Subscriber login Close [x]
remember me
You are not logged in.

Douglas Blyde blogs from his Istrian travels

Published:  17 April, 2012

Trapan's sharply designed winery, complete with Super Mario-style tubes plumbed into the ceiling of the tasting room (one plugged with a clock), felt too clean and too new to spit in. Besides, Bruno Trapan's well-made wines were hard not to swallow, particularly the completely delicious, un-macerated, oak-free Malvasia, drawn from tank.

Originally studying horticulture, Trapan was inspired to turn to viticulture when his grandfather bequeathed him 300 vines. These are now joined by other plots, organically tended, on Istria's famously iron rich, red soils. These include 6ha near Pula. Food and lavish hospitality never being far from a Croatian's thoughts, our tasting was followed by no fewer than 21 dishes at what importers and hosts, Trevor and Judith Long of Pacta Connect termed a 'fish café', near those vines. Velcro shoe wearing oenologist, David Dikovi? represented the wines.

Run by restaurateur/chef, David Skoko, 'Batelina', Banjole, appears unassuming - gingham tablecloths and open hearth. Metres from a harbour home to a handful of day boats (some operated by Skoko), two mothers-in-law, one with hair as red as Istria's soil; the other's as dark as the night clenching the sky, toil fast in open and closed kitchens. Skoko slices sashimi. The trio received a standing ovation from our press pack at the end of our meal.

Named after his daughter, Trapan's clean, floral Rubi Rosé (Syrah, Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon and indigenous Teran) accompanied platters of sweet conga eel mousse with salted anchovies, sardines with bay leaves from immense trees, and basil and artichoke (a tough wine match). Cubed shark liver mousse was clearly not of the earth and moist with an oiliness which felt life enhancing. Horse mackerel with dandelion mousse on sesame biscuit proved intensely savoury. So fresh as to be scentless, spiky local spider crab was delicately spiced and softly textured. Scorpion fish, one of the most dangerous fish in the Adriatic on account of its poisonous spikes, and patience to pauses to pounce on prey, tasted like a cross between seabass and tilapia.

Our cheeks reddened as rosé was replaced by clean flavoured acacia oak aged, lightly salty Malvasia/Chardonnay served with lemon sole risotto in clam juice and sole emulsified in its own stock, then 'weaponised' crab bisque (brimming with flavours of claws). Accompanying, polenta was shaped as scallop shells. The evening continued with firm Teran Terra Mare, aged in French oak.

Proving the adage that fish restaurants don't bother with decent desserts to be wrong, Skoko's almond and white chocolate tart dipped in powerful but not domineering Istrian added olive oil worked to great avail. Despite vertiginous roaming costs, a fellow writer was even moved to 'Like' Skoko on Facebook.

Between bringing courses, Skoko's young waiter polished his Rubik's cube technique - currently at 1.5 minutes. 'It helps me through the boring times,' he said. But boredom is a form of peace - something this region is getting used to with style.