The wine featured in this article is available at the Topochines Vino web wine store: www.topochines.com. Readers can enter Wine10 at checkout to receive a 10% discount on the purchase of this wine or any wine in inventory.
I was sitting in Wine Bar Basement – one of the coolest spots in all of Zagreb, Croatia’s capital city – in October of 2016. Our host for the evening was the incomparable Dario Drmac, one of the bar’s owners. There are well over 100 Croatian wines offered on the menu at Basement, and I tried several. Perhaps the most memorable was Griffin Dark Side Sparkling wine – easily the darkest sparkling wine I have ever tasted. As he poured it, Dario referred to it as “black Champagne,” a descriptor that has stayed with me over the past two years and I’ve adopted it as my own. Of course – lest I anger the French – this sparkling wine is not Champagne – only wine from that region can be called that. And, if we’re being 100% accurate, the wine is not exactly black, more of a very deep red/purple color. But let’s not split hairs: this wine is freaking dark and it’s going to be unlike anything you’ve seen before. Or tasted.
Most commonly, Champagnes are made from Pinot Noir or Chardonnay, although other varietals are used in a smaller percentage of wines from that region. Prosecco sparkling wine in Italy is made from the Glera grape; Cava in Spain is made from several somewhat obscure grapes such as Parellada, Macabeo and Xarel.lo. This “black Champagne” from Griffin winery, though, beats them all for obscure varietals. This unique dark sparkling wine is made from the Portugieser grape. I rarely go out on a limb and I really hate to say anything that sounds remotely absolute and certain. But . . . my husband claims there’s no other sparkling Portugieser wine available (gulp!) anywhere. If there is, well, I’ll make my husband eat his hat.
Even wine aficionados of the most extreme kind are unlikely to have encountered many wines made from Portugieser, if any. Known as Blauer Portugieser outside of Croatia, this varietal is grown in Austria, Germany, Slovenia and Hungary. Traditionally, this grape has been vinified into simple and light red wines, but modern wine makers are getting creative with this varietal and looking to make more sophisticated product. Krešimir Ivančić, one of the most creative young vintners in Croatia, has turned traditional thinking on its head and is blazing a new trail. Whereas many of Croatia’s vineyards and wineries are on the Dalmatian coast, close to the Adriatic Sea, Ivančić has his vineyards in Plešivica in Central Croatia, south-facing at elevations over 1,400 feet. Rather than making a young, “drink now” wine, Ivančić opted to make a sophisticated Portugieser wine.
Before fermentation commences, Ivančić uses a process called cryogenic maceration where the grapes are subject to cold temperatures and kept that way for several days. This process enables the wine to retain much of its essential varietal aroma and flavor, a perfect balance to the acidity also present in the final product. While many sparkling wines have faint resemblance to their base varietal, this Griffin sparkling wine is undeniably Portugieser.
This unique and tantalizing “black Champagne” sells for $33 on our online wine store, Topochines Vino. For our faithful followers we will offer a 10% discount on the Griffin Dark Side Brut, and will honor the discount on the purchase of any of the wines on our site. Simply use code Wine10 at checkout.
I hope you’ll give this delicious, deep, dark beauty a try – and let us know what you think. Cheers!
August 22, 2018