11 Apr

What do you need to produce a bottle of wine and bring it onto the market? The bare essentials are grapes, some yeast, fermentation vessels, and some bottles to put it in. Dimitri Brečević reckoned he had it all covered, when just weeks away from releasing his first vintage, it dawned on him that there was a problem: he had no labels and no branding.

A few phone calls later, and he’d tracked down one Sean Poropat, a designer based in Poreč, near his home village Buzet (Istria, Croatia). Sean took just one week to come up with a range of design options, from which the distinctive “Piquentum” branding was selected.

Although Brečević was raised in France, his father hailed from Istria (The Northerly part of Croatia butting up to Slovenia). Following a winemaking apprenticeship that took him from South-West France to Australia and New Zealand, Dimitri was keen to return to his fatherland and apply his winemaking knowledge back in Croatia. In 2006, the opportunity to purchase a disused army bunker near the village of Buzet presented Brečević with the chance he needed. Perfectly situated in the midst of vineyards, the bunker was also naturally cool – a real boon for winemaking. The only challenge was seeking planning permission to convert the ex-military facility into a winery – its existence had been so secret that the planning department initially denied that there was any building there at all!

Dimitri’s trailblazing range of wines were christened “Piquentum” after the roman name for Buzet. The Mondrian-like designs from Sean Poropat depict the nearby vineyards and hills, with “Rouge” and “Blanc” also providing a stylised image of Buzet’s church.

The modernist yet elegant visual style of the labels is an accurate reflection of the wine in the bottles. Dimitri uses top quality organically grown grapes and minimal intervention in the winery, to produce wines which are focussed and accessible whilst remaining utterly true to their origins.

Piquentum Blanc, made from Istria’s most popular indigenous grape Malvasija Istarska, is refreshing, nutty and mineral on the finish. Piquentum Rouge, made from the local Teran variety (a strain of Refosco), is a wild, cherry-fruit laden wine with bayleaf and pepper overtones. Look out for the 2011 vintage when it’s released later this year –  a real belter, with a supple, rounded character that’s quite a step up from the slightly lean 2009. Finally, Piquentum Terre is a softer, easier drinking red made from Refosco (or Refosk as it’s known locally).

Dimitri will release his sixth vintage (2011) this year. The wines just seem to get better and better, and with those fantastic labels they are well worth seeking out. Pacta Connect are the exclusive importer in the UK.

-Simon Woolf

Simon is a wine and food enthusiast living in London.  He has been studying, analysing and enjoying wine for well over a decade and blogs on The Morning Claret.

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