Danijel Kraljević, code name Cuj, has two great loves; wine and oil. He is a wine expert by profession, and a multitalented perfectionist; his basic driving force is the question Why is something the way it is? He “inherited” the name CUJ from his grandfather, whose punch line was (in a dialect): Listen (CUJ) let me tell you.
Current production of wine in a new basement in Farnažine (Umag surroundings) amounts approximately 35.000 bottles, with a goal of 50.000 bottles, the amount that Mr Kraljević could still produce working on his own. Locations of his wine yards spread over three soils – marly soil or flysh (white soil), terra rossa (red soil), and brown soil, all ideal for Malvazija, Teran, Muscat, some Chardonnay and Merlot. Malvazija is planted on all three soils, but is vinified separately and later blended together.
The philosophy of the wine cellar and the oil refinery is quite clear – nothing is left to chance. Even though the Kraljević family is in wine business for generations, the oil production started six years ago, after building the oil refinery of a laboratory type. The operation principle (strictly cold) consists of two stages – there is no centrifuge (no separator) that separates oil from water, which makes this process a bit more difficult; the oil refinery does everything via the inverter (computer). This enables the producers to affect each phase of the oil production, which is crucial with some sorts of olives (too bitter or too sharp ones). By different methods of olive grinding, and by applying different recipes, the mentioned bitterness and sharpness could be reduced, and harmony of oil can be achieved. And vice versa. If a certain amount of olives is “tired” ore too ripe, this bitterness and sharpness can be affected. The advantage of the production without the separator lies in the fact that oil does not undergo through additional heating, and that water is not used in the processing, which is extremely important since the water washes out the polyphenols from the olive (polyphenol is a natural antioxidant which protects the oil, and after consummation of the oil, it connect with free radicals). In his own olive-groves, Mr Kraljević grows several olive varieties; Buža, Bjelica and Črna – autochthonous sort of olive tree more than a hundred year old, the richest in sterols which lower the cholesterol.
Many of renowned olive oil producers in Istria process their olives in CUJ’s refinery (such as Belić, Ipša). In 2012, out of 43 Croatian olive oils that entered Flos Olei guide, 9 of them were processed in CUJ refinery.
I came out of the unearthed stone-cellar under the impression of Teran...
Thick, barely translucent, ruby red provocatively oils, and even colours the glass. At first quite somnolent on the nose, but the impression does not last too long. Soft structure of the essence of the wine slowly rises up, elegant as a stone-giant from the first part of Hellboy. Pure and unambiguous nose of dominant spicy base is dappled with flowery – herbal sensation of dry rose petals. Sensations of “soft” pepper let through the character of red and luscious berry fruit, leading all the way to homemade sour cherry strudel. It is definitely pleasant and gentle to the nose.
The softness of sharp edges of Teran, soothed and tamed freshness, and well arranged structure, treats the palate with meditative intentness. So I sip the wine the entire evening, trying to catch the thoughts. And one thought repeats with each sip; softness. It is a Teran of good semblance and wiry body, “bloody”, milky softness of unusually gentle texture. Although it is quite intoxicant and essential, it is not too aggressive. Components have “clicked” well, keeping the balance between themselves, and opening the space for lusciousness of too ripe sour cherries and gentle tartness of blueberries. Fruity palate slowly disappears, dragging itself towards explicitly herbal after. It is lively and green, buttery and lasting. Warm buffalo blood.