Istria – This is the season of Spring when everything turns green and lush, the temperatures start to rise and being outdoors for long periods becomes the norm.
It is also the time when the products of last year’s harvest are coming to the first maturity, when the early signs of quality can be tested and evaluated for future development. The predictions of last year (before the grapes were collected or the olive trees shaken) that: – “it will be/was a great / mediocre / average / etc harvest” – can now be tested against the reality. The first young fresh wines and the early olive oils are tried and tasted. The qualities of the new products are noted and remarked upon and then let loose into the public domain. The producers have several ways of doing this. There are exhibitions and wine fairs, there are organised degustations, and, most of all, the open door policy of many producers, inviting all to visit their cellars and try their products “at home”.
This is surely the nicest way to explore and to get know this wonderful region.
The opportunity to travel around to find the hidden treasures of Istria, down small quiet but, generally, well-kept side roads is here and now. When there are some free hours during your team-building programme, or during breaks in the rehabilitation programme or just if you are close by and have time to spare, it is easy to organise trips to local cellars, both wine and olive oil, not forgetting some specialist cheese and pršut producers.
Almost all Istrian producers have web-sites showing their products, location, contact details and, importantly, their opening times. Most producers appreciate you calling in advance as they are busy with many and varied tasks to keep their premises and products in the best possible condition for you to the sample their offerings. If you take the courtesy of announcing your intentions, you can be sure that you will not be disappointed as the legendary hospitality of people in the region is based on long experience of welcoming guests to their houses.
There are many Istrian wine producers with medals now, not just locally but some with formidable appreciation in the worldwide wine audience. This is especially confirmed by Decanter, the world’s most prominent forum for assessment of wines around the world, with several significant awards to Istrian winemakers. Similarly, with the competition in the cheese industry there is at least one Istrian producer competing on the international stage for cheese production with awards to prove it.
Going out to explore the countryside of Istria is always a great experience.
The topography of the region means that in one moment you are in gently rolling hills amongst forested areas, fields, vineyards and grazing animals and the next moment you come to the top of a rise and have huge vistas where you see the hilltop villages above the deep valleys and a glorious overview of the beauty of Istria. These views often include a glimpse of the sea and its relationship to the peninsula and what lies beyond.
But, not to forget what is inside. There are many, many producers, some large enterprises and some smaller family concerns, making high quality wines, olive oils, cheeses and hams. All worth taking some time to venture out into the hinterland and sampling for yourself.
A very pleasant way to use up spare time.