In the peaceful alley of the Vodnjan’s Babos neighbourhood there is a family winery bearing the same name. Mother Lorella comes from the Vodnjan’s family Giacometti, while father Gugliemo Moscarda is from the neighbouring place of Galižana. Together they blend continuation of at least one century old family traditions of wine making and olive growing, despite also traditional enmity between Vodnjan and Galižana. Their sons Matteo and Luca are oenologists and work diligently for the family’s estate. All of them have met us with bright smile behind massive wooden doors that led from summer heat to the cool premises of the winery’s courtyard and gorgeous tasting room.
Very soon we were confronted with excellent cheese soaked in two kinds of olive oil that family makes. One is pure Istrian bjelica, a local olive specie that is often mixed with other oils as it has spicy flavour – which we like very much. The other one is a mix of buža (another Istrian/Croatian olive) and leccino. As their names suggest, the family is of Italian heritage, which is not so strange in Vodnjan. Termed Dignano in Italian, this town has the biggest Italian minority in whole Istria. The family members speak Italian among themselves but are very honest and true for protecting the authentic and local products. This sincerity is evident in the appreciations for their products; thus, the Giacometti-Moscarda olive oil won numerous prizes and awards, including the golden one for Istrian bjelica in 2018! Mrs Lorella tells us they are not in hunt for gold, but would like to maintain constant prize winnings as a testimony to their efforts. There is nothing more true than that.
First stop on our wine journey is the extra dry Babos Sparkling Wine made of Istrian Malvazija. Made according to the Charmat method, it was first produced five years ago and there are excellent reactions from customers. Some, like our journalist Vedran, are not so keen for sparkling wines, but Babos makes it in a beautiful way. No wonder they have duplicated the production and now they don’t make 3333 bottles a year but 6666! It is easier to remember, they said.
The tasting room is nice example of a traditional Istrian konoba and it is among the first ones opened in Vodnjan area. Unfortunately for all of you wine lovers, the wine can be bought in Vodnjan and seldomly in neighbouring places during the tourist season, but Babos is so neatly tied to this region, it is hardly fair not to visit the winery itself. In summer it works with a midday break from 2-6pm, while in other time of year they are open upon a call. One notice, however: the family lives in Galižana, although the winery is situated in Vodnjan.
Fresh and young Babos Malvazija 2017 has all the specificities of solid fresh Malvazija, although it is end of July and it shows signs of maturation. Nevertheless, fresh Malvazija is excellent drink in hot summer days when refreshing and fruity notes help bear this Mediterranean heat. For more nuanced drinkers, Babos Prestige White Moscato, half-dry, would be a great option, especially as this wine is not too sweet and yet it has those favourite Moscato scents we would love to dive in.
A quite special break was delivered by Babos Rose made of Teran and Moscato Rose. This interesting combination is explained to us by Matteo; charmat method is often not tolerant to too much acidity. Indeed, this rose looks sweet, but has a stable and refreshing flavour. Indeed, it is a brave and nice combination that rose fans will find very interesting. The grapes for these wines are of great quality as the Vodnjan terroir is very suitable for grapes and olives. Family’s olive groves are situated in Galižana, while the nest vineyards are around Marčana. For Malvasia they have positions towards Galižana as the soil is rockier. And the southeastern flanks are perfect for red sorts.
Babos might well be one of the best South Istrian wineries for red wines. First, we tried young Merlot Goccia Nera (meaning the black drop) 2017, incredibly mild, fruity, even velvet in flavour. It has a specific vitality, even after two months in bottle, after it has been placed in inox barrel. It was a real surprise, but we didn’t expect even better Cabernet Sauvignon Marana 2016, probably among the top five Cabernets we have tried lately in Istria. Barriqued for a year, it was only ten days in bottle before it was opened for tasting. Marana, another part of Vodnjan, is almost honey-like, and the secret lies in a particular Babos custom: they never mature wine in a new barrique.
Not to be left without essence of Vodnjan’s taste, last we were served with Vin de Rosa, a specific Vodnjan’s drink made of dried Malvazija grapes. The family won golden prize this year for this wine. The grapes are dried for two months, and then it is left for a year in barrique. Sweet wine is ideal for various desserts and a pride of Vodnjan.
We visited the busy wine cellar too and the courtyard filled with walnuts. The family makes seven kinds of rakija and it was a time for preparing the walnut rakija (orahovac). It was a charming experience in Babos, which was full of customers and yet the family was dedicated to every guest equally. Excellently guided wine tour gives a feeling of dedication and knowledge, which will certainly give Babos continuation of awards!