Forests alternating with fields of golden grain, one after the other in rapid succession for countless kilometers: this is the view admired by myself and my traveling companion, Paolo Repetto, during our train ride from Poznan to Stettino, in western Poland. Our stop is Dobiegniew, located in the deep country and where the ticket office is run out of the pkp employee’s apartment. My old friend, Director Tomasz Schulz, meets us at the train station and takes us to Pałac Mierzęcin: a hotel, spa, equestrian stable, and, believe or not, wine producer…. We are here to see one of the latest entries in the world of Polish wine production. A few months ago, Poland was officially recognized by the European Union as a wine producing nation. There are fifty individual producers, but they are of small scale and spread out all over Poland. Visit the Vinisfera website and you can consult the list of companies and their proprietors. Here at Palac Mierzęcin they are in a research phase, studying the land, planting clones and highly cold-resistant grape varieties. The biggest problem here is the occurrence of sudden cold snaps in the spring that carry the risk of compromising not only the buds but the vines themselves.
Piotr, a 29 year old oenologue, explains that the terrain is composed of 40 cm of sand layered on top of clay. In the five hectares of plantings, one finds some well-known grape varieties, like Pinot Grigio, Chardonnay, and Sauvignon as well as some less known: Rondo, Phoenix, and Regent. The vines are located at the top of a low hill flanked by a large lake and a forest. It is said that the microclimate here is very good and that in respect to other Polish zones the temperatures are higher and it rains less frequently.
Since many of the varieties are still awaiting production, we tasted only two wines: a fruity and very fresh, simple but clean Pinot Grigio and a Red Rondo that we didn’t much like because it was too constructed and artificial. Piotr, the oenologue, arrived just last September, and I understand the challenge he faces in the personalization of his wines. My tasting experience of Polish wine is limited to these two, with the addition of a hyper-acid laghi Masuri white that I tried three years ago.
Some time ago I visited another Polish wine producer, located in Malopolska near Cracow and called Winnica Srebrna Gora. The proprietors are dear friends of mine, Michal Jancik and Mirek Kwiatkowski. The site is especially beautiful because of its location below a monastery and splendid view of the Vistola River. What gives me hope for the quality of their wine is the wonderful calcareous terrain, which I had the chance to admire during the plowing of the fields. They planted their first vineyard this year and I wish them great fortune, hoping that the climate proves favorable for their harvest.
The challenge for Polish wine is that of successfully finding – in the course of a few years – a territorial and varietal identity that will permit the production of acceptable wines. I firmly believe in the obstinacy, intelligence and pride of Polish producers, but I am also convinced that they are sometimes guilty of presumption and a lack of wine-savvy, which can be acquired only through experience.
Have you already tried Polish wines? Tell me about your experiences…