Iće i piće

NO 29, February 2012

wine and... Portrait of a Winemaker

Tomislav Bolfan

Josipa Andrijanić

Photos: Damir Fabijanić

Wine cellar’s ID


Do you know how to get to the peak, to wine peak or Vinski Vrh? From Zagreb take the Varaždin road then turn off.... and you will arrive at the Zagorje village of Hrašćina, where on the sunnymost hill a wonderful grape-girt building is waiting for you. Yes, that is one of the possible answers to the question posed, but the real one is Love. Tomislav Bolfan has been into wine since he was a kid. Together with his granddad he took part in the amateur vintages and played in the family vineyard hut, and just six years ago he joined the pros. He decided to take a new step and transformed his love and energy from ancient times into something entirely new and authentic. Dissatisfied with the quality and type of wine on the Croatian market, he wanted to make a breakthrough with fresh and young and brilliant wines. He bought an estate with a determined and transparent intention of offering much more than the usual. And he has no regrets. Today it is the biggest winery in the Zagorje region, one that from conventional agriculture turned its face to ecological, and also in part to biodynamics.

Vineyards and varieties

It started with 30,000 vines; today there are four fundamental varieties: Rhine Riesling, Sauvignon Blanc, Pinot Gris and Pinot Noir, with a few other varieties too (Chardonnay, Yellow Muscat, Traminer) planted on 20 ha of vineyard in the Zlatar wine growing region, which is just at the junction of Zagorje and Međimurje. Southern and southeastern exposures, an ideal inclination and marly-limestone soil and helpful climatic factors provide ideal conditions for the production of high quality grapes. With attentive cultivation and an ecological approach they try hard to maintain the natural balance in their vineyards, for years distorted by the conventional manner of cultivation. Tomislav is of the opinion that it is a natural approach to viticulture that gives that something special and unique. He loves nature, lives with it and thinks that everyone ought to stop and think about the future of the whole planet, because equilibrium, he says, is the thing, in life and in nature. This year they are expecting to get a certificate from the First Ecological Station, proof that all the plantations are part of an ecology-friendly production.

Cellar, technology, wines

Fresh, new wines that still have their primary aromas without too much alcohol are the objective of Vinski Vrh Winery. In my soul I am into biodynamics, which pays heed to everything derived from modern sciences. A temperature-controlled cellar is a sine qua non for getting fresh wines. We use stainless vats and wooden barrels from various producers. I am not a nihilist and not exclusivist. I try to find balance everywhere. In our cellar, there is plenty of experimentation. Some of the wine is fermented on natural yeast, and some with selected yeast strains. Natural yeasts give the wines a distinctiveness and specialness, and a certain herbal note or two, which I like, and I want to go in that direction. The capacity of the cellar comes to 90,000 bottles. Sixteen labels are marketed every year, which we could divide into three groups. The basic line is Bolfan, and they are new and fresh; then there is Bolfan Primus (strong and aromatic) with serious and well-aged wines; and Bolfan Paidia (meaning – passion) with dessert and prädikat wines. And the first sparkling wines are already aging in the cellar. They share an interesting label design, the reflection of a philosophy of wine, and Tomislav’s vision. Lack of inhibition, freshness and freedom of spirit. Decanter medals and various other awards are a proof of quality and an additional spur to further work. To the peak.


My aim is to spread love. In the vineyard, the cellar, through my wines and with the people I work with and whom I meet. Wine is love. I try to help and share what I can. My personal wish is to make a contribution that is different, unconventional. I want to go where there are the new beginnings. I am thinking here of ecology and biodynamics, irrespective of everything being so hopelessly entangled by the legislation in Croatia. I’ve set out on a path that won’t be easy, but it is a challenge, and I am following it. I want to produce different wines, wines for people who seek more and can tell the difference. I love nature and believe that without a return to nature there cannot be a happy future.


The Bolfan estate consists of a cellar, vineyards and wine hut. There is also a hospitality centre, with a restaurant for 50 covers and 5 guest rooms. Because of the range of things they do, the staffing structure is diverse, and there are 11 of them at the moment. During the time of the most vigorous works in the vineyard and at harvest time, part-time labour is brought in. Young oenologist Luka Košćak looks after the cellar, and a Slovene consultant helps with his advice. Visitors relish not only the wine-tasting and the local, home-made meals, but also the music of famed blues singer / mouth-organist Tomislav Goluban. A magical setting, an all-dancing, all-singing team, sprites and elves await your coming.


The future? Raising the quality of both the wine and the Bolfan brand. My objective is to make our wines be totally natural and ecological. I am not into yield, but quality, and that’s the way it’s going to stay. I constantly mention freshness and friskiness and I really do want to produce wines with a low alcohol content. I am thinking here of new world styling, New Zealand above all. I’m in favour of such wines, and want to drink them and make them. This region had been wine-wise neglected and split up, unfairly. I want to change this. Every village has its own exhibition or fair of wine, and they don’t have much influence or impact. I’d like, with other winemakers, and with county support, to organise a real fair, a central event to unite central Croatia and show what we have. Vinistra [an organisation of independent wineries in Istria] can be a model. I am oriented to export, and would like my wines to be sold abroad. I set the objectives, I wish the wish, and I truly think everything will come to pass the way it should be as long as I am in accord with nature and its flows.

Bolfan Vinski Vrh d.o.o.

Gornjaki 56

49283 Hraščina

(049) 458 287, 099 7031 797


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