Giorgio Clai, back to his winemaking roots in Croatia

Giorgio Clai

Recently we spoke about a winery located in the Croatian part of Istria, Clai Wines. We will talk today with its owner and winemaker Giorgio Clai.

Good morning Giorgio and thank you very much for your collaboration. You grew up in Croatia but professionally you lived later in Italy in a restaurant business. Why did you leave that life for going back home and starting making wine?

It was love for this job. I was always making wine as a hobby so I decided to come back and do what fascinates me.

What is so special in this part of Croatia for doing the kind of wines you do?

Above all, 50 meters from Heaven you have as many choices as you want but the location is so beautiful that you can use any philosophy you want, as mush natural as possible as it is what interests me the most.

Tell us about the Malvasia Istriana, please.

The Malvazija is the most famous autochthonous variety that can be used in any philosophy and in any type of winemaking (fresh, aged, sparkling and Sv. Jakov). It is a variety with a big future.

We are big fans of Malvasia, especially when it is macerated on its skins, Why did you decide to use this vinification method?

Because it is the only way that I know but still if we look at this part of Istria and Northeast of Italy and Slovenia, everybody are macerating. It is our tradition.

How does this variety respond to long periods of maceration?

You should try Sv. Jakov, because it has no fixed rules for vinification, it can macerate for 4 months. I think there is no problem, it is almost recommended.

How do you like your Malvasia to be?

The best in the world.

If we could taste various vintages of your Malvasia, which differences would be in the way you have worked with it?

There is no difference in the way of making it. We are not making wine, we cherish it. But each vintage will show the conditions of the year, if it was easy or difficult and this is why we are writing the year of the harvest on the label.

We have tasted your Malvazija 2012 and it was really a wonderful wine. Which vintage are you more proud of?

It is always the last one because I think we miss 300-400 hundred years of experience. I think I learn something new every year.

2002 was your first vintage with your winery. Which things are you doing differently now after these years?

By some varieties, we have prolonged maceration periods because of high sugar levels. I think this was the only way to transform all the sugar. We must keep in mind that we are starting fermentation with spontaneous yeasts, which is the most important aspect. But as I already said, I learn something new every year.

Do your wines reflect your personality, your character?


Organic, natural, biodynamic agriculture… Which method are you more comfortable working with?

It is very difficult to answer because we are following all three ways because we believe that all connects in one system, on some way this is all the same. The most important thing is purism.

What’s the reason for using a Pied de Cuve?

I use it if I think that particular vintage needs it. The reasons would be high sugar, all difficult conditions for fermentation.

What kind of wine do you like to drink when you are not working?


Thank you very much, Giorgio!!

Foto (c) Clai Wines