2006 Prulke. Zidarich. White. Sauvignon blanc, Vitovska and Malvasia. Unfiltered.

Benjamin Zidarich has built up an enviable reputation for producing wines in the inhospitable zone above Trieste known as the ‘Carso’ (Karst) the limestone plateau above the city where there are now some 20 well established producers. Zidarich makes a number of wines from autocthonous varietals — Terrano, Malvasia (a sub species of the variety which can be found growing in other parts of Italy where it is often used to make a sweet wine), and Vitovska. However, he has also now planted some Merlot (he is a Merlot enthusiast) and Sauvignon blanc.

I am featuring the wine he makes under the name of ‘Prulke’ — the name coming from the parcel of land where the grapes are grown. This wine is a blend of Sauvignon Blanc (60%), Malvasia and Vitovska (both 20%), so whilst not strictly speaking a wine of entirely autocthonous roots it is a blend made up of two autocthonous varieties not found elsewhere in this evening’s dinner. Zidarich makes vinifies his white wines as he would his red. He ferments the juice on the skins and is essentially non-interventionist. His stainless steel vats are used only for racking and blending. His wines are characterised by their fruitiness, minerality and acidity. Zidarich has 8ha under vine and is a proud advocate of biodynamic agricultural practice whilst he has not sought certification. Zidarich has been renovating his cellar and building a special tasting balcony which has a magnificent view out over the Carso towards the sea where one can see Grado and the Istrian peninsula.

Carso (Karst) is the limestone plateau above Trieste which was described by Jan Morris thus: “Its presence is part of the civic consciousness, the origin of its melancholy perhaps, for before the Illyrians, before the Romans, before the Austrians or the Italians, the arid, rocky Karst was always there — brooding sea on one side, frowning Karst on the other.” Note 1 Trieste and the Meaning of Nowhere by Jan Morris. Faber and Faber, 2001. This lugubrious description of this wild place does not do it justice. The Carso is riddled with caves and fissures and the vines eek out there living under strenuous conditions, from time to time shaking in the strong alpine wind which blows from the north known as the ‘bora’ - a healthy climatic event which helps to reduce the incidence of diseases of the vine caused by damp weather. As a borderland, it was also the frontier of the old Yugoslav/Italian border. There are almost 1900 kinds of plants with species from the Illyrian area (Istria and Dalmatia), Central Europe (colder and continental environments), and from Mediterranean parts (more mild and sunny). Much of the Carso was first planted with oak (durmast oak, downy oak, turkey oak) whose use followed the history of Trieste — fire, clearing and ship construction. But indiscriminate clearing transformed most of the forest into stony and rocky outcrops further stripped by the Bora wind until reforestation occurred in the late 19th century. A project which was considered so significant it won the Grand Prix of the 1900 Paris Expo.

The soil of the Karst is iron rich and often a deep red colour. The limestone provides excellent drainage. Many of the vineyards are over 250m above sea level.

References   [ + ]

1. Trieste and the Meaning of Nowhere by Jan Morris. Faber and Faber, 2001.

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