Together with the wine, Vinistra is place where the best Istrian olive oil is being chosen. Remnants of diverse ancient oil manufactories along the entire western coast of Istria, particularly on the Brijuni archipelago, in the towns of Barbariga, Poreč and Červar Porat, show the long heritage of olive groves in Istria.
The Istrians say: “Close to these, real industrial areas intended for the amphora manufacture had been set up. It is only natural that large olive-groves were planted aside, namely the indigenous local sorts (bjelica, karbonera, buža, etc.). Nowadays, it seems like we have to start all over again. We dispose of unrivalled legacy, apparently excellent climate conditions and soil structure, favourable geographic position, skills handed down from our ancestors, knowledge and properly qualified personnel; nevertheless, we seem to lag behind the latest worldwide trends and attainments in the field. We need to take a step forward and face the challenge of planting olive-groves consisting of selected, autochthonous sorts, producing top-quality olive-oil, accepting new growing technologies, as well as of constructing up-to-date oil plants.”
The hard-working Istrian olive growers are fit for the job, at least according to the huge push in the international olive oil ratings. At Vinistra, a dozen olive growers achieved medals: OPG Marko Radola (Barban, golden medal for buža); Azrri (Pazin, golden medal for karbonaca&buža blend); OPG Gržinić Marko (Vižinada, golden medal for istarska bjelica, leccino & pendolino blend); Dolija 08 (Krnica, golden medal for istarska bjelica); Zigante (Kostanjica, golden medal for Istrian special selection); OPG Gambaletta (Vodnjan, golden medal for istarska bjelica, buža & karbonaca blend); Monte Rosso (Umag, golden medal for leccino, istarska bjelica, pendolino/Maurino/ascolana & picholine blend); Dešković (Grožnjan, silver medal for leccino); OPG Nela Popović (Poreč, silver medal for mixed olive oil); Laguna Novigrad (Novigrad, silver medal for frantoio and pendolino blend); OPG Damir Vižintin (Oprtalj, silver medal for leccino and istarska bjelica blend); Laguna Novigrad (Novigrad, silver medal for leccino and pendolino blend); and OPG Beaković Mauricio (Kaštelir, bronze medal for leccino, frantoio, pendolino, buža & rošinjola blend).
And while we did try some of the best olive oils, our attention was given to the municipality of Tar-Vabriga. The olive oil from this Istrian municipality has a continuation of use and production since antiquity. In first six centuries after Christ, the Laron Bay was used as primary harbour for transferring olive oil on whole Adriatic. In the Middle Ages, olive oil from Tar-Vabriga was used on the tables of European rulers, and in 1970-ies FAO designated the region as best for the northernmost olive oil production. The local authorities plan to open soon an eco-museum of olive oil as a testimony to the values and traditions in Tar-Vabriga.
Everything is connected to the olive growers themselves. Their efforts and knowledge combine with heritage and love. They have preserved the dry stone walls surrounding the centuries old olive groves; they have opened their cellars for visitors to taste and buy olive oil; and combined this offer with local foods and wine for a perfect and durable experience throughout the year.