Living in Long Island with a couple of active kids, I often get teased by all the great wine tasting events that happen in New York City that I rarely have the time to attend. I was pleasantly surprised a few weeks ago when I saw an announcement from the good folks at Blue Danube Wine Company about a winemaker tasting with Alen Bibic that was actually taking place in Huntington, NY at the fantastic Bin 56. Before I get into the actual tasting, I should tell everyone a little bit about Bin 56, which is in my humble opinion the best wine bar on Long Island. They have an extensive menu of very interesting wines by the glass that goes beyond your normal California, French, and Italian selections. On a typical night there, you might see wines from Greece, South Africa, Slovenia, and Hungary among others. The ambiance is great, and just as important as the good wine selections is the great preservation system that they have that will insure that your wine won't be oxidized. Its also a pretty safe bet that if you visit Bin 56, you will see some wines from another well kept secret of the winemaking world and the subject of the tasting, Croatia.
Croatia, much like the rest of Central Europe, has a long tradition of winemaking that dates back over 2000 years. Throughout that time there were very challenging periods that included the 20th century challenge of communism in the former Yugoslavia. Under communist rule, quantity was emphasized over quality, which just doesn't work well in the world of fine wine. After the fall of Yugoslavia and with some help and attention from Mike Grgich of Grgich Hills and Chateau Montelena fame as well as pioneers like Alen Bibic, the wine scene in Croatia is once again lively and exciting and focused on quality.
Our tasting was hosted by the great people at Bin 56 as well as Stetson Robbins from Blue Danube Wine Company and Alen Bibic himself from the Bibich Winery. The restaurant, which is small, cozy, and inviting was set up with great menus with wine maps of Croatia and interesting glasses from Bibich and Wines of Croatia.
Our first wine was the 2012 P9 Posip, which was paired with a cheese and charcuterie plate. The Posip was golden in color with apple and pear on the nose. On the palate, the fruit leaned more towards pear, but there was also a great salty, mineral component that added a lot of depth and interest to the wine. The finish was bone dry and almost astringent in a good, refreshing way.
After the Posip, we moved on to the 2010 Lucica Debit. This wine is one of Alen's personal favorites and made in very small quantities (less than 2000 cases). We were told by Alen and Stetson that the wine was macerated with the skins like a red wine would be. The color was a very deep yellow-gold color that gave the impression that the wine would be full bodied and sweet, but it was medium bodied and dry. The nose brought notes of apricot, peach, and a floral element. This was paired with a Croatian style octopus salad.
Next, we moved on to the reds. Our first red was an international varietal that showcased what Croatian terroir can do. The 2010 Sangreal Shiraz was a very interesting Shiraz/Syrah. On the nose, it smelled like an over the top Aussie Shiraz, but once you drink it, you find that it is a nice well balanced Shiraz in more of a French style. The acidity was perfect, and the finish was sneaky long. Its also interesting to note that although this was most definitely Shiraz/Syrah, it also had that uniquely Croatian minerality and salinity. I found this to be a great reminder of what different terroir can do for a wine. This was paired with an absolutely delicious Croatian stew of peppers, tomatoes, and onions.
Our second red was the highlight of the tasting for me. The 2010 Bibich R6 Reserva Cuvee is a blend of native Croatian varietals Babic, Plavina, and Lasin. The bouquet had elements of red and black berries, but leaned more towards red fruit in your mouth. There was also a healthy dose of Rhone like garrigue as well as some spice on the nose. I found this to be a very nice medium bodied red with some good balance to it. It also had some of that minerality and saltiness that is so uniquely Croatian. This paired wonderfully with a Dalmatian style pot roast.
We finished the tasting with the Bibich Brut Sparkling Rose which was fresh, crisp, bone dry and just plain old fun and refreshing. Made from the Plavina varietal with no dosage, it was a great way to finish the afternoon, and the Fresh Figs with Port and Citrus paired with it were delicious.
Overall, this was a first class event that was fun, delicious, and informative. If you get the chance, try some Croatian wine from Bibich or any of the other great producers there. You won't be disappointed, and if you happen to be on Long Island, be sure to try some Croatian wine by the glass at Bin 56.