For our July curator Sarina Garibović, wine is most interesting when it comes from the areas where borders are crossed, where a particular style takes on characteristics of two or more cultures or traditions. So she wanted her takeover to take folks through a lineup of wines made “on the borderline.” That is, wines coming from regions where more than one cultural history, language, or tradition is guiding the style.
Within this theme you can expect wines coming from regions with a dynamic culture that is historically underrepresented in the U.S. market, and wines that 10 years ago would have been placed in the ‘off the beaten path’ portion of the menu but that are quickly becoming a real category on restaurant lists and wine shop shelves.
- Marinov “Babic” | Dalmatia, Croatia; red, babic: Babic (Bah-bich) is an ancient variety from the coastal region of Croatia. Dalmatia is known for the many islands that pepper the coast, the spotted dogs made famous by Disney, and the filming location for King’s Landing. But it’s also a historic and promising wine-producing region benefiting from interesting soil types and native varieties. Though babic can produce pretty big and ripe wines, this balanced example, enjoyed best with a slight chill, shows more complexity with a medium body plus a mixture of red and black fruit and a slightly herbal character. Enjoy it this summer with grilled meats and mushrooms and don’t shy away from pairing it to a tangy or peppery barbecue sauce.
- Škegro Family Winery Zilavka | Bosnia and Herzegovina; white, zilavka: I am beyond excited to have the chance to include a Bosnian wine in this theme! While Slovenia and Croatia enjoy thriving tourism industries and international familiarity with their wines, Bosnia and Herzegovina is rarely seen on bottle shop shelves and restaurant wine lists. It is truly a category for those excited by new wines from emerging regions. Don’t be fooled however, this is a region benefitting from hundreds of years of winemaking practice and know-how, dating back to at least the 13th century. Zilavka (zhi-lahv-kah) is a variety formerly relegated to blends which has recently come into its own as the main act. With a citrusy nose and palate, pleasant herbaceous quality and bright acidity, this is a hidden treasure for sauvignon blanc lovers.
- Enjingi Graševina | Slovania, Croatia; white, grasevina: Also known as welschriesling (though no relation to riesling), grasevina (grah-sheh-vi-na) is the most widely-planted variety in Croatia. This grasevina from Enjingi, located in the continental Slavonia region, is floral with apples and pears on the palate, and plenty of texture due to a short maceration on the skins. Ivan Enjingi is at the forefront of low-intervention wine production in Croatia and has earned a cult following among Croatian wine lovers and beyond. Few wines have the ability to be both worthy of the thought-provoking center of attention as well as a bottle to enjoy absentmindedly over dinner without guilt. This wine hits that rare mark.
- Zajc “Full Circle” Cvicek | Dolenjska, Slovenia; rosé, blaufrankisch, plavac mali, portugieser, grasevina: A traditional wine and the national drink of Slovenia, cvicek (ts-vi-check) is a speciality of the Dolenjska region! Cvicek has a long history and is produced using native varieties of both red and white grapes. Pair it with grilled sausages or just a hot dog on a hot day. This is a house wine through and through and the liter format and low alcohol (not to exceed 10 percent) makes it the perfect summer wine to enjoy chilled in a backyard or on a patio. In Minnesota we call this a porch pounder.
- Bibich CRNO | Dalmatia, Croatia; red, syrah: The Bibich winery is a true gem of Dalmatia. Its vineyards are more than 500 years old but much of the family’s estate was destroyed 30 years ago during the Croatian War of Independence. After the war, Allen Bibic took it upon himself to reestablish the winery in the same location. The winery’s first wines were released in 1998 and soon rose local and then international acclaim. This bottling is hand-picked syrah grown organically. A smooth mouthfeel with a silky layer of soft tannin will have you reaching for more. Medium-bodied with a long finish and ideal with mushroom pasta or pork dishes.
- Sanctum “Stix and Bugs” Red | Primorje, Slovenia; red piquette, blaufrankisch, zweigelt, pinot noir: The Podkubovšek family, starting with Vlado and his son, Marko, has always cherished and been proud of their heritage, hence the fact that all of their wines are made in a traditional style, where the vines and the microclimate speak for themselves. (The family farmed this land through the Soviet occupation and regained the rights after the fall of the Berlin Wall.) All of the grapes are strictly hand-picked and vinified with minimal intervention in the winemaking process. This is wonderfully fizzy, fun, and casual with a berry-forward aroma and bright fresh palette. It’s a fun addition to really any occasion, particularly those happening in the summertime around barbecue and grilled vegetables.
- Pikasi Pinela | Vipava Valley, Slovenia; white, pinela: A relatively rare, local variety of the Vipava Valley, pinela is white grape known to yield wines with lovely fruit and lively minerality — all of which are very present in this bottle. (There is said to only be about 50 hectares of pinela vines cultivated currently.) This one comes to use from Pikasi, a producer located in near Slovenia’s border with Italy. Pinela might best be compared to sauvignon blanc but without the grassy notes, or even white Burgundy. The palate is pleasant and creamy, with notes of stone fruit that make it ideal for just about any dish.
- Basaurresti, Lahu Getariako Txakolina Zero | Getariako, Spain (Basque Country); white, hondarrabi zuri: Few places are as “on the border” as Basque Country, which pulls from Spain as well as nearby France, but is wholly its own. This comes to us from one of the oldest wineries in Getariako, founded in 1925 and producing traditional Basque wines ever since. This is 100 percent hondarrabi zuri, the pre-eminent variety of the Basque Country. This bottling is salty and fresh, absolutely clean and lively with a low ABV.