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Vivoda - diversity and quality

Historically speaking, the Vivodas moved to Rovinj in the 50s of the last century from the Buzet part of Ćićarija at a time when migrations in Istria were large and common. In the beginning, apart from the inevitable vines, in Istria, as well as in Dalmatia and a large part of continental Croatia, they were engaged in viticulture. However, the Vivodas also planted vegetables and fruits and raised cattle. Over the years, this broad activity became narrower in scope (they were well-known producers of peaches) and from 2004 they fully devoted themselves to viticulture and winemaking.

Davor Vivoda is the third generation from those beginnings and today, together with his wife Suzana, he very successfully runs the winery, which is located almost in the centre of Rovinj. The vineyards are only two kilometres from the outskirts of Rovinj in the areas of San Ciprijan, Kalkera and Turnina. The soil is typical Istrian red clay at a low altitude of about 20-30 m.

They have a total of about 15 hectares of vineyards with the last planting of Cabernet Sauvignon in 2018. The largest part, about 70%, is Istrian malvasia and white muscat, and from the black varieties they have merlot (on 2 hectares), teran and cabernet sauvignon. Also on offer is sparkling wine Lucija (named after my daughter) made from greenish-yellow malvasia, crystal clear with 11% alcohol. The total average annual production is about 100,000 liters, of which 35-40,000 go into bottles.

The lucky circumstance that the cellar is in the centre of the city enables them to sell well during the tourist season and beyond. There are big plans to renovate the cellar and build a tasting room for 40-50 visitors, the plans have been drawn up and the European wine envelope is waiting. In previous years, there were exports to the USA, Austria and Norway, and they are permanently exporting to Serbia and Montenegro. The winery won its first major international gold award at Decanter 2022 for St. Euphemia 2018.

Last year 2023 was extremely successful: Decanter - gold for the plume of the house and the original souvenir of the city of Rovinj St. Euphemia 2019 (more about the wine later in the text) and silver for fresh Malvasia in 2022. The same year at the Concours de Mondial in our Poreč in the competition 7504 wines from around the world, 220 Croatian (of which 150 from Istria) won gold for fresh Malvasia from 2022!

Since 2005, Vivoda's Malvasia has been labeled IQ (Istrian quality). Recognisable Vivoda wines, which we also noted in the workshop, Davor works with the expert advice of oenologists and the director of the Rijeka Polytechnic-Agricultural Department in Poreč, Mario Stavera.

At the presentation at the Český dom in Zagreb called "Time is FOR..." led by sommelier Darko Lugarić, we tasted as many as nine wines: Malvazija 2023, Malvazija 2022, Malvazija Sv.Euphemia 2019, Rose teran 2022, Merlot 2022, Cabernet sauvignon 2021, Teran 2019, Merlot San Ciprian 2018 and White Muscat 2022.

Malvazija 2022 with 13.5% alcohol and 5.2 g/l acid is a fresh, soft, mineral wine in good condition. Aromas of a herbal character with a touch of fruitiness: acacia, elderberry, grass, white flowers, green apple, grapefruit, hazelnut... The golden yellow colour is much more mature than the first young wine from 2023 that we tried at the beginning. Vivoda emphasises that it wants to keep the style in its fresh Malvasias. 2022 was a drier year than 2023, that's why this Malvasia is more herbal, less fruity. A gastronomic recommendation is to pair this wine with turkey fillet with zucchini, asparagus and leccino olive oil.

Malvazija St. Euphemia 2019 with 14.5% alcohol and 5.9 g/L acid is a multiple award-winning wine, like the one from the year before. Maceration was for 35-40 days in stainless steel and then aged for 18 months in 1500 and 225 litre Slavonian oak barrels. After filling, it still ages in the bottle before going on the market. The wine is dense, beautifully structured, with an extremely intense aroma of dried fruit and flowers. The fullness of the body is felt in the mouth, fresh, mineral, soft, fruity.

The alcohol is high but well blended, as are the tannins. Even after five years, the wine is still fresh with excellent acidity that will give it durability. The grapes were picked in the older, best parts of the vineyard. Here, Vivoda blended wines from different casks and made an excellent product, which was recognized twice at Decanter in 2022 and 2023. Lugarić's gastronomic recommendation is boškarin steak (medium), pea puree and zucchini. Tuna or swordfish steaks are also a good match, and chewing gum would also go well. The wine was made by order of the city of Rovinj and today has the status of an original souvenir of the city. This wine is the most expensive in the winery and costs 14 euros.

Cabernet Sauvignon 2021 with 13.6 and 6.2 g/L of acid is a still young wine from a new vineyard planted in 2018 with 4,000 vines. The winemaker's intention was to blend it with Merlot, but it is clear that this variety will give him excellent wine on its own. It is macerated for 10-12 days and the focus is on the play between wood and fruitiness, well arranged here. In wood, a combination of tono 500 plus 225 liters, it was 12 months. The wine is ruby red in colour, dense, with intense fresh aromas. Fruitiness reminiscent of blackcurrants, wild berries, even mint, vanilla, toasted bread, cocoa and chocolate can be felt. There is still time until the real peak in 2-3 years and years of duration after that. According to the winemaker, planting this variety was a great decision at the suggestion of his wife Suzana. Gastronomic recommendation is veal shank with pea puree, black Slavonian pork steak or pork loin.

We tried two more merlots and one teran, all correct and well-made wines, and I will finally describe the penultimate and last wine. Merlot San Ciprian 2018 with 14.5% alcohol and 5.6 g/L got its name from its location near the church of St. Ciprian. The maceration was for two weeks and the barrels of 500 and 225 liters were combined again and here you can feel the wood.

The wine is clear, garnet red, with an intense, jammy aroma. It is full-bodied and characterful, you can feel the fruit and tannins, it has a slight bitterness in the aftertaste. Like the previous one, this wine also has a nice acidity of 5.5 and is now in its sixth year. Certainly, robust wine that goes well with equally strong food: Dalmatian pašticada with gnocchi, stronger sausages, grilled red meat. It's a little too strong for Francem, and Mikulan doesn't mind the wood and likes this style.

White Muscat 2022 with 12.6% alcohol and 5.7 g/L acid is a sensitive variety that must be taken care of in the vineyard. It is most often attacked by powdery mildew and rot. That was the year 2023, but according to the winemaker, they did well in their microlocation. The maceration lasted for 6-7 hours and then it was poured into the roaster. The wine is semi-sweet, the rest of the sugar is 21 grams, it has a delicate light golden yellow colour. You can feel peach, yellow fruit in general, and as the winemaker says, you need to know and be able to pour that delicate berry into a glass. It worked for them. In pairing food and wine, we ate a biscuit with candied fruit and this sweet wine. The impression is that they were made for each other.

Finally, the married couple Vivoda showed us that their wines have potential, recognized values by the profession at competitions and most importantly, that they can sell the largest quantity at their own doorstep at decent prices. Soon, when they build the tasting room, it will be a representative space at Cademia 2 Rovinj.

Photos: Marko Čolić and Vinarija Vivoda

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