Damjanic – award-winning wines

Ivan Damjanic and his vines in IstriaLooking for good wine in the Porec area? Why not follow my footsteps and visit the Damjanic winery in Fuškulin, where Ivan Damjanic is producing six award-winning wines: four white and two red.

Professionally-trained and with a passion for wine, Ivan is a classic example of why Istria is beginning to make a name for itself on the European wine map. I met up with him and partner Željka and, over a glass or two, found out more about the winery.

 

Recreating a heritage

The start of the Damjanic tale is rather sad. Over many generations, Ivan’s forebears built up a successful winery in Fuškulin. They grew twenty hectares of vines on their thirty hectare farm, developing a name as quality wine producers. This all ended in the old days in Istriathe late 1940s, when most of their land was appropriated by the Communist government and Ivan’s grandfather was left with just five hectares of vines. “He still continued producing wine, but his heart had gone out it,” explained Željka, “and he seemed set to be the last of the family in the wine business.”

Ivan was very close to his grandfather, “As I grew up, I helped him in the vineyard and listened to his tales,” he said. “I trained in the business, but his bad experiences made me determined I wouldn’t be a wine producer, so I went to work in tourism instead.”

Ivan Damjanic & his barrels, IstriaHowever the call of the grape proved too strong. “I was sure I could produce a great wine from my grandfather’s grapes,” Ivan said, “but he was sceptical and believed the old ways, learned in the vineyards, were superior to my modern approach. Eventually, we decided to put the argument to the test, and I produced my first wine.”

“It was a huge success,” said Željka, taking up the tale. “Even Grandfather was forced to admit, Ivan had produced a far superior wine.” And, more importantly, Ivan was hooked. The wine was good, but he was sure it could be even better …next time. And so, in 1999, the winery was born and, with each vintage better than the last, Ivan’s wines were soon winning awards.

Damjanic vinyard, Istria“Damjanic wines are great, because Ivan’s passionate about wine and is a complete perfectionist,” explained Željka. “His life is his wine. He controls every step of the process, always trying to produce the perfect wine.”

Has he achieved perfection, I asked? “Not yet,” Ivan replied, with a smile, “Perfection  is never achievable. It is always just around the corner.”  That is his opinion. In mine, he’s pretty close. Everything I tried tasted delicious to me: each a classic of its type, fantastic examples of the great wines being produced by Istria’s new generation of young wine producers.

 

The Damjanic cellar

Whites

Damjanic offers three dry whites (Malvazija, Akacija and Chardonnay), and a semi-sweet Muškat:

  •  Malvazija – Istria’s famous dry white wine. Grown on this region’s red soil, Damjanic produces an excellent example. A light, fresh wine, ideal for summer drinking.
  • barrels at Damjanic winery, IstriaAkacija – When young, Malvazija has a lovely aroma of acacia flowers. By maturing it in acacia wood barrels, this aroma is perpetuated and intensified in the finished wine. It is a delicious, light wine with a lovely flowery aroma.
  • Chardonnay – All Damjanic wines have won awards, but this one Ivan is particularly proud of, as it won a silver medal at the 2013 Concours International des Vins in Lyons, France! As Željka explained, “It’s easy for a foreigner to win a medal for their Malvazija, it’s not a variety grown in France. But to win one for a Chardonnay is almost unheard of. Chardonnay is quintessentially French, and the awards nearly always go to French wines. For us, this medal was very special.”
  • Muškat – Semi-sweet, this is a delightful desert wine with a fruity and floral aroma of nutmeg and elder. Its light flavour and long-lasting taste makes it a perfect accompaniment to cheese, fruit and light deserts.

Reds

Damjanic has two reds, a Borgonja and Clemente.

  • The lighter Borgonja is a combination of Burgundy’s classic Gamay grapes and Istria’s unique Borgonja. A close cousin to bottles at Damjanic winery, IstriaGamay, Borgonja was introduced to Istria in the early 20th century – and Ivan uses grapes from his family’s vines planted in 1914. It makes for a winning combination, winning a gold medal at the International du Gamay in France, in 2012.
  • Deeper, darker and heavier, Damjanic Clemente is a blend of Merlot, Cabinet Sauvignon, Teran and Borgonja. This rich, ruby-red wine, with its subtle notes of herbs and black pepper, is also an award winner, picking up a silver medal in the Lyon 2012 Concours International des Vins, in France.

 

Where is Damjanic?

From Porec, follow the coast road towards Vrsar. Turn left at the roundabout, just before the new water park (direction Mugeba tasting area at Damjanic winery, Istriaand Fuškulin). Follow the road to Fuškulin and turn right in the village, just after a sharp left bend. The winery is signposted. Take the middle of the three narrow lanes and follow it to the outskirts of the village. There is parking on the left and the entrance to the winery is across the road, up a driveway.

Fuškulin is on one of Porec’s cycle routes, so many visitors come by bike. As Željka says, “They stop for a taste – and come back later with the car to buy!”

Address: Fuškulin 50, 52440 Porec,  (GPS: 45° 10′ 53? N, 13° 38′ 24? E)

 

When to visit

a Damjanic vine, Istria“Come whenever you like,” said Željka. “There is usually someone around, everyone speaks English and will give you a warm welcome.” But if you want to make sure, or would like to talk with Ivan, she suggests giving them a call or sending an e-mail ahead of time to arrange your visit.

For more information on the winery and wines, see the Damjanic website.

 

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