Wine Cellar s ID
When one day a film is screened about the winemaker Mladen Rožanić, I am sure that his beginnings will be situated in one of the eye-catching taverns around Avignon, on the flat southern lands of the valley of the Rhone. In the dining room, at a large table crammed with bottles and half-empty glasses, wine connoisseurs taste and comment out loud on the characteristics of the familiar local wines. M.R. seems somehow absent, he finds it hard to follow all those stories about styles of wine, robust bodies, tertiary aromas, rough tannins and the rest. The tavern owner, an older gent, observes his discontented guest, asks him for the reasons of his grumpiness, and when he confides in him, pats him consolingly on the back and sagely advises him: Mon Seigneur: boire, boire et seulement boire.
I have no kind of family tradition in wines, except that in my family good quality dining was always valued, and this was regularly accompanied by quality wines, says today’s successful winemaker Mladen Rožanić, twenty years after it was perhaps just that drink, drink and only drink in that little tavern in the Rhone valley that had a crucial influence on this successful businessman’s finding a new love and becoming an impassioned admirer of wine. Perfectionist Rožanić understood this drink and drink as learn and learn and also as find out and find out and in time expanded his vinous horizons, arriving at new understandings about wine or, as he would define it in photographic terms today: the more pixels you have, the sharper the picture.
Vineyards and varieties
Having become well acquainted with wines from the Cotes du Rhone, as well as with other relevant world wines, Rožanić started to be absorbed in the thought of whether it was possible in this country to make a great wine that would also at the same time retain the character of this terroir. He commissioned a study from the Poreč Agricultural Institute about how to start up 15 hectares of vineyard with an appropriate cellar; in 1998 he started his first vinification and in 2004 joined forces with the Banko family of Kosinožić by Poreč. Today, at the sites of Bačva and Bušure by Višnjan he has 24 ha of vineyard on terra rossa alone: These red clays are rich in iron oxides and calcium carbonates, this goes on from root to flower, and gives the wine a wonderful character, says Rožanić. The white varieties they cultivate are Malvasia, White Pinot, Chardonnay, Muscat and Sauvignon; the reds are Teran, Refosco [Refošk], Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon and a bit of Cabernet Franc and Pinot Noir.
Cellar, technology, wines
What distinguishes Roxanich wines is the technique of long maceration in open vats, the aging of the wines for at least three years in big oak barrels and then three to six months in bottles. After aging, the wine is bottled in high quality bottles of the Bourgogne-Rhone type, closed with real cork for long keeping (from the untreated forests of Sardinia), on which there are tin caps. On the bottle is a label with a family crest from the 14th century and the family name the way it was originally (in Venetian times) written: Roxanich. At the moment on the market there are wines from the 2005, 2006 and 2007 vintages. These are called Malvazija Antica, Malvazija Classica, Teran, Teran Re, Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, Chardonnay Milva, Rosé and Super Istrian (a coupage of Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Bourgogne).
Mladen Rožanić and Antun Banko (for Rožanić, Nino) have been working together for ten years or so, but the real beginning can be set in 2004, when the planting of vineyards went into high gear on the Banko family holdings. From the initial 6 hectares, today in the Bačva area there are 9 yielding hectares, and in the Bušure area 15. In their division of labour, Nino Banko and his two sons look after the vineyards and Rožanić defines the pruning, determines the yields, the moment of green harvest – to reduce the quantity of grapes – and the date of the beginning of the real vintage. In both vineyard and cellar, they respect the principles of Rudolf Steiner, Austrian philosopher, writer and the principal founder of biodynamic farming, who was actually born in 1861 in Donji Kraljevec.
But treatises and studies are not required. One can talk for hours with Rožanić about honest winemaking, organ production of wine with minimum inputs from technology, the correlation between man and nature, phases of the moon, the numerous actions that have to be undertaken with the grapes, the must, the wine, of course, all in accordance with nature. Rožanić talks enthusiastically about the barrels that he treats only with beeswax, about how he wants to keep the variety characteristics of the wines without additional complex notes that come with the tannins imported with the wood, the chemistry that, apart from a minimum amount of sulphur, has been drummed out of the cellar, and it is the same thing with bought selected yeasts, the hygiene in the cellar that is a self-intelligible affair – Like brushing or not brushing teeth.
The sum of all these considerations makes up the wine philosophy postulates of this winemaker, a winemaker who, as he says himself, makes wine for connoisseurs and for top quality cooking. His basic creed can be easily fathomed from his basic philosophy: it runs: simply, honestly and perfectly.
When he speaks of the future of his wines, Rožanić speaks only of quality, never of quantity. I’m not thinking about new plantations, what interests me is the quality of viticulture, getting at the best possible grapes. In the future one can expect some further excursion outside the appellation, he is thinking of some very high quality Pinot Noir, a top quality sparkling wine. Yes, and: we are tending towards extending the ageing period from three to four years. In short, with a combination of knowledge, vision, love and passion for wine, from this winemaker, this gentleman winemaker, who has put a part of his very distinctive personality into his wines, in the future (in line with his credo) we can expect still more honest and more perfect wines. Wines the successful story of which started perhaps twenty years ago in one of those pretty little taverns around Avignon, on the flat south side of the Rhone valley.