23 June 2015

It’s a Wednesday evening and an interesting looking line-up of 15 Vitovska’s has brought us all the way to the spectacular backdrop of Trieste.

Now with a name like Vitovska, some of you might already be thinking Vodka? Well, we’re happy to confirm, it is a grape and this tasting is to honour Carso’s only native white.

At the outset, it’s fair to say that Vitovska is a work in progress.

Afterall, there isn’t a whole lot of ‘dated’ historical information to hand charting its journey to the present day. But that’s what kind of makes it intriguing. In terms of modern history, it all started relatively recently, in the mid 1980s, with guys like Beniamino Zidarich and Edi Kante.

Since then, it has been their collective determination, together with a handful of others, that finally put Vitovska on the viticultural map, when in 1996 it obtained official recognition in Italy under the Carso DOC denomination.

History is always in the making. And since 1996, with a mere 18 vintages behind them, this is still very much a youthful project. Vineyards planted over the last 15-30 years are now only coming into to their own. And we heard of at least one family vineyard in the area with Vitovska vines over 100 years old. So clearly it has been around these parts for a lot longer.

Unique to this project is the fact that the Carso zone crosses the national boundary between Italy & Slovenia. So with winemakers from both sides joining forces, it’s a project that shares both ‘similarities and differences’ in culture and taste. In itself a fantastic development and one hopes that it will bring rewards for all.

VITOVSKA and VITOVSKA GRGANJ – yes, according to all the best research [including Robinson, Harding, Vouillamoz and D’Agata amongst others], these are two distinct grape varieties.

Interestingly, even though all the wines were served under a single unified ‘VITOVSKA’ flag, during the tasting it appears we actually tasted both varieties. Naturally tasting in this way may well lead to confusion. But since we’re talking about a W.I.P, we went along with the ‘all for one’ flow.

Such is the relatively small size of some producers, many of the wines we tasted came with little or no supporting data regarding their respective vinification styles. So our principal reference points are exactly what we found in the glass. And here are the 4 FLIGHTS in tasting order:

Flight V 01

BAJTA 2014


Kras Cooperativo 2014

BOLE 2013

Flight V 02


GABI 2013



Flight V 03




SKERK 2012

Flight V 04




By the end of our trip, 3 distinct wine styles emerged

The youthful, fresh one produced only in stainless steel.

The aged in oak one for a richer, more rounded, evolving style.

The ‘orange’ one whose often lengthy periods macerating on the skins deliver rather varied and unique results.

In terms of the 2014 vintage, having been such a tough one for Friuli’s whites, it’s not surprising the 2014 wines were ‘a little’ underwhelming. Light and certainly drinkable but perhaps not truly representative of what this grape has to offer.

But the 2013 wines did show much more character and depth. Crossing all 3 styles, for us the tasting threw up some enjoyable examples – KRAS STOKA 2013, COTOVA KLET 2013, KOJANCIC 2013, MILIC STANKO 2013 together with SKERK 2012 and VINOKRAS COOPERATIVA PRESTIGE 2011.

We understand every winemakers need to experiment.

To know how grapes will best respond to various vinification techniques is critical. Yet coming away from this tasting our thought was that, faced with so many options, we the consumer face some confusion as to what really is a VITOVSKA. In particular we think it will take a little more convincing on the distinctive ‘orange’ style.

Trying to be distinctive doesn’t always translate into being outstanding. Indeed our current feel is that the style probably best suited to the Vitovska grape is somewhere between Style A & Style B.

Vitovska is a hardy vine. It has to be to withstand all that the rugged Carso elements throw at it. Despite all the hardship it experiences, this is a vine that has adapted itself to produce fruit well capable of making elegant wines that can be delicate, fresh and mineral led. Yet we found this elegant balance between acidity and minerality became somehow lost amongst those wines produced with lengthy macerations on the skins.

Indeed from what we’ve learned to date, Vitovska grapes are not highly aromatic. So the idea of lengthy skin contact, sometimes in open vats, sometimes without temperature control, seems to be either ‘incredibly inspired’ or in the words of SEAL ‘just a little crazy’.

What was striking about this tasting was that the selection threw up as many positives as it did doubts.

Some wines worked for us but others clearly didn’t. To develop a coherent strategy, one that will build a solid fanbase for Vitovska to develop still further, these wines will surely need greater consistency.

While we may have left Trieste with a head full of doubt, we still see a road full of promise for Carso’s native white. Taking a few words of wisdom from The Avett Brothers – we’ll sign off by simply saying, sometimes you’ve got to decide what you want to be and then go be it.

The Avett Brothers – Head full of doubt / Road full of promise

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