Result of Graduate Work: Sweet Malvazija from Dried Grapes

Wednesday, 29 December  2004

In an experiment for graduate work in viticulture studies, Elvis Visintin proved that Istrian Malvazija is an excellent material for making dessert wine from dried grape berries. Also, how to get varietal grapes taste in grappa.

ZARECJE – Wines from dried grapes and varietals grappas in Istria are practically unknown from the sommeliers' point of view and from the placement on the open market point of view. The grappa produced in the Istrian tradition, from the grape must, in consumer's eyes us equal to the grappa produced from other countries especially Italy, but it could be more differentiated if it retained the characteristics of the grape from which it is made. These types of grape vines have never been in the Istrian vine-making tradition and the local climate is not suitable for late ripening and frozen grape production. This also holds true other parts of Croatia.

To prove that the conditions could be adapted for such production, Elvis Visintin, a vine-maker from Zarecje near Pazin attempted to prove this with his own experience. For several years, he has been producing grapes, wine and rakija and with these products he is having significant successes. Besides 1¼ acres of a new vineyard (to restore his family vineyard), where he has planted white Pinot, he buys grapes (malvazija and merlot), from his neighbors in Zarecje so that he makes yearly about 30 hectoliters of wine which he bottles and sells from home. In the last couple of years, he has consistently won silver medals for merlot and pinot in Vinistra fairs and at the Gracisce fair in central Istria in Gracisce he also got a silver medal for malvazija. Elvis Visintin is one of the rare young Istrians who are using traditional Istrian agricultural products not just to make a living but also to express their own creativity.

Equally interesting is Visintin's story about the different types of rakija. As in any Istrian family, the Visintins make rakija as a part of tradition. However, the idea of varietals rakijas started when he talked to one of his colleague vine-makers who gave him a large amount of must. Remembering some of the university literature where there was mention of some technical tricks, he prepared the must in the Italian fashion, and when the time came to make the rakija, the result was very interesting. Various aromas appeared in the rakija which did not exist before. A sophisticated and educated tester could taste the aroma and the taste that is characteristic to the variety of grapes that were used. This accidental result was later deliberatedly duplicated using a planned process and the results of several years of investigation and experimentation which allow Visintin the ability to today produce varietals rakijas from malvazija, white pinot, muscat, merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, Chardonnay. Besides these, he makes aromatic rakijas with bisk, honey and rude. Putting these products on the market has had very encouraging results. In the fair in Hum in 2003, besides recognition in various categories, his rakija that was made from Muscat must was selected as the best rakija in Istria, while this year this title was given to his bisk rakija. Can he improve the quality of the traditional rakija? Visintin claims that you have to treat must with the same care and love as you do the wine, because this is not refuse but the raw material for the production of quality rakija. Like with wine, you have to protect must from oxidation and bacteria, so that it should be put into the plastic vat which is then covered with plastic and then filled with water or sand to prevent contact with air. The containers where you preserve the must have to be "drugstore" clean, which is a prerequisite for healthy fermentation. Part of the art is also in knowing when to separate various distilled parts, in discarding the "head" and the "tail" and keeping the "heart" of rakija. With the distiller you must work patiently and with discipline, the rakija must age in clean glass containers for at least six months, and them is filtered and placed in bottles.

Visintin is planning to continue producing these types of wines and varietals rakijas, but his priority is to establish new vineyards that will produce enough of his own raw materials. Moderate consumption of varietal rakijas can give the taster a lot of pleasure. Visintin considers this an opportunity to improve Istrian rakija to rise above its current image of strong but lower-class alcoholic beverage.

Translated by Pino Golja


  • Davor Šišović, "Diplomska slatka malvazija od prosunšenog grožđa", Glas Istre, 29 December 2004 -,TS,279,,1679,,22666.

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Created: Wednesday, December 29, 2004; Last Updated: Wednesday, July 29, 2015
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