Domaine Vicomte Noue Marinic, Brda – Slovenia
About Collio-Brda wine region
A little over an hour’s drive northeast of Venice and just across the border from the Italian frontier town of Gorizia, you reach the little-known Slovenian wine appellation of Brda. Brda, meaning hilly, is basically an extension of the prestigious Collio region of North East Italy (derived from colline, meaning hills in Italian.) Here, in the north to south-stretching “Vipava” valley, you will find one of the most exciting new producers of top quality Chardonnay outside of Burgundy – Domaine Vicomte De Noue Marinic!
The Marinic family have been growing vines here since 1910, but the region itself has a much longer history. In fact the first ever formal vineyard classification anywhere in the world took place here at the instruction of Empress Marie Therèse of Austria in 1787, when the region’s vineyards were classified into 9 different tiers of quality.
Between 1910 and today the Brda region changed nationality four times! It was originally part of Austria until the end of the First World War, then belonged to Italy until 1945. After the Second World war the allies took it away from Italy and gave it to Yugoslavia, to which it belonged until 1991, when Yugoslavia dissolved and Slovenia became an independent nation. In terms of personality, this beautiful, hilly sub-Alpine region combines Austrian attention to detail with Italian flair – a blend of precision and emotion which is evident in its wines!
About the owners
Since 2017, the winery has been a partnership between Alis Marinic, grandson of the founder, and Vicomte Charles Noue, a Frenchman who is co-owner of Domaine Leflaive of Burgundy and nephew of the late Anne Claude Leflaive. Charles is a true vinous pioneer who spent several years travelling the world looking for the perfect terroirs to grow Chardonnay. He concluded that outside Burgundy, the two best potential areas for producing world class Chardonnay were New Zealand and the Brda region of Western Slovenia.
Alis Marinic grows and makes the wines under the expert guidance of Anthony Colas, a consultant oenologist who also works for Domaine Rousseau and several other top Burgundy producers. Charles Noue looks after the sales and marketing.
Domaine Marinic own 140 hectares of vines, 90% of which are more than 40 years old. Previously the Marinic family sold their grapes to famous producers in Collio, such as Livio Felluga and Jermann. The 2019s in this wine packet are the first vintage they have labelled their wines under their own, independent domaine name. Their ultimate goal is to produce elegant and persistent wines similar in style, minerality and “emotion” to Puligny Montrachet; wines which reflect their unique terroirs and which you still want to drink after the first glass!
Domaine Marinic’s vines are planted on truly exceptional terroirs! The soil here is called “Ponka“- a very special, clay-limestone schistous rock which, according to Charles Noue, is the most mineral-rich soil in the world and gives an unmistakable minerality to the wines.
The valley has a constant fresh, cooling wind (the “Bora”) blowing down from the Alps in the north to the Adriatic sea about 30kms to the south, meaning that the grape vines suffer very little disease and the wines have a delicious purity and freshness.
Chardonnay is the most important grape in the region with a history going back over 200 years. However local white grapes such as Ribolla Gialla, Malvasia and Tokaj Friuliano are also deliciously aromatic, fruity and of impressive quality. On the red side, this area was renowned for producing the best quality Merlot in Yugoslavia, and from the 2021 vintage onwards the domaine will bottle a spicy, intensely-flavoured Merlot from a 60 year old vineyard they have recently purchased and brought back to life. Watch this space!
All the vines are grown organically with no use of chemicals or artificial sprays in the vineyards. In fact no chemicals have ever been used in the Marinic family vineyards, as back in the communist era, artificial herbicides and fertilisers were too expensive! Grasses and plants growing between the vines are home to a complex ecosystem of insects, bees and birds which help protect the grapes against unwanted pests and predators. The winery is currently working towards organic certification and will subsequently become fully biodynamic.
How the wines are made
All grapes are hand picked and fermented using indigenous (wild) yeasts from the vineyards.
The winery ferment and then mature their aromatic white wines for 18 months in stainless steel tanks to preserve maximum fruit freshness and intensity without any oak flavours.
Their Chardonnays are matured for 12 months in French barriques previously used to mature the white Burgundies of Domaine Leflaive, followed by 8-12 months in stainless steel tanks. The top tier “Domaine” wines then spend a further 6 months in bottle pre release.
All wines are bottled with a very low sulphite content (less than 40mg/lt.)
About the wines
The winery makes three different quality levels. The basic level, known simply as Marinic, comes from vines grown on vineyards at the foot of the hills and is of Burgundy “village” or Macon quality. The middle level – called Erigone (the beautiful nymph who was seduced by Bacchus in Greek mythology) – is of superior Burgundy “village” level quality. These vines are located on east-facing, Ponca-soiled hill slopes which were classified in the Classification of Marie Therese of Austria of 1787. The winery’s top tier of quality, their Domaine Vicomte de Noue Marinic wines, come only from Chardonnay grapes grown in first- or second- rated vineyards in the 1787 classification. As in Burgundy, the grape variety does not appear on the label but instead you find the name of the village and the name of the vineyard. These wines are of good Burgundy 1er Cru quality.