Sparkling wine – the taste of summer! But, when you think of sparkling wines, Croatia doesn’t come naturally to mind, so I was surprised – and delighted – to be offered both white and rosé at Sv. Nikola, one of Porec’s top restaurants, both from Misal. They were delicious so, when I found they came from Istria and these were just two of their eight sparkling wines, I was determined to track down the winery and taste some more.
A hobby …
Run today by daughters Ana and Katarina, Misal was started as a hobby by their father, Dordano, on the family vineyard in the early 1990s. Over our first glass, Ana explained more. “In the late 1980s,” said Ana, “Istria had a poor reputation for its wine, which was largely made from Malvasia grapes. As a professor of viticulture and director of the Institute of Agriculture and Tourism in Porec, my father was sure there was nothing wrong with the grapes or region, it was simply the approach that was wrong. When an Italian friend introduced him to sparkling wine, he decided this would be the perfect chance to prove his point and set out on the very difficult challenge of making a great sparkling wine.”
Istria doesn’t have the classic climate for sparkling wines being, for example, far further south than the Champagne region in France, and closer to the sea. But by planting suitable clones and experimenting with the process, Dordano started producing some excellent sparkling wines. “Also, when he started, ” said Ana, “it was the middle of the war: all his friends and neighbours thought he was crazy!” But his timing, it turned out, was perfect, coinciding with the opening of the Croatian national library in Zagreb. The organisers loved the idea of serving a Croatian sparkling wine to launch a new national institution, and took all 100 bottles of his first production.
It was here Misal acquired its name. “When they heard our family owned a 2nd edition Misal po zakonu rimskoga dvora [the first book printed in Croatia in 1483. In Croatia’s unique Glagolitic script, it is the symbol of the Library], they suggested calling the wine for the opening ‘Misal’,” said Ana. “The name stuck – and, for foreigners, it’s certainly easier than our family name, Peršuric,” she added with a smile.
… that became a passion
“I grew up around vines,” said Ana, as we moved on with our tasting. “Wine making is in my blood. During the holidays, my mother would send us to the vineyard with my father. There my sister and I would ‘play’, competing to help my father plant vines.” As they grew older, play turned into proper help and, with it, grew a love of the process. “People thought it odd that two girls would choose such a physically demanding profession,” said Ana, “but our father passed on not only his knowledge, but his passion.”
An expanding range
Never satisfied, Ana and Katarina have gradually expanded the Misal cellar. “Different times of year and occasions call for different sparkling wines,” explained Ana. “What you want to drink at New Year will be different to what you’ll fancy in the summer. Sparkling wine is also very fashion driven, so we spend a lot of time looking at trends, trying to ensure we have new wines hitting the market at the right time.”
Misal only produces around 40,000 bottles a year – you won’t find it in supermarkets, but at specialist wine dealers and drunk by connoisseurs in high-class restaurants and wine bars (for example, in the UK, it is available at Sat Bains, a 2* Michelin restaurant in London). Misal might be a young winery, but its reputation is clearly growing!
At the moment Misal is the only producer dedicated solely to sparkling wine in the whole of Croatia – let alone Istria. “We would love this to change,” said Ana. “I think it would be wonderful if Croatia had a range of high-quality sparkling wines, each tailored to their region. But, for now, we’re it!”
The Misal cellar
- Blanc de blancs: extra dry. Made from Chardonnay grapes with champagne yeast from Épernay, France. Very dry, refreshing taste.
- Prestige: extra dry. A delicious blend of Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Malvasia, ideal as an aperitif.
- Millennium: dry. Misal’s original and most well-known wine. It is based on Malvasia, again with the addition of some Chardonnay and Pinot Noir.
- Istra: dry. Reflecting its name, Istra is produced from only Malvasia grapes. A blend of three vintages produces a rich aroma. It is drunk all year round, but is particularly popular at Christmas.
- Blanc de noirs: dry. Inspired by champagne from Épernay, this is the most recent addition to the range. Produced from a Pinot Noir specifically chosen for its clear, light colour and fruity flavour.
Red / Rosé
- Noir: dry. A unique red wine, based on Borgonja, Hrvatica and Terran grapes. Its strong taste makes it ideal for winter and as an accompaniment to Istrian-style starters.
- Rosé: semi-dry. This beautiful pink wine is based on Pinot Noir, with touches of Malvasia and Chardonnay. As well as being drunk at many a wedding, it is an excellent summer wine and aperitif.
- Rouge: semi-sweet. Another pretty pink one. This time based on Terran, with the addition of Muscat and Malvasia, this wine is ideal at either end of a meal – either as an aperitif or desert wine.
Due to the constant high quality of their grapes, with the exception of Istra, all Misal wines are vintage wines (something rare and hard to achieve with sparkling wines).
Where is Misal?
Misal is in the tiny hamlet of Pršurici on the road between Žbandaj and Višnjan.
Address: Pršurici 5a, 52463 Višnjan, (GPS: 45° 14′ 01? N, 13° 42′ 37? E)
When to visit
Ana and Katarina are happy to welcome visitors any time and will be delighted to show you round the whole winery – vineyards, cellar, laboratory and of course, the tasting room! “We really want visitors to come, but simply ask that they call or e-mail ahead of time, so we can ensure there is someone here to meet them,” said Ana.
- Tel: +385 (0)52 431 586
- Mobile Ana: +385 (0)98 1957 037
- Mobile Katarina:+385 (0)98 226 881
- E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
For more information on the winery and wines, see the Misal website.
Misal’s wines are also available in the UK through specialist wine dealer, Pacta Connect.
First posted Feb 2014