Štancija Špin is one of the most beautiful estates in inland Istria, situated about a fifteen-minute drive from Novigrad and Brtonigla. Štancija, in front of which you will sometimes come across a few lazy and content Boskarin cattle, was originally established as Agroluna’s representative venue next to the small manufacture that makes best Istrian cheeses
But word about dinners at Špin spread all over Istria, made it to Zagreb, and even crossed Croatia’s borders, and Špin became an excellent restaurant open to the public, with a very local menu and a wonderful selection of local wines. After a few dinners at Špin, we put together this little, perhaps unconventional, but nevertheless exciting guide which pairs Špin’s cuisine and Laguna’s wines.
Cheeses with Terra Rossa and Castello
With the starter Classic Špin, featuring sheep’s, cow’s, and mixed milk cheese, as well as truffle cheese, we would suggest the 2015. Terra Rossa. This red is fresh enough to cut through the fatness of the cheese, with a structure strong enough to match the truffles.
The luxury version of Classic Špin is called Premium, and also contains Parmesan-type cheeses called Grana Classic and Grana aged in pomace, as well as albumin cheese. Here too we would recommend a red wine, the 2013. Castello, which pairs very well with big, mature cheeses. If, however, guests decide to start their meal with a white wine, as older conventions require, the Malvazija Festigia Riserva would be the natural choice.
Pasta with Cabernet Sauvignon Festigia and Merlot Festigia
For Istrian sausages and game meat sausages, we would return to the 2015. Terra Rossa, while the best choice for the seafood platter would be the basic Laguna 2015. Malvazija, in clear bottle with a screwcap. It really is fantastic value for money. Finally, classic dishes like octopus salad, require a classic wine, such as the excellent, complex, yet fresh Malvazija Festigia 2015.
Among the pastas, the homemade pasta with truffles attracts particular attention. In Istria it is common to serve truffles with white wine, which is a big mistake. The strong fragrance and earthy character of the truffles actually demand a powerful red wine; in Piedmont, after all, Barolo and Barbaresco are regularly served with truffles.
We are absolutely certain that a splendid match for pasta with truffles would be Cabernet Sauvignon Festigia 2013; its mature tannins complement the earthiness of truffles, and its fruity warmth rounds off the flavour in the mouth that is left by the noblest fungi in the world. For the pasta with the less intense forest mushrooms, go for the Merlot Festigia 2013, because its structure and texture are softer than that of Cabernet, just as porcini mushrooms and chanterelles are less intense than truffles.
Risoto, Malvazija Festigia and Chardonnay Festigia
The risotto with Kvarner scampi, which definitely now have a better reputation than lobster in the eyes of great chefs, requires a noble, yet fresh white wine. Freshness is necessary, due to the richness of the risotto. Therefore the risotto with scampi goes perfectly with the Malvazija Festigia 2015, elegant enought to match the scampi, and fresh more then enough to cut through the risotto.
Black risotto, however, is one of those rustic, traditional dishes with which red and white wines are equally appropriate: of reds we would once again recommend the Castello, and of whites our pick is the Chardonnat Festigia 2013. or 2015.
Baby goat in a pot and Cabernet Sauvignon Festigia
Baby goat in a pot is as rustic as it sounds, but requires, however, the energy and tannin structure of the Cabernet Sauvignon Festigia 2013. The same applies for the rump steak with spinach, but guests who would like their beef very bloody could go a step further and order the Cabernet Sauvignon Festigia Riserva 2012. or 2013. The American steakhouse rule is: the bloodier the beef, the more powerful the Cabernet.
Boškarin cheeks and Castello
Among the main dishes, the Boskarin cheeks – an authentically regional specialty made spectacular with a long and elaborate preparation – call for an elegant and luxurious red wine. The Decanter’s Regional champion 2012. Castello would work wonders here; if it is sold out, it is well worth trying the 2013. Castello or the Merlot Festigia 2013.
Pork in herbs, Malvazija Vižinada and Merlot Festigia
A particularly interesting dish to match with wine is the pork with a Mediterranean herb crust, as it works well with both a Malvazija and with big red wines. The first choice here would be Malvazija Vižinada 2013, one of the best single-vineyard wines not only in Istria, but on the entire Croatian market. Our second choice would be the Merlot Festigia from the same vintage, whose fruitiness and suppleness emphasise the sweetness of good pork.
Wild white fish and Malvazija Festigia
And finally, with wild white fish, which sells in Špin for almost half the price that it sells for in Rovinj (300 kuna for a kilogram of wild fish is one of the lowest prices in Istria), we must, of course, return to Malvazija. Nowhere is the rule to ‘drink locally’ as important as it is for the case of distinctive local products, such as wild fish. Malvazija Festigia 2015, definitely one of the best from that excellent vintage, with its complexity and clarity, will help make every sea bass, sea bream or John Dory even more magnificent.