Giorgio Clai

A small family business of 10 hectares lying in the hills on the outskirts of Buje, with 6 hectares given over to wine production, 3½ to olives. Giorgio Clai is a member of no wine associations or clubs. However, his wines are legendary in Croatia and Italy and he creates the legend. There is no signpost to lead you to his door, if you want to visit him you should know where he lives. And people flock there.

The family’s land at Krasica is in the perfect position in those Buje hills; the mixture of air from the Adriatic sea and the Učka mountains meeting in the Mirna valley produces a perfect microclimate for the vines and olive trees.

An ex-restaurateur from Trieste, Giorgio retired to make wine alongside his wife, Vesna, and daughter Martina who, upon finishing her degree in economics, joined her father in the vineyards and has just produced her first year’s trio of sublime grappas.

Giorgio’s organic wine-growing methods respect all aspects of nature and are inspired by biodynamic principles. Manual pruning and stripping; minimal and occasional manuring with organic and natural manures; no herbicides, insecticides or systemic treatments; spontaneous fermentations; no additional enzymes or selected yeasts. The wines are mellowed in wooden barrels with a long permanence on the fine yeasts. After nearly a year the wine is bottled without microfiltering or sterile filtering.

Giorgio’s grape varieties are primarily indigenous to Istria (malvasija, teran); his Ottocento red combines cabernet sauvignon, merlot and refošk because, as he says, refošk is a little known variety that makes a great wine. His main aim is to express the personality of the terroir in every bottle produced, with a smattering of his own character in each.

Combine Giorgio’s sixth sense for winemaking, his love of life and people, his total belief in his own abilities to make superb wine and his desire to spread happiness merely through enjoying a bottle of wine in the company of friends and you sum up his philosophy of life ... Yes, it sounds such a cliché, but it’s all true. Not only is a part of Istria in every bottle but Giorgio’s personality is in every bottle – big, generous and uncompromising.

The Clai motto should simply be that good wine and food are the way to an honest and decent life.