Not long after my entry about Roxanich’s Antica, a skin-contact Malvazija from Croatian Istria, I’m back to the same theme with a bottle I purchased in a restaurant in Poreč last April when in Croatia: the Clai Sv. Jakov Malvazija 2009.
Clai is another winery with Roxanich, Kozlović, Matošević and a couple of others who are pushing the boundaries of white winemaking. Skin contact and ageing in acacia barrels are two typical techniques of this new-meets-old approach (amphora ageing, still not so frequent here in Istria, is another). I’m very excited by these wines: I feel Malvazija, with its natural freshness and strong minerality, is a perfect grape for this sort of experiment.
Clai’s Sv. Jakov is a brilliant confirmation. It’s every bit as good as Roxanich’s Antica, though in a different style. It’s less extreme, starting with a lighter colour that’s more deep plate golden than orange or amber. Its bouquet is a miracle of subtlety and freshness: two characteristics you don’t usually associate with this style. And the palate reconfirms this: it’s smooth, elegant, understated, flowery, just slightly saline-mineral, and carries its 14.5% more than well. There’s nothing portentous or heavy about this wine, and the ‘alternative’ character is dosed extremely well; drinkability is preserved.
These skin-contact Malvazijas are wonderful food wines. This time I have deliberately avoided fish, and instead cooked some Polish baby carrots in butter and orange juice, with a sprinkle of spice. A wonderful match with the earthy & sweet expression of the Malvazija. It showed its best at around 14C temperature and half an hour in the glass. Another superb wine from Croatia.
Source of wine: own purchase.