil and raising the grapes on wire was tried, but then dark blue berries become the material from which even the passionate winery can produce even a good wine.
The uniqueness of the babić remains only when its shrubs grow in small pockets of soil on small terraces enclosed by drywall. The rows of these small pieces of the land are vertically rising from the seacoast in a straight line, so they look like complicated lace from air. The rugged and inaccessible terrain is transformed into agricultural land by exceptional human efforts using traditional cleaning without the use of machinery and therefore it is no surprise that the location of Bucavac Veliki is on the waiting list for inclusion on Unesco’s list of protected heritage.
Just to get the impression: it’s just over 18 hectares of land divided into 56 cadastral units, with the largest area of only 20×6 feet! By the municipal decree of 1947, inhabitants of Primosten were given a boulder and rocky soil in a kind of a lottery, with a single area not exceeding 1000 square meters (little less than 11000 square feet).
It is obvious that Babic likes heavy and miserly conditions with a lot of sunshine, giving it a unique character: balanced acids and polish tannins are characteristics of this terroir wine that are especially pronounced at Matosin’s Babic.
Vineyard and wine cellar of Ivo Matosin
The Ivo Matosins’ vineyards lie 10 km north of Primosten, in the Siroki area. They were planted in 2010. The ground is actually grinded stone and earth, and about a thousand vines were planted in an old-fashioned way, on terraces that have proven to be extremely delicate during the drought. The first vintage was in 2012, and in 2014 it went so bad that they did not fill the bottles. The production is small, so in 2015 some 5,000 liters was bottled, about 6,000 in 2016, and last year was also bad due to drought, which brings the death to a young vineyard so only about 1,500 liters will be available.
The vinification is carried out in stainless steel and oak barrels, without filtering, so there is a bit of residue in the bottles that age. Maceration lasts between 10 and 15 days – depending on the year, and Babic can withstand it without any problems because of the acids that keep the wine sound. Ivo says he plans to leave the berries for two months: “I just want to see what it going to happen” – because maceration for up to two months is not a simple process: it takes account of volatile acids, chew the pulp, trying to see positive / negative changes…”. Wines in barrels – placed on a pedestal with rolling bearings – are turned at certain time intervals. After that they are mixed with wines from stainless steel barrels and then are filled in bottles, which are left for at least a year.
“There is a small quantity, but it seems to me that the wine is even better when it ferments in stainless steel because it smells more”, continues Ivo. “We leave the wine on fine residue for a year, without adding sulfur so to pass the malolactic, and it could take longer, but for that we have no conditions at this time.” The new barrels are first filled with water so the vanilla does not feel as much as you might expect – Matosin’s Babic is not woody at all, tannins are not as wild as are in Plavac mali and grapes do not have too much sugar because the vineyard is still young. It is expected that and sweetness will come with time.
Grapes are sprayed only once a year and Ivo lets the grass to grow and process vineyards mechanically only once a year. “When it comes to olives, it makes me sick when I see a soil under the olive trees that looks like a tennis court treated with all kinds of stuff, but in the vineyard, that’s another story. Chemistry makes the ground futile, and after a while, nothing can grow on that soil.”
Ivo Matosin prefers picking grapes later in a season, but this year he predicts that – with the climate events – the harvest will begin in mid-September.
They say there is no middle ground with Babic, so we had to prepare well for the tasting and therefore we started a day before – the bottles of three berries (2012, 13, and 15) were opened the day before, and vintage of 2016 was opened two or three hours before tasting. We settled in a quiet, green yard in the very center of Zagreb, with cheese and homemade olive oil, home grown tomatoes, and there was some humus with a domestic flatbread. Of course, wine more intensely expresses its true character in a good company, so seven of us surely contributed to this unique event.
We started tasting with the youngest wine, which Ivo says is “his first real wine.” Pale blue red with its already recognizable cherry smell, light and drinkable, Matosin Babic 2016 (14% alcohol) is definitely a wine with all predispositions to become a top wine with years to come – at this moment, it is still too fruity and aromatic, which are properties that are positive for other varieties, but they do not fit the Babic. Three bottles were stored safely – they will wait for a few more years.
Babic of 2015 (13% of alcohol) is a recent vintage, livelier and more harmonious than the youngest brother. The wine is recognizable blue red, full bodied, long-lasting and concentrated, with herbal notes becoming more pronounced. Amassed acids are in a harmonious relationship with tannins, so the taste lasts long, with a mineral, salty finish. Most of us said this is the best Babic we tried…
Personally, I preferred the 2013 vintage: all that adorns the 2015 is even more pronounced in this five year old: harmonious, lively and complex wine with depth, dense as oil with fruit and herbal notes, you can feel the leather, burnt is felt just right and the aftertaste is quite dry and powerful, not at all lifeless. It is extremely drinkable and with a cheese slice it simply calls for more. Character wine with all the characteristics of autochthonous variety and the characteristics of the climate with least alcohol: 12%. It is an absolute favorite for my (always jealous) palate, a wine we will cheerfully try again in a few years.
The Reserve of 2012 is “Something that will not happen again, you only experience something like this once in a lifetime.” – Matosin characterized the first harvest and continued: “14% alcohol, but with little sugar because it was quite dry for the young vineyards, the berries were half-cooked. In the older vineyard, sugar would be more than 30 grams per liter and we would get Prosek. “There is a big difference compared to other harvesting, on the trail of oxidative notes, still holding, but the taste disappears too quickly. It is little too sweet for a full experience.
Finally, we have to mention the recognizable and effectively simple, and yet distinct etiquette of the Sibenik design studio2FG, on which Ante Filipovic Grcic has been working for nearly 4 months, spending time exploring wine, vineyards and vineyards: sun – stone – Babic are recognizable features on a bottle of Ivo Matosin’s Babic.
We are deeply convinced that Matosin’s Babic should be found on any ambitious wine chart because of its exceptional quality, excellent price and satisfaction ratio after every siphon. If you find it, don’t hesitate – just try it!