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Fermentation tanks in the Istrian deep-buried Piquentum winery, originally built as a water cistern in 1928 under Mussolini.

Inside the Piquentum winery, originally built as a water cistern in 1928 under Mussolini.

Piquentum – the ancient Roman word for the picturesque hilltop town of Buzet – was born in 2004 from the passion and commitment of Dimitri Brecevic to reinvent Istrian wines.

Born in the French Basque Country of Jurançon in the foothills of the Pyrenees, Dimitri Brečević studied oenology in Bordeaux and then worked at Domaine de Chevalier in addition to working harvests in Australia, New Zealand, Bordeaux, and Burgundy before deciding to settle in his father’s homeland of Istria.

The winery itself is a tale of its own. Originally built as a water cistern in 1928 under the Mussolini administration, it was converted Post World War II into an atomic bunker – a place for the top brass to hide should there be a nuclear war. Rumour has it that one tunnel goes all the way to Slovenia. Due to its highly secret purpose, it had never been registered on the land registry. If you are on a visit, chances are that you would simply drive right by.

Buried more than 50 feet deep under the forested hill with a meter-thick walls, this naturally insulated winery offers a constant 10-11ºC temperature all year long. This is perfect for aging, but this is often too cold to get a native fermentation started. Using fans to draw in the warmer outside air to around 14ºC, the wines complete a wild ferment without the use of added yeast, bacteria, enzymes, or any additives. After a long and slow fermentation without stalling fermentation or cold soaks, the wines are bottled and ready to be enjoyed.

Piquentum offers the typical aroma of Istrian Malvasia, Teran and Refošk in a completely sincere way: “I believe in wines that need more time and are able to develop nice secondary and tertiary aromas. You have to try to understand the grapes, the terroirs and the consumer, and to find the truth. I want to discover the character of this land” says Dimitri. His interpretation of the fickle Teran proves that he already knows his terroir perfectly well.

Click here to see Piquentum’s portfolio

Click here for more information about the Istrian Terroir