Some varieties take to skin maceration like a duck to water. Malvasia Istriana (AKA Malvazija Istarska) is one of those, and there are a handful of producers in Croatia’s “Northern Tuscany” who are exploiting this very adeptly – Giorgio Clai, Kabola and Benvenuti are the ones I’ve discovered so far.
I’ve had a soft spot for the wines from Benvenuti for a couple of years now. Brothers Nikola and Alfred make a standout Teran (Istria’s most important red variety) as well as a couple of Malvasias. Their “standard” Malvasia is good, but “Anno Domini” is the one that pushes my buttons.
Nikola explained that this is made more in the style that their grandparents used to produce – The grapes are left on their skins for 15 days, before ageing in large Slavonian oak, to extract more flavour and give a more robust wine. The Benvenutis play with the formula a bit, using temperature control during fermentation, something that more purist “orange” producers usually avoid.
Anno Domini 2010 has subtle jasmine and rosemary aromas that rapidly give way to luscious apricot and pineapple fruit. There’s a pronounced spiciness, perhaps from the oak ageing. The texture is broad and velvety, but feels fresh and balanced, even with 14.2% alcohol.
This is a nice contrast to Benvenuti’s fresh, young Malvasia (just aged in stainless steel), and also an interesting hybrid stylistically. Accessible and silky smooth, Anno Domini isn’t a wine that needs to be saved for geeks. The only challenge is tracking it down – Try Mephisto wines in the UK, although they only advertise the “young” Malvasia. If you’re in Amsterdam then you may have more luck – just pop along to the newly opened Bilderdijk Wijnhuys where you can pick up a bottle.