Friday, August 22, 2014

The Wines of Croatia Big Bibich Bash--Event Recap!

I got called out, by a native Croatian, for serving sub-standard Ajvar but it was all in the spirit of goodwill and love for authenticity, at the First Annual Big Bibich Bash held on August 16, 2014. I'm going on record right now and calling it “First Annual” Bibich Bash, because drinking the wines of Croatia is something that needs to be done again and again. 

But back to the Ajvar for a moment—I had two types of Ajvar out in bowls and the minute Nenad Baračkov walked in and saw them he said—“I can tell without tasting, that orange looking one is Podkavak. Not the best!” He declared.

Nenad knows his Ajvar!

We had only just met, so I was a bit taken back, but he was right. Nenad proved to be the most delightful guest and a fabulous source of information on the regional cuisine of Croatia. We discussed hobotnice (octopus), the best source for tinned sardines, the amazing cheese from Pag--Paški sir, and the origins of Supa, a red wine based soup with olive oil, sugar, and toasted bread.

Many of the other guests were well versed in the Croatian food and wine scene too. I was lucky to host such a very convivial group.

But the guest of honor was the Bibich—From the Sparkling Rosé, a festive dry delight --to the Sangreal Merlot, and the rich and dreamy Ambra.

In a bit of a tasting reversal, we started with the reds first as the whites chilled. But I dare say with Bibich, tasting the wines a reverse order is not a problem. The Bibich reds are true shape-shifters, full of flavor and nuance.

The Rhone style G6 Grenache was a standout as was the Sangreal Merlot and Sangreal Shiraz. One of my favorites the R6, a blend of 34% Babic, 33% Plavina and 33% Lasin; smells like a Zin, but drinks like a Pinot.

Bas de Bas Rouge -- Dark, brooding, and beautiful, with elegance and structure--an embodiment of the land and place from which it hails.

Overall, I find that a thread of salinity runs through all the wines and seems to be a characteristic of many Croatian varietals both red and white.

As much as I love the reds it is the rare, unusual, and beguiling Bibich whites, the "Croatian White Unicorns” that I find most intriguing.

My beloved Lučia—The original “white unicorn” that I first tried in Croatia. In a word; this wine is captivating. The mythical, magical creation of Mr. Alen Bibić.

And a new unicorn --Bas de Bas Blanc. The Bas de Bas Blanc is multifaceted “orange” wine made from Debit grapes that spent 3 months on skins in stone vats, then 5 years in oak. At first it is comes across as herbaceous but not in a pyrazine green bean or bell pepper way-- but in a true herbal way. I got an immediate note of thyme, and a clean pleasing spicy tea tree oil scent that quickly opened into notes of apricot and honey and baked apple along with some lingering crushed herb notes such as parsley, sage, and rosemary—so along with thyme, it’s a veritable Simon and Garfunkel song.

The Bas de Bas Blanc has lot of complexity on the palate with a great weight that belies it’s 12% AVB status. I’m not sure if this is a wine for the masses, but I doubt that’s why Alen made it. It’s meant to be enjoyed on it’s own merits-- not billed as a summer sipper by any means. It’s serious and deserves contemplation. And I’m told that the back label reads: “Produced only for true wine lovers.”

Debit -- I love 100% Debit in all it’s manifestations and this is one of the best.

R5 -- Rich and unctuous blend of Debit, Posip, and Marastina, along with Pinot Grigio and Chardonnay; it’s a marvelous mouthful that is both refreshing and bold, and opens up to subtle corners of unexpected flavor.  Trust me-- you just have to try this. 

Posip 9 - A classic Croatian white, fresh and vibrant-- this wine is enthusiasm in a glass. Great balance with a lick of salt, and a puff of chalk, it’s a gateway drug to the more complex whites. 

Except for the Posip, I think most of the white wines may show best if you start out chilled but let them warm up at bit, as I believe they reach their true expression when at room temperature. The whites also have the structure and body to pair well with hearty foods and it was universally agreed that they went particularly well with sausage hot off the grill.

We had hashtags and tasting sheets and love notes to Alen-- but mostly we had a great time.

Tremendous thanks as always to Frank Dietrich, for bringing the Bibich and sharing his knowledge and enthusiasm for the wines of Croatia and in particular the wines of Alen Bibić. Thanks too, for introducing me to so many new and interesting people--Nenad Baračkov and Roberta Wahl; Zdravko and Marion Podolski; Gisele Carig, and Candace. Though we'd never met before, I do believe we were all bonded by Bibich by the days end. Also thanks to James, Fred, Thea, and Liza (and her wine protégés) for coming out.

If you are interested in tasting the Bibich line (and I heartily encourage you to do so) you can find them all at Blue Danube Wine.

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