K: For centuries the Peršurić family has been intro growing grapevines and making wine. In 1990, Daddy started producing sparkling wine as a hobby. My sister and I were then 4 and 8. At that time, he was trying to prove that Malvazia could be turned into sparkling wine and in this he was a pioneer in Croatia. The Malvazias of that time didn’t promise much, because the wines were flabby and oxidised. The first few vintages, just five hundred bottles were filled. Up to 2000 we were just small producers, because the demand for sparkling wine in Croatia was small, and it was drunk only at celebrations. Only when the whole wining and dining bit started did the sparkling wine story take off seriously, and the better restaurants put them on their wine lists and offered them as aperitifs.
Đ: Our family came to Peršurići in 1540, and in this place where we are now, there was the first house with an upstairs, and my family got the name Hižići (people from the big cottage). When the first sparkling wines came out on the market (1000 to 2000 bottles) I understood that my salary was the same as the sale of 12 bottles of sparkling wine. I decided to earn a bit on the side, because I had a young family, and wanted our business to move on. When we saw the potential of Malvazia (it showed unexpectedly good results although at that time we didn’t even have cold fermentation) we decided to devote ourselves to it and produce it deliberately as the base for sparkling wine. I was intrigued by the idea of creating something that didn’t exist on our market, and with reasonable prices at that. Although I didn’t count on it being a huge job, nor on my daughters wanting to go in for it.
Vineyards and assortment
Đ: My late father had then 24 ha of land, only a couple of hectares of which were vineyards. Malvazia made up 70%, with a bit of Borgonja (Gamay), Hrvatica, Teran and Merlot.
K: At the beginning we had on the whole our own grapes, for we only bottled a bit. We purchased then just a couple of hundred kilos of Chardonnay and Pinot Noir, which we needed for blending. Since the production flagged for a couple of years, we had enough from our own plantations. Then sparkling wine started to be consumed more in Croatia, and since a certain period is required for a vineyard, to prepare the soil, up to 2009 we bought up grapes from our neighbours. In 2010 we laid down our own plantations, and today we have over 5,5 ha, which is enough for our needs. We mostly have Pinot Noir, for it’s the hardest to find that in Istria, and we have equal amounts of Malvazia and Chardonnay, and these three varieties are the base for most of our sparkling wine. We have Teran, Borgonja and Hrvatica, which we need for our Noir and Rouge, in the old plantations of our late granddad.
Cellar, technology, wines
Đ: When my girls started working, we took on loans and brought equipment that today is considered up there with the state of the art. Our capacities are among the top too, for we have about 40.000 bottles a year. In the warehouse we have a minimum of two vintages, which means 80.000 bottles, i.e. 120.000–150.000 are the optimal quantities on the market. We could easily top 100.000 bottles as far as the equipment is concerned.
A: We want increasingly in practice to use technology and science, we both love researching, applying new technologies. As soon as something new shows up on the market, we aim at applying it as soon as we can, because that leaves us enough time for other musts, like cleaning, marketing, sales, production, bottling. In every segment at least one of us is always present, which means that we don’t have a set working time, and we have some free time for further education, getting to know production in the world and in Croatia, the presentation of the products… For us, this firm is our lifestyle, we get up with it in the morning and lie down with it in the evening.
We are specialists, and intended to remain so. We use the fermentation in the bottle method. We have ten products on the market: Misal Blanc de blancs – pas dosé, extra brut (Chardonnay), Misal Prestige – extra brut (Chardonnay with a bit of Malvazia and Pinot Noir), Misal Blanc de noirs – brut (Pinot Nori produced in the white wine technology, that many say is just like Champagne); Misal Millennium – brut (Malvazia with additions of Pinot Noir and Chardonnay; our best known sparkling wine that makes almost 50% of the total production); Misal Istra – brut (Malvazia), Misal Noir – brut (Borgonja enhanced with Hrvatica and Teran), Misal Rose – sec (Pinot Noir supplemented with Malvazia and Chardonnay), Misal Rouge – demi sec (Teran and Poreč Muscat Rosé with an addition of Malvazia) and Misal Millennium Exclusive – Vintage 2011 (Malvazia with a an addition of Pinot Noir and Chardonnay) and the new Misal Royal rosé brut (pure Pinot Noir, dry; previously we had only demi-sec) and Misal Amor (Malvazia combined with Muscat; half-sweet, white, very fruity, a real summer sparkling wine).
We don’t intend to throw out any of the sparkling wines or change them, for each one of them as its own public. Our basic production is founded on Misal Millennium, Misal Rose and Misal Prestige, and people from abroad in particular have the habit of drinking sparkling, and they want something locally authentic. We produce the others in smaller batches, and don’t make all the ten every year.
Đ: We want to stay a family firm. We want to have a specific product that is also a part of the world market. We think it’s an advantage to us not to be in Champagne, and so we can use other varieties. The year of the hailstorm, they offered us wine from Macedonia even, which would have cost less, but we got together whatever there was around here and decided to produce less. We think that the immediate community ought to have some benefit from us (neighbours and friends, surfacing the roads in the village). An increase in the number of sparkling wine producers on this market is good, for if we are the only swallow, we’ll never make a spring.
Đ: My girls run everything (production and decision making) and I couldn’t be happier. One needs to leave things more boldly to the young, help them when they ask for it, and grumble off-stage (he-he).
A: Daddy (a doctor of science), mum, and we the sisters, have degrees in agriculture, and my brother in law is a graduate oenologist. The four of us, not including mum, are employed, including my boyfriend, who is a surveyor, and we surveyed all the vineyards, all the rows have to be regular, every vine has to be at a regular distance, because this enables us to use the new technologies in the future.
Đ: We are already at the technological state of the art on the world market (we are creating the basis for remote control of the cellar via Internet and cameras).
A: For a potential capacity of 100.000 bottles a year, we have to find a market, employ the required labour force, bring science (our great love) and technology together. After that, the objective is to grow, slowly. For two years we have had a finished plan for a new champagnery of Peršurićev vrh, not 2 km away, where we plan to lay down new plantations, and shift our production.