Tell us about how you got into winemaking and how and why you enriched the estate on which Kabola winery is situated?
Winemaking is an integral part of our culture and tradition. It has always been a prominent feature of Istria. I knew the advantages and potential of this part of the region so I decided to continue in the footsteps of my ancestors in winemaking. It was our wish to make wine in a contemporary manner while, at the same time, adhering to tradition. Although winemaking has always been a part of life in my family, our main business was running a restaurant. We ran the restaurant Marino in Kremenj and we only bought the Kabola estate in 2000. We renovated it and in 2005 we opened the winery in which we make wine today.
How large are your vineyards and which varieties would you emphasize?
The Kabola winery has 20 hectares of vineyards and we make 11 different brands of wine – from champagne to dessert wine. We produce 100 000 bottles of wine a year. Istrian Malvasia accounts for 70% of our production. From this local variety we make three different types of wine: Malvasia, a fresh wine, Malvazija Unica, wine aged in big oak barrels and our famous Malvasia Amphora. The base for our champagne is also made from the Malvasia grapes.
From local varieties, we also have Teran and Momjan Muscat. From Teran we make an aged red wine as well as a rose called Rosa. Besides the already famous and well accepted semisweet Muscat, this year we have made a series of dry Muscat, titled Secco, as well as a series of dessert Muscat, called Dolce.
What makes the Kabola winery different from others in northwestern Istria?
Our wines have a recognizable style, which is the result of a specific terroir and clay earth in which we grow our vineyards. The specialty of the Kabola winery are most certainly the red, but also the white wines aged in oak barrels and Malvasia macerated in amphoras. I would also like to stress the ecological character of our production as well as our unique approach to the work in the cellars and in the vineyards. Last but, not least: our product presentation.
Tell us more about the first amphora wines…
We wanted to follow the tradition of wine making and make wines as our ancestors once did thousands of years ago. From the conviction that Malvasia can yield a serious wine, the idea of making amphora wine was born. Macerated wines are more complex and completely different than the flowery, fruity fresh wines. These wines have their own elegance and longevity of taste. So we acquired clay amphoras in Georgia, some 2 000 liters in volume, and we put the grapes in them to macerate for six months. These are the longest macerations that have ever been done in Croatia. The pressing is done in late spring, after which the wine is aged for a year in large oak barrels. After that, it is bottled. But that is not the end – it needs at least another year of aging and maturing in the bottle. The whole cycle of winemaking in amphoras lasts a minimum of three years.
When we were starting out, this was a novel thing in wine making. Today, this wine is recognized and we are very pleased with the results. We are especially proud of the high marks Robert Parker gave our Malvasia Amphora.
The Kabola winery also features ecological winegrowing. What are the advantages and characteristics of wine made from grapes grown in such a manner?
Ecological agriculture today, and this comprises ecological winegrowing and winemaking, is clearly defined by laws and regulated by the relevant institutions. Wines made in an ecological manner are certified and bear the word EKO on their labels. This provides the consumers with security, inspires trust in the brand and guaranties quality.
The Kabola winery is the first eco certified winery in Istria as well as the first one to gain the European EKO (BIO) sign, which all of our wines from 2013 – Istrian Malvasia, Rosa, Momjan Muscat – now proudly bear.
What are your future plans? What improvements are you planning?
The nature of this business demands constant improvements, constant refinement, and expansion as well. When Croatia entered the European Union a new, big market opened up for us. The Kabola winery is now turning towards that market, so we are planning to expand, but within our means – in a controlled manner and taking special care our quality is not affected.
What do you pay special attention to in this business, or should we say calling?
We pay great attention to winegrowing: we are very careful with every detail because without good grapes there are no great wines. So we work and maintain our vineyards according to ecological principles. Of course, we approach winemaking with equally great attention. The last, but not least is the presentation of the product and education of the buyer, an activity which also deserves attention. We want our guests to get to know the product they will be enjoying. For my family, winemaking is not only a business, it is a way of life, one in which we have always strived to work in balance with nature and to give one hundred percent of ourselves.
Now a difficult but important question for all wine aficionados. Which wine is your favorite and why? Which food do you drink it with?
This is a difficult question because it is truly not at easy or simple to name just one wine that is the favorite or the best. The choice always depends on the occasion and the company that the wine is enjoyed with. I think about my wines as if they were my children, it is impossible to pick one only – I love them all equally! And they are all my favorites and the best in the world!
Do tell us an anecdote from your life as a winemaker dedicated to the business, something you think our blog readers would find interesting…
Once upon a time there were many people bearing the name Markežić in the village, and often they would have first names that were the same as well. So in order to tell themselves apart, everyone was given a nickname. My great grandfather Giovanni was thus given the nickname “Kabola” which thereafter turned into a nickname for my family line. That is how the winery got its name and what makes me smile today is the fact that many people mistake this name for my last name and call me mister Kabola!