Iće i piće

NO 40, October 2014

wine and... Portrait of a Winemaker

Franco Cattunar

Albert Donsky

Photos: Damir Fabijanić

Family tradition

Grandfather was joint owner of a cellar in Brtonigla; he had 3 or 4 hectares of vineyard. The tradition was continued by my father, and then by me. I started dealing with wine full time in about 1985, although I had even earlier taken part in farming and wine production. I was among the pioneers, for, if you remember, Malvazia came into fashion a full ten years after that. In 1985, we planted two hectares every year, and so we had a whole new product in the vineyard. Before all the trends, we realised that Malvazia was the future, since we knew its history. The old guys on the whole lived off Malvazia and Teran (Terrano), the best-selling items of the time in Austria and Italy. Four or five years ago, in Brtonigla, we started off a project to investigate the four types of soil (the grey, the red, white and black). Anyway, the Brtonigla trademark is divided into the four parts of the soil. I think this is really crucial and interesting. Our cellar puts out four Malvazias, from the four kinds of substrate.

Vineyards and assortments

We have about 55 hectares of vineyards, comprising about 55% Malvazia, 20% of Teran, Muškat Rose and Momjan Muškat, and about 20% of Cabernet, Chardonnay and Merlot. Seven varieties all told. We have sparkling wines out of Malvazia and Chardonnay. We are gradually accommodating to world trends.
We use only our own grapes because we think that wine quality starts in the vineyard. If our requirements change, we will plant what we need. I precisely know the areas on which I am producing, what variety I shall plant, what rootstocks are good for a given area… This is natural selection based on experience, and, in my view, the way to go.

Cellar, technology, wines

Today, you just can’t produce wine without modern technology, and our plant is state of the art. Just now we are getting a whole line for sparkling wine with all the necessary machinery, and a new isobaric bottling machine. We make Malvazia in a closed system, without racking, without air. This lets us use a very small amount of bisulphite. We got into the eco-production system almost three years ago, and soon we’ll get an eco label. For me, this is essential for this area.
The reds on the whole age in wooden barrels, especially the Teran. Few of the whites are aged, and then in big wooden barrels. The 2011 Malvazia got a prize at the Vinistra fair for the best aged Malvazia in Istria. A line I shall perfect is a line of Malvazias aged on wood, oak in particular.
My production comes to about 500,000 bottles a year, depending. But then you have to sell it all. Not all of it is sold in bottles, only what I think is good enough quality.


Everything is based on the family heritage, and on understanding the given local area. We are going on with our own experience on the basis of the family’s. There is always something new, and the best example is this year, when the weather had been the worst ever.
We have to fight on all sides. We export to China, Canada, England, Belgium, Italia, Slovenia, USA. This demands a lot of time, since Croatian wine production is unknown in the world, and we are not all that significant, which is the biggest problem, in my view. But I think we will make it.


We are a family business: my wife Vesna, daughter Nicol and son Edi. My daughter has got a qualification in hospitality, because this is the way we want to go, and my son has been to agricultural school, and is supposed to continue his education. We also have olives, but more for our own use. To excel in something, you have to dedicate yourself just to that. And so olives are only a minor story.


We are going to stay true to ourselves and the way we have worked to date. Just a few supplementations, like the blend of Teran, Merlot and Cabernet I am just putting together. We have this ability, because Teran is a variety that will go with everything. But we have to put in the work. We are going bit by bit, for we shall have 20 labels, which is not all that little, and we have to keep an eye on it. We have to work slowly and understand it, and constantly check out, and work out if we are on the right way.
We intend to expand the business and in the upper part over the cellar do some agritourism, with a maximum of ten rooms. I think it’s a good idea to round off our business, because the visitors are interested in eating and relaxing, and it’s a pity not to make use of it, considering the position and the marvellous sea view. When the weather’s fine, as it is now, you can see tourist destination Grado on the Italian coast.

Vina Cattunar d.o.o.

Nova Vas 94
52474 Brtonigla
(052) 774 138, 098 435 644,
091 5722 435

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