Tasting and visiting Clai
A little while back, we had the chance to traipse around Istria and catch up on many of the wineries that we either weren’t able to see or simply didn’t exist during our last visit several years ago. It was remarkable to see what a changes had happened in these few years. The wines, despite the horrid 2010 harvest, have stabilized so well as to create a wonderful definition as to “what” an Istrian wine is.
Of course in the middle of all the internationalization you find Giorgio Clai threatening to throw a monkey wrench in to the entire process with his stridently natural approach to winemaking. Set up in Northern Istria (which is what people see as the oh-so Tuscan-esque part) on the ridge that the village of Krasica straddles are Clai’s vineyards. In the distance the waters of Adriatic shimmer and in the foreground, a grinning Giorgio emerges from a day working in the fields.
Incredibly hand’s on, he’s one of those winemakers who fully believes that the wine is make in the vineyard, not in the cellar–a concept lost on many of his contemporaries in the region. The results are admittedly varied. In good years, he gets mind blowing wines that are like nothing you’ve tasted before. In bad years, well, you just get a wine. But, this is how it used to be prior to Mondovino/Parkerization and for us, it was a welcome change.
As most tastings seem to go in Istria, it starts with a bottle, moves on to another and before you know it, Giorgio is pulling out unlabeled “experiments” oozing with bizarre and never seen before promise of something gorgeous. His red ventures are solid, but as with the general theme of Istrian wine, what really shine are the whites. Deep and lively, the wild course of their non-interventionist vinification process shines.
Some of the warmest people you’ll ever meet, stopping in to see Giorgio and his wife, Vesna is one of those “must do” points on any enotouristic vaunt through Istria.