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Visit to Polish Vineyards 2017

Posted: Tuesday, 27 June 2017 11:24


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Visit to Polish Vineyards 2017

June 27: Poland is undergoing a revival in viticulture, just as England did some 30 years ago, and it is rapidly gathering momentum. Results are fascinating and often highly successful. Controls and regulations are extremely strict and restrictive, but the passion and enthusiasm of the growers overcome all obstacles.

Before they can put their wines on the market or try to sell them in shops, restaurants or hotels the grower must first register his vineyard and it is amazing, but true, that the first registered vineyard was only on 12th September 2008.  Unless a vineyard is registered the only way that a wine can be sold is from the cellar door or as part of wine tourism, that is to say meals, tastings, tours and accommodation offered by the winery.  This is becoming very popular and bottles of wine can be included in the price of the service offered. 

In spite of all the impediments placed in the way of wine growers, their passion and determination overcomes all obstacles and wine producing in Poland is growing steadily.  However, as thing stand at present, there are only some 200 hectares of vines belonging to registered wineries.  Over 1000 hectares remain unregistered.

 I spent 3 fascinating days visiting vineyards in the very north and west of the country.  I had not realised how large Poland was despite judging a wine competition in Kraków. We left by car after lunch at about 13.30.  We drove steadily, with a few stops for petrol and refreshment, but we did not reach our destination until 22.00 that evening-   Pałac Mierzęcin at Dobiegniew, a large “wellness and wine resort, luxury grape spa and vineyard” and one of the registered vineyards. 

1. Palac Mierzecin An inhospitable winery

A member of the Heritage Polish Hotels, it is an ancient palace totally restored and modernised and geared to luxury tourism. Our rooms were palatial and the food respectable, but the reception abysmal.  They seemed never to have heard of the word hospitality; apart from the winemaker, nobody at all was interested in us, although we were four established and seasoned wine writers on a professional visit, and nobody tried to make us feel welcome. 

The two vastly rich owners, Piotr Olewiński and Piotr Nowakowski, who made their fortune producing paints for cars, might try and persuade themselves that a little courtesy from their staff and an occasional visit by themselves might make visitors a little less hostile and a little more inclined to pay a second visit.

Click For Large ViewThe next morning we had an appointment with the winemaker, Piotr Stopczyński who received us graciously enough, but was somewhat imbued with his own importance.  He spent a lot of time telling us about the many other vineyard projects in Poland for which he either consults or is winemaker.  He has considerable experience, having studied at Davis and also worked with Mondavi. 

We tasted a number of wines both in barrel and bottle.  The vines this year are some 3 weeks late after a poor and wet spring.  Bud break was only mid-May.  They have 7 hectares in production and a mix of Vinifera and Hybrid.  Among them are Rondo (Hybrid of ZaryaSevera X Saint Laurent from Czech Republic), Solaris (Hybrid of Merzling X a cross between Zarya Severa and Muscat Ottonel from Germany), Pinot Noir, Regent Interspecific, Diana (vinifera from Silvaner and Müller-Thurgau) X Chambourcin), Riesling, Chardonnay and Welsh Riesling.  The Reds were better than the Whites.  The 2015 Pinot Noir showed no trace of Pinot Noir, but the 2016 at least had a whiff of it.  They have modern, sophisticated sorting equipment and the winemaker certainly knows what he is doing.  Overall a respectable standard of wine, but the lack of courtesy by the organisation is seriously off-putting and sadly far outweighs the quality of their wines!

2. Winnica Turnau -the biggest winery

From here we drove to Baniewice to visit Winnica Turnau, the biggest winery in Poland with 29.5 hectares.  A family business and what a delightful family!  They were all there to greet us, welcome us, cosset us and entertain us like royalty. The contrast with Pałac Mierzecin was overwhelming.  Beautiful, well-kept vineyards in lovely, rolling countryside, wonderful clay soil, fine, clean and efficient cellars and modern equipment!  They started in 2009 with 500 vines-mainly hybrids. 

Click For Large ViewTemperatures in summer get up to 40°C and in winter down to -24°C.  They enjoy 225 days per year of vegetation.  They are slowly but steadily transforming to Bio wines.  This is a highly dedicated and switched- on family led by Zbigniew Turnau, founder in 2010 of the Baniewice vineyard and great-grandson of Jerzy Turnau

He is supported by his son Jacek and other members of the Turnau family as well as Tomasz Kasicki, the vineyard manager.  They have a superb and totally professional tasting room, which is also used for receptions and concerts.  Here we tasted a series of wines before lunch and another series with an excellent meal.  They put a lot of effort into Solaris, which is fruity and delicious.  Their Hibernal is aromatic and their Riesling crisp and well fruited.  There is also Chardonnay, Seyval Blanc (Hybrid. Seibel 5656 X Seibel 4986 also called Rayon D’Or), Rondo, Regent and Johaneeter (JOHANNITER.  Interspecific.Originally from Fr.  177-68.  Mother Riesling X father Seyve Villard 12-481, which is a cross between Pinot Gris and Gutedel).  The Solaris with botrytis is elegant, delicate and enticing.  We came away, much later than intended after such generous hospitality, highly impressed both with the Turnau family and their wines and winery.  They may be the biggest, but they are also most certainly not far from the best! 

3. Winny Dworek and Stara Winna Góra
Thanks to the above hospitality we arrived far later than planned at Winny Dworek and Stara Winna Góra (the old wine hill), another wine and vineyard tourist establishment with a magnificent Manor House and fabulous grounds.  Although we were so late, Marek Krojcig, the owner was waiting for us with a broad smile and endless patience. We deposed our bags in the very comfortable rooms and went on a slow tour of the landscaped gardens and park.  Marek loves trees, especially a 150-year old Lime tree, and when he bought the property, in 1998, and the previous owner offered to help him cut down the trees he said to him, “cut just one tree, however, small and I will cut off your legs”. 

He is a perfectionist and everything has its exact place.  The property has 12 hectares with 6 under vine and one more of Pinot Gris will be productive next year.  This is not only a registered vineyard, but as said above, was the first registered vineyard in Poland on 12th September 2008 (Official Document Protokol Kontroli Nr 3/03), and claims to have taught the control board how to do its job.  He is proud of a hybrid called Saphira (Hybrid from Geisenheim.  Mother Arnsburger, father Seyve-Villard 1-72).  He produces some 100,000 bottles per year and says, “I don’t grow wine to become wealthy, but at least all my wine is sold as soon as it is made”.  We had a fine gastronomic dinner in the hotel restaurant that evening with a powerful Regent 2016 and a more delicate Regent Rosé Jesienny (autumnal) 2016 as an aperitif.
As we had arrived so late it was decided that the tasting should be the following morning and this we did after a majestically lavish breakfast in the same restaurant. An off-dry Riesling, a Saphira with 10% Riesling, a Pinot Gris 2016 and a very aromatic Traminer.  So delightful and such a perfectionist is Marek that I expected his wines to shine.  Sadly they did not, although they were perfectly sound and respectable.  However, the Saphira was decidedly a wine of considerable character and interest.

4. Winnica  Miłosz

The breakfast tasting completed, we tore ourselves away for a relatively short drive to Zabor, to Winnica  Miłosz, owned and run with passion by Marta Pohrebny and Krzysztof Fedorowicz.This was a complete contrast to anything that we had seen so far.  An individualist working with very limited facilities making fine wine with great passion.  He is registered, although very small, and is steadily transforming to Bio for which he will be certified in 2018.  We sat on his terrace and in his charming country house and talked and tasted.  His wife looked after us while he explained his philosophy. 

Click For Large ViewAt present he produces 20 varieties, but is beginning to choose the best and narrow down his selection.  He produces a fine Pinot Blanc 2016 on top of an old chalk mine.  The 10 year old vines produce a pure, spicy, elegant wine, but he intends to make Sekt with it.  Indeed, he is determined to concentrate on Sparkling Wine as it is decidedly more profitable.  This is understandable, but something of a pity because his still wines are excellent.  We tasted a Zweigelt Rosé (Vinifera.Saint Laurent X Blaufränkisch from Austria) with fine fruit also destined for Sekt. An unfiltered 80%Zweigelt/20% Dornfelder (Vinifera.Helfensteiner X Heroldrebe from Germany) was delicious with smooth tannins, ripe fruit, good balance and considerable finesse.  He only uses old oak – never new oak barrels.  A tiny production of 500 litres of Pinot Noir was truly delicious and has been dubbed the finest Pinot Noir in Poland by one of the world’s most famous wine critics.  I agree with her.

5. Zabor Winery

He is associated with a new group, Zabor Winery, that will be the largest in Poland when their vines are in production.  Just down the road from his winery a group of 13 wine lovers have bought 30 hectares of land and each member is planting his or her own vineyard upon it.  He has 5 hectares here.  At present no wine has yet been produced, but they are building joint cellars, reception rooms and sales and promotion premises.
Back at his own premises his wife served us a delicious lunch while we continued to taste his wines.  A powerful Gewürztraminer (his first vintage) and a rich 14.5° Solaris with 35 grams residual sugar to finish with his wife’s delicious cakes.  A fine winemaker with both skill and passion!  Please may he not abandon his regular wines for the understandably more profitable Sparkling ones!

6. Winnica Jakubów
Click For Large ViewThis brought us to our last visit and another individualist in a big way if in a small way of business.  Self-taught, with no oenological or technical training, he lives, sleeps, eats and drinks his wines 25 hours a day!  This is Michał Pajdosz at Winnica Jakubów in Jakubów.  The vineyards, started by his father, are set on fabulous slopes in the most enchanting countryside.  In the cellars, delightful and delirious chaos reigns supreme.  His production is tiny, but he has grand projects and ambitious ideas. 

He can be best described by the shirt that he was wearing depicting an attractive young lady smoking – pot?  When I remarked on it he simply replied, “I am a hedonist”.  Character apart, he is a naturally gifted winemaker.  His father started by planting no less than 40 varieties, but the son has uprooted many of them.  At present he has just 2 hectares in production with 3 more coming on-stream soon.  His production is just under 10,000 bottles. He has a charming, tiny and cool storage and tasting room where we sat and tasted.  However, he has plans for quite large-scale construction if he can obtain the premises and find the money.  In truth, he is a highly ambitious young man with the skill and the charm to make things work. 

Click For Large ViewHis Riesling 2016 was excellent – fruity and crisp.  His Traminer well made.  He uses his least ripe grapes, or those from the northern facing slopes, to make his sparkling wine.  The latter budded so late that they avoided the spring frosts.  He is another grower who feels that Sparkling wine will give him both more income and greater prestige.  His Hibernal 2016 was delicious and he says that the vines keep optimum acidity for a long time.  He has an unusual Muskat Odeski (or Muscat Odessa, one of the over 200 varieties of the Muscat grape, this one coming from Odessa in Ukraine).  He also makes a wine that he names Jacobus-Alibert (although we have no idea why!  We think this is his own fancy as Alibernet is a crossing of Alicante Bouschet and Cabernet Sauvignon) and Jacobus is not a grape variety as far as I can trace and might simply be the name of a family member or his pet dog! 

We finished both our visit here and our tour of the Polish vineyards with his Sweet Solaris 2015 – complex, deep, haunting, pure, elegant and fine – a winner!  He made 1000 litres and the taste lingered in our mouths all the way back to Kraków.

Conclusive thoughts

I think it is clear from the above five visits that you never know what you are going to find in a Polish vineyard, but almost always you will find a warm welcome (with the one sad exception above), great passion, a will to learn and a willingness to share.  Hybrids remain in the majority because of the climate, but growers are more and more prepared to take the risk of planting vinifera to make more elegant and internationally accepted wines.  Things are moving fast and I hope to explore further and taste more in the coming year.

John Salvi MW



John Salvi MW Says:

Hello dear friend I never like saying bad things about anybody unless I feel that it is really necessary. Please tell him that I will be happy to take him up on his offer and be proved wrong and will then write a corrective article BUT please ask him if he ever saw the email that I sent BEFORE my visit and which reception totally ignored and said it carried no weight and they considered it of no weight or i mportance. John Salvi MW

Posted @ September 22, 2017 17:23


Piotr Says:

Palac Mierzecin, August 16th, 2017. Indian Wine Academy Dear Count John Umberto Salvi M.W. Couple days ago I got to know from the article of Indian Wine Academy called Visit to Polish Vineyards 2017 that at the end of May Count John Umberto Salvi M.W., English (British) Master of Wine was the guest of Mierzecin Palace. The report of Mr. John Umberto Salvi surprised me and its adverse publicity disposed me to write a response to this public article of Indian Wine Academy. „Czas wina” magazine arranged John Umberto Salvi M.W. Polish tour. From their executive manager we got a written information about conditions stay. According to their expectation we have prepared and carried the plan through. After Mr. Salvi visit I familiarised myself with narrative of responsible employees of Mierzecin Palace as well as correspondence relating to your stay. I am sorry to say that we made a mistake because people receiving whole correspondence did not pass your email (which was sent to our general address) into hands of Mierzecin Palace management. In my opinion this correspondence included your suggestions regarding the stay, its status and position of Mr. Salvi as our guest. Because of the fact I have mentioned above we did not meet Mr. Salvi expectations I want to say I am sorry for that. In Mr. Salvi article I found also your seeing related to the owners, basically to the origin of their assets. I strongly believe that I would never dare to make statement about owner or place or wealth after spending not even a whole day in somebody’s business location. One can make a gross error all the more that don’t know conditions, place, country and history of entrepreneurship development after changes in Eastern Europe which were initiated over the last decades of 20th century. Furthermore me as retiree and mature age person I can make an appraisal from the perspective of almost 40 years of my business activity (together with my business partner) that our contribution to the development of entrepreneurship in Poland besides difficulties but finished with the success thanks to the workers team we had a pleasure to manage. We started from the proverbial garage and got the the position of holding companies of the one industry which sell their products in over 50 countries all over the world. Mentioned by Mr. Salvi a „fortune” issue is highly dubious because in context to Mierzecin Palace the funds involved to restore a completely destroyed one of the most interesting historical site of 19th century in this part of Poland were astronomical. A commercial value of this property is negligible. This project called Mierzecin Palace need annual endowment and over the last 16 years did not bring profit. To complete my statement I would like to invite Mr. Salvi to Mierzecin Palace to stay a week at our cost including your travel expenses. I sincerely hope that our meeting could bring us to mutual understanding then to mutual advantage. Yours sincerely Piotr Nowakowski Novol

Posted @ September 22, 2017 17:15



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