Updated: Oct 12, 2021
In midst of a beautiful and sunny autumn, our team found the rainiest day to visit the vineyards around Vodnjan. While the celestial greyness pours down the rain on the red earth with all its force, we drive through the vineyards at the Teraboto site. Izabela Vitasović drives us through them, who with her husband Dario takes care of these vines and skillfully creates them for the wine pleasure of the Teraboto winery. Through the rain, vines of Malvasia, Merlot, Teran, Muscat can be seen, and here and there we are shown some kažun between the rows of vines.
We are grateful that we were able to see all this, considering that our car stopped right in front of the entrance to Vodnjan, and only with the quick reaction of our hosts we managed to avoid cancelling the visit to Teraboto. And what a pity it would be we realized only later, trying wines and olive oils with the expert guidance of Mrs Izabela. She and her husband opted for an anti-stress life program by uniting old plantations 25 years ago. Dario Vitasović then decided to enrol in winemaking studies and invest in the modernization of wine production. Since there were too few vines for such preparation, the family decided to plant new seedlings. Their two daughters also help them with everything. Elisabetta is studying kinesiology, while Valentina is finishing high school. Parents Josip and Zlata Pereša are also tireless helpers.
Vodnjan terroir is known for its very stingy red earth, full of stones, so it gives a wine that is more mineral, with less aroma. The whole ambience is complemented by dry stone walls and kažuns, which were once used for protection from precipitation and heat, for storing tools or for rest from work, and during large agricultural activities, it was known to sleep there. Today they are visited by many tourists, and four kažuns are now on the property of the Vitasović family. They were renovated as part of the Vodnjan project "My kažun - La mia casita", in which some Istrian brandy is often drunk with guests. Many do not even realize that they are located in the area that has the most preserved kažuns in Istria, and these stone field houses that adorn the rural landscape of Istria have been under UNESCO protection since 2019.
Malvasia leaves turn yellow in the vineyards. This mild wine is a symbol of Istria, and it is very easy to drink it with every dish. The Malvasia harvest begins in mid-September and very quickly develops the scent of white flowers, elderberry, citrus and tropical fruits. While drinking it, we also admire the labels on Teraboto wines. This is a copy of oil on canvas by Rovinj artist Denis Puhar, who painted the bell towers and houses of his hometown for the Ex Tempore exhibition. In front of us, Izabela also puts delicious snacks, which should be paired with wine in various ways. There are three types of cow's cheese (young, three months old, and aged for two years) from the nearby famous Istrian cheese manufactory Vesna Loborika, and homemade prosciutto from the Vodnjan area. For a game with flavours, on the table are Teraboto's table olives, which are kept only in saltwater, and excellent samphire picked up in a corner of the nearby Istrian coast.
All of this arouses even more feelings in the palate when you try Merlot. It has an intense fruity taste and aroma of forest fruits. Izabela tells us about this wine as if it were a schoolboy: “Over the years, we have realized that this area is extremely good for Merlot. When you compare Teran and Merlot, Teran is entangled in the vine, poured while picking, while Merlot seems to have been in school, with perfect grapes, high sugars, good acidity, and on the tasting results we get praise for Merlot as our best wine. Teran should have been educated even more!” Teran itself carries with it the intoxicating aromas of cherries and marasca, and the wine is a classic bad boy of Istria. In addition to being offered with heavier and meat dishes, Izabela reminds us that it is also a wine for winter days, which is used to make the well-known Istrian soup.
But before you try this strong wine, it is good for the palate to taste extra virgin olive oil, in itself a gastronomic hit of Vodnjan. Olives are planted in five different places, whence come the three types of olive oil produced by Teraboto. Among them are old varieties. "Olives are harvested by hand from mid-October until the end of the month, after which they are immediately taken to the oil mill. The less time passes from harvesting to pressing, the higher the quality of the oil. The professional secret of olive growing is that the olives that are harvested earlier are far better, although there is less oil then”, explains Izabela as she pours the oil into small tasting cups. The position of Vodnjan itself helps local olive growers, who are well known in Croatia and in the world. For the sixth year in a row, Istria has been declared the best olive growing region in the world, and the people of Vodnjan make up a large share here. The city and its surroundings are at the crossroads of the climate and this helps to preserve the polyphenols in olive and oil, which are produced as a health product! Buža oil is the mildest, while the karbonaca variety gives the spiciest oil, and this range of oil flavours is combined with a selection of nine different oils (buža, bjankera, karbonaca, rosinjola, žižolera, puntoža, moražola, žutica, marana).
Teraboto is a winery also known for its sweet vineyards. Muscat Yellow is a premium wine, which is characterized by the aroma identical to grapes. The most beautiful clusters of muscat are dried until Christmas and this is what makes Vin de Rosa, a great dessert wine that enchants with its aromas and flavours. Perhaps it was Muscat that inspired Mama Zlata to make a Teraboto cake from olive oil from the buža variety, with yellow Muscat, dried figs and almonds from the garden. The flour is from a local producer in Vodnjan, so this is a real Vodnjan treat!
But a real treat awaited us at the very end. It all started with the opening of a very special sparkling wine, which the Vitasovićs put on the market for the 25th anniversary of their work. This is one of the few sparkling wines that is made by the classic method, prepared from muscat yellow. The dry extra brut is then laid horizontally in a two-meter-deep hole, where it is aged for three years at a uniform temperature of 13 degrees. Each step of preparation of this sparkling wine is done manually. In the end, a great experience and tasting experience of this wine is created.
And as we grabbed little by little champagne, Izabela calls us to a small warehouse where a very special task awaits us. We poured the wine of our choice into empty bottles and started bottling by hand. The fun task delights every guest, from putting cork to labelling the bottle, which certainly makes the wine tour at the Teraboto winery a unique experience, perhaps in the whole of Croatia! We definitely recommend that you try the whole story from kažun to bottle by coming to Vodnjan:
Istarska 99, 52215 Vodnjan, Croatia
Dario Vitasović, phone: +385 (0) 52 512 521, cell: +385 (0) 98 668 094
Izabela Vitasović, cell: +385 (0) 99 456 6224
Mama Zlata's recipe:
7 eggs + 2 egg whites
15 dkg sugar / half mix in yellow half in egg white mix
1.5 dcl of extra virgin olive oil
2 dcl Teraboto Muscat
A little lemon zest
30 dkg of flour
A little almond and dried figs or fig marmalade
For the topping Teraboto Muscatand a little sugar
Mix the eggs separately with the yellow sugar until light, and add the oil-mix to add the Muscat mix. The flour is added by hand and finally lightly egg whites with ½ sugar. Pour into a cake pan inserting pieces of figs. Arrange the almonds on top in a circle and bake at 180 degrees for 15 minutes and then reduce to 160 degrees for 25-30 minutes until the toothpick is dry. Pour 2 dcl of reduced Teraboto Muscat over the finished warm cake.
Photos: Ivana Bolković, Danijela Adler, Elvis Morina, Vinarija Teraboto i Taste of Adriatic