I am having a mad love affair with Croatia (Ssshhh, don't tell France.)
In particular, its heart-shaped peninsula Istria that juts into the north Adriatic Sea. Istria is Croatia’s culinary gut, and I make the easy a 2.5-hour drive from the capital, Zagreb to this compact region overflowing with truffles, seafood, wild-asparagus, and some of the most celebrated olive oil and wine in the world. Mix in a Mediterranean climate and a proclivity for la dolce vita, and Istria transforms from a place on a map into a lifestyle I can get behind.
At the designated wine route signs found all over Istria, I turn right. Eventually the signs disappear.
I’m in search of Piquentum, a winery in the village of Buzet, and its winemaker, Dimitri Brečević, who I'd met the week before. I pull over to ask for directions.
“I’ve never heard of it or him,” is the pedestrian’s response.
The elusive winery is actually this unmarked WWII-era water cistern carved into the hills below the village, and when I finally arrive and tell him the story, Brečević laughs.
“You should have asked for The Frenchman. They all know me as that.”
Born to a Croatian father and French mother Brečević is one of the few “natural” winemakers in Istria, using techniques that insist on minimal intervention. He uses indigenous Istrian Malvasia grapes, which produce an easy to drink white wine, and red Teran and Refošk grapes. We taste each in straight from the barrel.