Some wine makers, like some football managers, are ‘special’ and Josko Gravner is one of them. Special in a ‘good way’, unique, single-minded, serious and visionary, maybe a touch eccentric or driven. He makes wine in an ancient style and it is fascinating and refreshing to taste this in a world that is increasingly dominated by over-extracted and superficial Frankenwines.
Only wine with something interesting to say would have pulled me across London to Westbourne Grove earlier this week to a tasting at Daylesford Organic (website here). A wander down Portobello Road also added some value as I haven’t been back since I moved to East London a decade ago.
The invitation was from the very polite and bright David A. Harvey, for Raeburn Fine Wines (website here), who champions ‘natural’ wines. This is an increasingly popular and contested tag that signifies a philosophy of non-interventionism. These wines are not always ‘easy drinking’ but they are often interesting, great to share and discuss. For me this is an important dimension in terms of enjoyment. They are also fundamentally honest and tend to be made by people such as Gravner who know the value rather than the price of things.
Gravner makes his wine in Oslavia on the border of Italy and Slovenia where many are bilingual and the cultures merge. His whites, Breg and Ribolla Gialla are macerated in 5000 litre amphorae (see pic on left) for six months. A three year elevage follows. Macerating, and fermenting, whole grapes with pips and skins is becoming more popular and you can see why when it produces a wine of this colour and depth. I felt lucky to be tasting both wines from 2005 back to 1998 and this highlighted both the overall consistency but also the subtle differences between years. When you taste like this Terroir becomes manifest.
These are beautiful looking wines - a golden hue with a russet glow - with a wonderful nose but the taste comes as something of a shock. They are powerful, almost overpowering in their intensity, strangely tannic but waxy and citrus too. The Breg more complex and confusing than the Ribolla, the only analogy I can find is with older Burgundy, Sherry maybe. Suggested food matches are fish and seafood but also game and wild mushrooms (for me the latter with some garlic butter might work). However, the most important match for these amazing wines is an open mind .
Take a look at his website at www.gravner.it