Wednesday, November 6, 2019

Terra Madre: From Pošip Sur Lie to Wine Tourism

Nestled atop a hill in the Komarna region, visible from the Rizman Winery Rest Stop, you'll find the new winery of Terra Madre. The winery has a scenic view, looking out toward the Adriatic Sea and the Pelješac peninsula. Like the other members of the K7 Cooperative, their vineyards are organic, the soils are rocky with lots of limestone, and many of the vineyards are on steep slopes.

During our visit to Terra Madre, we met Davor Martinović (on the left), one of the partners of the winery, and Marko Sauman (on the right), their enologist, with 21 years of experience. They are standing on their terrace, which overlooks the Adriatic, and is a wonderful place to enjoy some wine and experience the natural beauty of Croatia.

Terra Madre is a subsidiary of an agricultural equipment company, and it is owned by three partners,  one the previously mentioned Davor Martinović, who oversees the winery. Seven children of the three partners also work at the winery, so it is very much a family-run operation, with Marko being the main employee who isn't part of the family.

In 2008, they purchased their first vineyards, and had their first harvest two years later, in 2010, though their first commercial harvest wouldn't be until 2011. They initially hired an Israeli firm to construct their irrigation system, and this was the first time the Israelis had ever worked on such steep slopes. Previously, Terra Madre produced wine at a facility on the Pelješac peninsula, and in 2017, they started production at their new winery in Komarna, opening their tasting room in 2018.

They have about 17 hectares of organic vineyards, growing about 125,000 vines, including 75% Plavac Mali, 10% Pošip, 10% Syrah, and 5% other grapes like Chardonnay and Cabernet Sauvignon. They have no current plans to increase the size of their vineyards, though it's possible they might eventually slightly increase the amount of hectares. Annually, they produce about 80,000 bottles.

At the time of our visit, the Pošip had already been harvested about 15 days before, and they were currently harvesting the grapes for their Rosé wines. It was thought it would be another ten more days before they started harvesting their Plavac Mali.

They constructed this cross on their property, replicating the cross that was constructed in Medjugorje in 1933/1934. The primary reason for the cross is to give thanks, though there's an interesting story about the Medjugorje cross. The region has once been plagued by heavy rains and hail, but after the cross was erected, they were never again bothered by hail. In Komarna, hail isn't common, but when it occurs, it can be quite destructive.

Marko explaining about their oak program, which includes French, American, and Slavonian barrels, generally sized at 500 liters.

Our wine tasting began with the 2017 Terra Madre Plavac Mali Rosé, which is primarily Plavac Mali but with the addition of a little Syrah. To make the Rosé, they use only free run juice, and no skin contact, because Plavac Mali provides lots of color on its own. With a 12% ABV, it is fresh and dry, crisp and easy-drinking, with pleasant red fruit flavors. Enjoy on its own or with seafood, light chicken dishes, or fried foods.

Terra Madre makes two different styles of Pošip, one which is fresh, with low alcohol, and the other which is more complex, having aged in oak. The first style, the 2018 Terra Madre Pošip Premium, makes up about 90% of their Pošip production. The wine is 85% Pošip and 15% Chardonnay, has a 13% ABV, and has a fresh taste, with plenty of crisp acidity, and flavors of citrus, especially lemon, with a touch of green apple. It is an excellent seafood wine

The 2017 Terra Madre Pošip Sur Lie is aged on its lees for about 6 months in new oak barrels, though the next vintage will use one-year old oak. It has been blended with 50% fresh Pošip Premium, has a 13% ABV, and definitely presents a different flavor profile. The oak is noticeable on the nose, and on the palate, there is a more complex taste, with flavors of toast, vanilla, and citrus. It was an interesting wine, though I preferred the fresh Pošip.

Terra Madre produces two types of Plavac Mali, Barrique and Premium, and dependent on the vintage, these wines include about 15% of Syrah and/or Cabernet Sauvignon. This is done to differentiate their wines from those producing 100% Plavac Mali. In some respects, this seems to make the wines a bit more fruit forward, reminiscent to a degree of a more California style.

The 2015 Terra Madre Plavac Mali Barrique, with a 14% ABV, was aged for about one year in used oak. It was easy drinking, with dominant spicy notes, flavors of black fruit and a little red cherry. This wine would pair well with burgers and lamb, hearty dishes and grilled meats.

The 2016 Terra Madre Plavac Mali Premium, with 15% Cabernet Sauvignon, a 14% ABV and which spent 12 months in oak, was a bigger and bolder wine. It wasn't too tannic, with rich, sweet black fruit flavors, a bit less spice, and more complexity than the barrique. This is more of steak wine, and should age well. We also got to taste the 2017 Premium, which hasn't been bottled yet and they are unsure when it will be ready to be released. It was much bigger and more tannic, and certainly needs more time to develop before release. It has potential so will be fascinating to taste it once it is finally released.

The last wine we tasted was their "best wine," the 2011 Plavac Mali, and they only have about 400 bottles remaining in their archive. It is from their first harvest, has a 15.6% ABV, and an inky black color. The wine was well preserved, with notes of black cherry and dark spice, the tannins firm and well integrated, and a silkiness to its taste. Definitely a winner.

After our tasting, we enjoyed a delicious meal of domestic lamb, with crisp skin and tender, flavorful meat. I love lamb so this was a delight, and it paired very well with the different Plavac Mali wines.

Terra Madre's plans for the future includes trying to attract more wine tourism. This project will involve constructing some guest houses and a marina. As others in the K7 Cooperative are also interested in enhancing wine tourism, this could easily be the next level for the Komarna region. It's a beautiful and compelling region, with excellent wines, so it's a place that wine tourists should be encouraged to visit.

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