91 points for Istenič in “The Wine Advocate”

30. 03. 2016

- Rare Passion Extra Brut 2009 (91 points)

- 2011 Istenic Prestige Extra Brut (88 points)

- NV Istenic Brut Cuvée Speciale "No. 1" (87 points)

- 2006 Istenic Rosé "Gourmet" (87 points)

Rare Passion Extra Brut 2009

The 2009 Rare Passion Extra Brut is all Rumeni Plavec. It comes in with 6.7 grams per liter of residual sugar (perceptibly dry and perhaps then some) and 12.25% alcohol. It was released in April of 2014. The $2,000+ price is neither a typo nor a typical marketplace decision--the history of this wine is explained in the addendum--but it should still be expected to perform well given the hoopla and high-end packaging, right? (A photo is in the accompanying article.) Happily, it does. Showing fine complexity and a lot of character, it has good depth, fine acidity and a lingering finish. Mingling a touch of lemon curd with a bit of pear, it has plenty of zing on the end. It feels full in the mouth, but always lively, with just a hint of mouth pucker on the finish. Overall, it's a very nice performance and it is aging very gracefully. The winery believes it can age for some 20 years. Given the price point, to be sure, few will likely find out. It's a special occasion wine. But it is a lot of fun and it is well done.

Addendum: The winery's office manager indicated to me that this was the "most exclusive fizz in the world" given its price and the likelihood that it would not again be released in his lifetime. Basically a 50th birthday celebration of owner Miha Istenič, it comes in a beautiful gold bottle with a blue ribbon containing a big "RP" that looks like royal velvet. (That's "RP" for "Rare Passion," not Robert Parker, of course.) Miha said to me that the "price of the the wine is 1,964€, because I was born in 1964; translation in $ is losing the message." There were also 1,964 bottles produced.

2011 Istenic Prestige Extra Brut

The 2011 Prestige Extra Brut is a 70/30 blend of Chardonnay and Pinot Noir with 5.9 grams per liter of residual sugar, which makes it perceptibly dry, but not austere. Showing better concentration and a bit more focus than the "No. 1" sparkler, also reviewed, this most obviously has a crisper finish and a bit more grip, a bit of power where the No. 1 became more laid back. It is still along the same lines--nicely balanced, lush texture and rather tasty. As with its sibling, it is not actually imported yet, but if it comes in anywhere near the price point given to me, it will be a very nice bargain for a 2011. It will be interesting to see how it holds, but it really doesn't need to be aged. The producer believes it may last a bit longer than I suggest, but let's be conservative for the moment.

2006 Istenic Rosé Gourmet

The 2006 Rosé "Gourmet" is a Brut Pinot Noir with 15 grams per liter of residual sugar and 12.3% alcohol. This fruity pink features big flavor and good aromatics, but modest structure and acidity. It is well balanced, reasonably deep and tastes great. As a straightforward sparkler, it is a well-priced choice for casual sipping.

NV Istenic Brut Cuvée Speciale No. 1

The NV Brut Cuvée Speciale "No. 1" is a 70/30 blend of Chardonnay and Rumeni Plavec, with 8.9 grams per liter of residual sugar. Seeming dry, if leaning a bit to the fruity side, this has a lush feel, freshness and flavor on the finish. Showing some grip and nice solidity for the price level, this tastes great and drinks beautifully, the fruit cut by reasonable acidity that makes it interesting, not just fruity. If it actually comes into the USA at the price suggested to me by the winery, it will be a very nice bargain. This should last well for most of the rest of the decade, a recommendation in which the producer concurs. Note: Although this is a non-vintage wine, the producer said that the label identifies this release as follows: "PT 40-S-15 Serija 1/18000 L05013, that means 80% of wine is vintage 2012 and 20% of wine is vintage 2011."