Thursday, July 25, 2024
Buying Guide Tastings

6 Croatian Sparkling Wines: How Do They Rate?

Croatian sparkling wine tasting

Revelers and brunchers in Croatia will be delighted to find that sparkling wine is made in every region. But not all bubbles are created equal!

For our tasting, we chose 6 Croatian sparkling wines made using the highest-quality method, the one used in Champagne. For this, the bubbles are created by a second fermentation inside each bottle—rather than, say, in a giant tank. It’s as if the bubbles in your bottle were intended just for you. On the label, look for the words Traditional Method (similar in English, French or Croatian), Klasična Metoda, or Metoda Vrenja u Boci to indicate this method. 

Many Croatian wineries that use the Traditional Method also use the traditional grape varieties of Champagne: Chardonnay and Pinot Noir. Some “spice” these with small amounts of local grapes—or use different grapes altogether. 

One other process is essential to wines made by the Traditional Method, and it distinguishes them from fruitier fizz, like Prosecco. This is the amount of time the bottles are required to rest “on the lees” after the second, bubble-making fermentation. At that point, the yeasts, or lees, from that fermentation are still inside each bottle, and they give Traditional Method wines their richly bready, yeasty or nutty flavors. 

From grapes to yeasts to the wine maker’s personal taste, there are many factors that determine the flavor and texture of each wine. Here’s how our 6 bottles measured up.

The Tasting

Note: This tasting is meant to be readable, not comprehensive. We tasted six wines, not 60. The wines are listed in alphabetical order by producer. A star (*) indicates wines that stood out for their quality and flavor on the day of the tasting.

The wines for this tasting were kindly provided by Wine & More, and the prices listed are those at their webshop.

Bolfan Centurion Brut Zero (Zagorje-Međimurje) 123 kn
Even at our blind tasting, we guessed right away that this wine was brut zero. This means zero sugar was added to the wine right before the final corking, a recent trend in sparkling wine making. Here, it results in a fantastic food wine, with refreshing, zippy acidity. It is light bodied, with flavors of lemon, tart green apple and minerals, and only minimal toasty character from the lees. Some may find it a bit austere as a sipping wine, but with salads and fresh summer foods, it’s a champ.  100% Chardonnay; Organic

Griffin Brut (Plešivica) 169 kn
The Griffin stood out from the other wines in the tasting not for fruitiness but for its rich earthiness: buttery pie-crust aromas and umami flavors of mushroom and miso. Then we discovered it’s not made from Chardonnay, but from Rizvanac, a grape called Müller-Thurgau outside Croatia. Does this explain the difference? Most likely, yes. More important, we all agreed when one guest taster said, “It’s nice to stick your nose in the glass and sip it slowly, because it’s really nice to smell.”

Jagunić Three Stars Brut (Plešivica) 100 kn
This wine gives way more than 100 kuna in pleasure! It has complex flavors of brown butter, brioche, tart yogurt, green apple, green papaya and just a touch of fresh mushroom. It has a finish that lasts, the acidity popping back up at the end to refresh you for another sip. And it has the elusive quality of finesse—it is somehow both delicate and bold, edgy and elegant. Guests said this one “tastes the most like Champagne.”  Chardonnay, Riesling and old local varieties

*Koquelicot Kontempo 2016 Blanc de Blancs Zero Dose (Istria) 130 kn
Like the Bolfan, this wine also had zero sugar added, but we had no idea! The style couldn’t be more different, because the zesty acidity is offset by ample yeasty, toasty flavors that make the wine taste rich. The glass bursts with red apple, floral, buttery brioche and mineral aromas and flavors, plus something intriguingly vegetal, like raw zucchini. The richest wine in the lineup, with a super-long finish that tastes like a bite of chewy, artisanal country bread. Our guest tasters loved its generosity, and concluded, “This has the best mouthfeel.”  100% Chardonnay

*Meneghetti Classic 2017 Brut (Istria) 199 kn 
Led by a delicate aroma of lemon meringue pie and a light, foamy bubble, this wine nevertheless has a satisfying almost-full body. Balance is the theme here: acidity balances out the lush body, and fruit and mineral flavors balance its richer brioche notes, even on its long-lasting finish. Perfect for those who appreciate a sparkling wine that is refreshing and rich. Ideal for both sipping and pairing with food. Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Pinot Blanc

Petrać Bregh Blanc de Blancs Brut (Zagorje-Međimurje) 115 kn
Delicate or fat, explosive or foamy, brief or long lasting… Different sparkling wines have different bubbles. You can choose your own style. This wine has lots of long-lasting bubbles that explode in your mouth. But one guest thought the “fizzing sensation almost overtakes the flavor.” And that flavor is well worth tasting: lovely peach with a refreshing bitter touch like the part near the pit, a little herb—yes, that herb—and a clean mineral finish. Fresh, festive, a perfect cocktail sparkler. 100% Chardonnay

Cheers Croatia Magazine conducts wine tastings in the semi-blind format. This means that we know what wines we have, but they are placed in numbered bags so we can’t identify them during the tasting. Unless otherwise stated, wines for tastings are purchased or occasionally donated by the winery. See the magazine’s Affiliations and Gifts Policy for more information.

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