Kozlović Winery or: Family tradition with a view to the future
To all wine enthusiast blog readers, whether newbie, beginner or advanced: pour yourself a glass of curiosity and come along on a glass journey to Croatia. In the north of the heart-shaped Croatian peninsula lies the winery of Gianfranco and Antonella Kozlović. Since 1904, the winemaking family has been located in the picturesque valley “Vale”, from where Gianfranco – together with three other Croatian winemakers – started a Malvazija revolution in the 90s. The goal was to reinterpret this native grape variety and establish it as a top Croatian wine. As success grew, so did the need for space, and in 2012 a new, architecturally impressive cellar was built, providing Kozlović Vine DJs with ample room for tasting and an inviting terrace to extensively entertain guests at the winery. With this, Antonella and Gianfranco have fulfilled a wish of their hearts.
Vineyards, as if painted. It is clear that the bottles also contain small works of art.
I went on my first trip to Croatia with a selection of wines by the glass. How these wines taste and why you should pour them, you will learn in the second part of this article. Before that, winemaker Antonella from the Kozlovic winery took the time to answer a few questions for me – and gives an insight into her style of making characterful grape soundtracks.
Rethinking wine with tradition. In the north of the heart-shaped Croatian peninsula lies the winery of Gianfranco and Antonella Kozlović.
Explained for beginners, what makes Croatian wine? What are the special characteristics?
As is known in the wine world, native varieties are the expression of wine authenticity. This is also true for us and our region of Istria. There is a trinity of red Teran, white Malvazija Istriana and white Muscat Momian, which represent a unique wine offer in Istria. In our vineyards we grow all three.
If we want to explain it briefly, Teran would be a wild child that needs a firm hand, tactical approach and skill, but as it was once said by the Decanter judges, it is the “next big thing in Istria”. Malvazija is the queen of Istria, the variety that has shaped the name of Istria, but also the persistent work of winemakers and the Vinistra association, which created the standard (Istrian Quality – IQ) and defined the winemaking styles. Today we have a nice spectrum of Malvazija styles, from fresh, to aged in different types and wooden barrels, to orange. Muscat Momiano, an aromatic and fragrant clone of the white muscat that grows in a very specific area of the village of Momian and received the Protected Designation of Origin (PDO) in 2021. We are proud that part of this very small area with the Protected Designation of Origin, which extends over 14 hectares, is owned by our family.
Considering that Istria is a peninsula and its identity grows on a green-blue destination that combines medieval villages on the hills with the Venetian heritage of the coastal towns, the wine is connected with the way of life. In the inner parts of Istria, which were and are agricultural, teran, which was massive, was part of everyday life. Malvazija, especially its modern inox style, became inseparable from tourism and an indispensable taste experience during a visit to Istria. The same goes for Muscat Momian: its lovely, semi-sweet expression is a favorite with light cheesecakes or yellow fruit desserts on summer evenings.
Barrels arranged like works of art. Suitable.
How would you describe your Kozlovic wines in 3 words?
Terroir and varietal. Consistent quality. Elegant and precise.
What do you see as the appeal of your profession?
We are both winemakers and winemakers, and we do not separate these professions, but see them as one with the idea that the wines are created in the vineyard, but perfected in the cellar. Since we have lived exclusively from wine for 4 generations, the appeal of our profession is to create a product that is guaranteed by the family name. Family owned for decades (since 1904), vines and wine are our passion and the core of our sustainability. With our winery “House for People and Wine” and wine tastings “Kozlović Wine Experiences” we want to share the appreciation for our land and wines with the community and always work to spread the knowledge and understanding of wine.
Classy design: the interior at the Kozlović Winery.
Do you remember your first encounter with wine?
Wine has been a family affair for four generations and from the very beginning it was the only economic activity that Kozlović lived on. With the development of tourism, many people here invested in the land on the coast, built houses and started renting them out, but for us this was never an issue. We invested in vineyards, wine cellars and knowledge. For our children, the same is true: Our life is living with wine.
Do you sometimes have to break old habits to move forward with new ideas?
Actually, no. It happens more often that we have so many new ideas that we want to put on the road. Because we understand the context in which we work and live, having grown up with vines and making a living from wine, we know our place and can define our goals precisely. But we do not forget where we come from and what previous generations have done. We are proud that we have managed to combine the family values and respect for tradition with new techniques, adding them and new knowledge to the skills of the old.
Do you have the feeling that the next generation of wine lovers will approach the subject differently?
Wir stellen bereits fest, dass die Menschen offen sind, neue Geschmacksrichtungen zu probieren, und dass sich Meinungsführer zu Wort melden, aber auch die Weinliebhaber. In gewisser Weise ist der Wein demokratischer als früher, die Weine sind nicht an Restaurants und Bars gebunden, die Menschen trinken gute Weine immer lieber zu Hause und scheren sich nicht um die französischen Bezeichnungssysteme. Man trinkt die Weine, die man mag, nach seinem Geschmack. Was wir auch festgestellt haben, ist das Interesse der Kenner an lokalen Sorten. Das ist ein großes Einfallstor für Winzer und Weinregionen.
Craftsmanship you can taste comes from craftsmanship: At the Kozlović winery, the grapes are harvested with the hands – fingertip feeling included.
What role does social media play in reaching new customers?
Honestly, a great one, but as with printed and digital magazines, it takes an approach. We opted for an honest and heartfelt approach that shows how we live, look, think and what happens in the vineyard and on the winery. We are a family winery and vouch for our services and products with our family name, so we wanted to stay that way in our communication. We like to give the impressions of guests who describe their experiences in detail, but also show tractors, mud and manual labor in the vineyard to emphasize the respect and love for the land and the vines. We want to tell that our grape harvest is done by hand, that our team counts 30 people and that the whole family is in the business.
Which of your wines should newcomers try? And if you had to compare it to a Croatian footballer, which one would it be and why?
Fresh malvazija. It is a benchmark and at the same time the starting point for further discoveries. If we had to compare it with a Croatian footballer, Perišić would come to mind. He has been playing for a very long time and is a reliable player that you can count on in every game. If you choose him at any time, you won’t make a mistake.
Which of your wines would go well with a father-son evening?
Santa Lucia Malvazija Po mojen.
And which one for a romantic dinner?
Muscat Momiano dry. Besides the semi-sweet variety, we also have a bone dry style that is a real gem for a romantic dinner of wine lovers.
Istrian specialties on the plate, accompanied by the exciting wine in the glass: this is how wine adventure goes!
Let’s imagine that we beam ourselves to you on site right now: What would a wine tour or culinary experience at the winery look like?
First of all, we advise wine lovers to reserve a table. This is partly due to the limited number of guests we can accommodate at the winery and partly due to the personal attention we give to guests in our wine bar. In our House for People and Wines, as we call the winery, located in the middle of the vineyard and overlooking the 13th century Momjan Castle, we offer two wine experience programs. Depending on the guests’ interest in the combination of wine and food, they can choose between the programs “Discover” and “Taste”, which combine 5 wines and 5 small cold and hot dishes from Istrian cuisine. The Meet the Estate program consists of 4 wines and a platter of meat and dairy products from surrounding farmers, as well as our extra virgin olive oil. Both programs last about 2 hours and are led by our wine ambassadors who present the history of Istrian viticulture, the main varieties of the Istrian peninsula and the philosophy of our estate.
View of wine with a view: At the Kozlović Winery you can taste and discover wine in a cool ambience.
We also recommend wine lovers to book a wine tasting, as we can offer them different wines that they can only taste in the winery. We came up with this special treat to give visitors to our winery a special thank you and appreciation for their time and trust. At both guided wine tastings, guests will be offered these exclusive releases, including our award-winning extra virgin olive oil, which we offer exclusively at the winery. After the guided wine tasting, guests are invited to enjoy themselves at the winery: The surroundings of the wine bar have been carefully designed in collaboration with horticulturalists. Should a wine lover wish to give this experience as a gift to a loved one, we can easily arrange it: Gift certificates are available for both wine experience programs. The guest can write a personal message and we will send the gift certificate. We can also send the wines in a gift box with a personal message.
Let’s go on a glass journey to Croatia!
In conclusion: How do beginners recognize the flavor profiles of the wines I’ve received?
There are two approaches: the professional one, which refers to the palette of flavors and aromas, and the other, which addresses the palate. We believe that the second approach is more important and relevant for winemakers. Fresh Malvazija is a true expression of the Malvazija Istriana grape, with its primary floral aromas and a hint of almondy bitterness in the background. Selekcija Malvazija, bottled like the fresh Malvazija but released a full year later, brings the primary aromas to the fore and the minerality and salty nuances to the fore.
Santa Lucia Malvazija comes from the single vineyard Santa Lucia and was aged in large wooden barrels. This wine shows the brilliant potential of the Malvazija Istriana variety, inspired by an elegant style of Burgundian white wines. Santa Lucia Malvazija Po mojen pushes into the niche of orange-style wines and shows what Malvazija Istriana can do after 9 months of maceration. Contemplative, precise, with rich tertiary aromas, layered, complex and oily structured. Santa Lucia Noir from the single vineyard Santa Lucia, a blend of the three varieties Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon and Teran, goes perfectly with Istrian dishes with red meat. The long aging in barrique barrels gives it soft tannins, while the lush freshness of the Teran grape variety is a good counterpart to Merlot and Cabernet.
Kozlović wines in the test: White wines
Kozlović Malvazija 2022
Comes to the finish with refreshing-salty-tasty flavors: the Malvazija from the Kozlović winery.
The taste: mineral, unusual (but sexy) cool, like fruity-lime, very fine sea waves.
Is it possible to taste the coast? Yes – you experience that immediately on the first leg of my Croatia glass vacation. Grown on limestone and clay, Malvazija is the entry-level classic from the Kozlović winery near the Slovenian-Croatian border and not far from the Adriatic coast. My first Croatian wine – and what a first date experience. The unagitated elegant salty aroma beams me straight to a beach. And the first sip feels like walking on small pebbles towards the sea, the water slowly lapping your feet. Mineral, unusually (but sexy) cool, like fruity-limey, very fine waves. One is made curious, wants to get closer into the glass cave like a vacationing Indiana Jones, wants to see what treasure is still hiding there. As the flirt torch ignites, aromas of bitter orange, orange blossom, lemon, lime or apricot burst through the palate. Not intimidating, quite unobtrusive. The acidity comes in genuinely refreshing, then a salty, spicy parting wave follows. A memorable match. And you’re immediately up for another glass. This wine also went over great with my mom. Freshness, depth, no mainstream, you can feel the craft, and the regret, how quickly the bottle was empty – I can only sign so.
Weingut Kozlović Malvazija, Price: around 18,90 Euros, for example via wein-aus-kroatien.at
Kozlović Selekcija Malvazija 2020
This exciting white wine is located – if we were to speak of “difficulty” – between the young Malvazija and the mature Santa Lucia. So still with that beautiful lightness and crispness, but interpreted a little more adult. Without being too complicated. Malvazija Selekcija 2020 has its own style and comes with a light golden color and is an example of a mature and complex Malvazija Istriana.
Selekcija Malvazija, bottled like the fresh Malvazija but released a full year later, brings out the primary aromas and brings out the minerality and salty nuances.
Selekcija Malvazija or: or: a bottle ticket for the short trip in the head to the coast.
On the nose, it is initially quite reserved like I used to be on the disco dance floor, almost closed off. Give the white wine some time and it dribbles around with aromas that fill the penalty area with notes of peach, pineapple and spices. Once courage and confidence are gathered in the open air, the Malvazija Selekcija gets going with ease, doing a tasty acid somersault or two through the glass and providing you with crisp, fruity freshness with that subtle saltiness. Everything, however, in such realxter form that you can sit back and relax and enjoy. But at the same time notice that here a real character sets the wine dress code, which can refer to the best craft.
The palate is dry, with a certain lightness and verve, without lacking alcohol. Medium acidity and medium body. Quite fruity. It remains firm on the palate and shows a nice liveliness and freshness. Similar to its predecessors, it shows saltiness and intensity with a good touch of freshness.
Kozlović Selekcija Malvazija, Price: around 22,90 Euros, for example via www.delicije.de
One is always particularly pleased about curiosity-generating bottle mail.
Kozlović Santa Lucia Malvazija 2017
Balanced, like a gentleman who has chosen a tailored suit with fine details: the Santa Lucia Malvazija from the Kozlović winery.
Does not adhere to any classic pattern, and that is precisely why it is so charming, especially for curious wine explorers.
The prime example of Croatian wine soundtrack in the glass continues. The Santa Lucia Malvazija is 100% Malvazija Istriana from a single vineyard. It comes across less effervescent-temperamental-crisp than the last classic entry presented, the Malvazija, but very grown-up, balanced, like a gentleman who has chosen a tailored suit with fine details. Is also due to the fact that the vines were planted back in 1961, and had enough time to get an authentic character out of the ground. But the wood barrel-aged white wine from one of the best sites in Istria also has this fascinating stoniness, plus soft smoky notes, and fine waves of yellow fruits, peaches and citrus. Very important: give it time. When this wine is allowed to take a deep breath, it washes ever new flavors and textures onto the glass beach. We had the Santa Lucia with Asian summer rolls with shrimp and prawns, which this bottle post has mastered with pleasantly restrained elegance. Sure: Priced just for beginners and also me at the upper edge of the budget. But we are talking about craftsmanship and manual labor in the truest sense of the word, and who enjoys consciously, has to hear on this elegant-to-coming vine soundtrack for a long time.
Weingut Kozlović Santa Lucia Malvazija, Price: around 45 Euros, for example via www.delicije.de
Kozlović Santa Lucia Malvazija Po mojen 2015
In a way, wine is like character: it’s the rough edges that make us personalities. This wine has plenty of personality. And in between, we need wines that allow us to really go on a discovery tour, because they are also a liquid transformation of the local drinking culture. Wines that you have to be curious about. To then be rewarded with an aromatic adventure. This may be polarizing at times, but it is what makes one’s own wine journey so special.
Santa Lucia Malvazija Po mojen enters the niche of orange-style wines and shows what Malvazija Istriana can do after 9 months of maceration.
Has a character of its own that attracts when you get involved in the wine – and briefly allow time to breathe.
As the name of the label suggests (“Po mojen” means “the way I like it”), this wine shows what kind of Malvazija the winemaker likes best: Santa Lucia Malvazija Po mojen pushes into the niche of orange-style wines and shows what Malvazija Istriana can do after 9 months of maceration. Elegant, subtle on the nose, but full-bodied and complex in the mouth.
Santa Lucia Malvazija Po mojen already arouses curiosity with its deep golden amber color. The nose is tickled in an unagitated, obliging and unpretentious manner: very fine, floral, almost honeyed vibes, with notes of dried apricots and peaches, faint hints of caramel, yeast and butter. Give the wine a moment to catch its breath, and it will dare to come out more.
How it tastes? Dry, full-bodied on the palate, with moderate acidity and a slightly oily texture. The wine conquers the palate step by step for itself, also here the piquant saltiness makes curious and provides character. A wine where you can of course discuss who now exactly which flavors rausschmeckt, but quite honestly – can is not must. One should simply drift as in a quiet bay on the beach, take wave after wave, and just excitingly look forward to how one interprets the wine soundtrack here.
Kozlović Wines in the test: red wines
Kozlović Teran 2021
The Teran grape variety delights with a flirty, cozy fruitiness.
I was more curious about this extremely elegant vine remix with fruity-balsamic notes than I have been in a long time.
Is there love at first sip? In my opinion, yes. This red wine – and thus my first from Croatia – was like a gripping series, for which I must briefly spoil: It flashes from the first scenes, the plot takes proper drinking train and at the end of the first season there is no open end, but a continuation. Trained on soils of flysch, limestone, clay, this little temperament from the native grape variety Teran, matured for 7 months in wooden barrels, has to take a breath before he tasty tells you where to go. For me, it was an olfactory script of stone, pebble, salty, simultaneously berry and eucalyptus, with scenes of sour cherry, black cherry, violet or herbs. All super elegant, cool, taut – and played that way on the tongue stage. A cheeky, exploratory wine, but one that has donned such an elegant dress code that it’s unexcitingly fun to watch this dark fruit parade across the mouth. Highlight: the nicely tasty acidity on the swallow, nonchalantly animating. Really impressively classy, mouth-filling, you want more after each sip. But I had already spoiled that. Oops.
Weingut Kozlović Teran, Price: around 18,90 Euros, for example via wein-aus-kroatien.at
Kozlović Santa Lucia Noir 2016
Santa Lucia Noir, from the single vineyard Santa Lucia, is a blend of the three varieties Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon and Teran.
The long aging in barrique barrels gives it soft tannins, while the lush freshness of the Teran grape variety is a good counterpart to Merlot and Cabernet.
Appeal with twists: Noir, French for dark, is a fitting name for this red wine, which reminds me of the Netflix series Dark. Santa Lucia Noir is a blend of the local grape variety Teran and the international grape varieties Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon. The color: opaque red. On the nose, hints of black cherry, plum, light smoke, leather, jam dance through time and space. Curious, disorienting, with a refined coolness, as if sitting in the rain at a bus stop, which in the next moment resembles a sunset on the beach. Aged in barrique barrels for 18 months, this red wine for explorers sticks to its own script. Juicy, yet crisply-filigree cut, complex, yet it is these qualities that make it so engaging. Not everything is immediately apparent, but you want to go deeper with each sip. On the palate, Santa Lucia Noir pushes a velvety film that really picks up speed. Smoothly switches between scenes of dark fruit, balsamic and coffee, the soundtrack: nonchalant-classy. The first wish when the end of the first bottle season announces: Hopefully there is a sequel in the cellar. Because with every sip you get more behind the secret of this wine. And therein, for me, lies the magic that vine directors like the team can tickle out of the plant with craftsmanship.
Kozlović Santa Lucia Noir 2016, around 80 euros, for example via www.delicije.de
Weingut Kozlović opinion
The wines of were my first dates with Croatian wines. The first premise is to approach something like this with an open mind. Just be curious to discover. And I was rewarded. Because these wines from the Kozlović winery had a character all their own, but I felt it from the start. As with fashion, everyone has their own style after all – and the cut of the wines, whether white or red, clicked from the first sip. This certain coolness and saltiness, so elegantly expressed, was new, but all the more curious. And all the more appealing. One can only tip one’s hat to how the Kozlović vine directors stream such exciting flavor movies from the plant into the bottle with craft and passion. I can only recommend to any curious wine explorer to go on a glass journey to Croatia as well, and have their own adventure. Yes: Maybe the bottles are not easy to obtain around the corner, and they have their really fair price, but there are sources of supply (gladly also directly just ask the winery). Predicate: Long-distance material for the wine quirk. And maybe sometime the chance arises to taste the wines directly on site. Everything tastes twice as good. In this sense: stay curious.
More information, more details and an overview of all wines as well as a contact for sources of supply can be found on www.kozlovic.hr/en