Lupinc, the character of the Italian Carso


I had the chance to enjoy a few glasses of wine with Matej Lupinc. His wines, actually. He is a very nice guy with a paused way of talking. His wines are simply amazing. Wines you can drink forever. His winery is located in the backcountry of Trieste in Friuli-Venezia Giulia, Italy. Prepotto is a small village not far from the Gulf of Trieste. The funny thing about Matej and Prepotto is that it is in the very heart of the Carso, a small strip of land where winemakers work the white varieties macerated on the skins. Castello Di Rubbia di Nataša Černic, Matej Skerlj and especially Paolo Vodopivec are not far from here. In Prepotto, Matej’s village, we can find two of the most well known Orange wine producers of the area as well: Benjamino Zidarich and Sandi Skerk.

I was saying “funny thing” because Matej doesn’t macerate his white wines on the skins. Rather, he works them in the dry way, not something we can easily find around with the exception of Edi Kante.

Matej owns as well a small B&B business that sits besides the winery. A few rooms in a very peaceful village where you can be hosted while enjoying not only the surrounding wineries but also the remains of WWI trenches. This was an area in which terrible and deadly battles took place and the rests can still be seen and visited here.

The soil in the Carso is the famous Terra Rossa that you can see in the pictures below. Red limestone full of marine sediments and with a rocky layer just below the surface. This rocky layer conveys into the wines the typical Carso personality found only here.

The Carso-Kras DO in Italy, established in the 1990s, has its Slovenian counterpart in the Kras Wine District. Both of them sit atop the Karst Plateau, that strip of land aforementioned running from Trieste to Gradisca D’Isonzo parallel to the Gulf of Trieste, and from here inland till it reaches the limits of the Vipavska Dolina DO in Slovenia. Over a 400 square kilometers with barely 60 hectares of vineyards.

My local heroes here work with the Vitovska and Malvasia Istriana in the white side of wine and with Refosco (Terrano) in the red land of wine. Matej produces a single varietal wine with each of them and also a blend of Vitovska, Malvasia and Friulano called Stara Brajda. B y the way, I said Matej doesn’t macerate his white wines but Stara Brajda is the exception.

I have been stating in many articles and wine tastings about the longevity of a white wine having gone through skin contact. The properties of the skins are transmitted into the wine, allowing it to go long distances in the bottle.

Matej obtains the same results without the maceration time. Sat in his backyard with a glass of Malvasia and some homemade prosciutto, we were discussing about this. Then we went into the guts of his cellar. There, in a bottle container in a corner, he took a bottle of his Malvasia 2008. Opened it ten years after the vintage, the wine was absolutely alive, with a nose, a body, an acidity that made my body shiver. A perfect balance, complex and elegant, one of those wines you can enjoy forever. Regretfully, the bottle seemed to contain way less than 75cl because we downed it effortlessly. An amazing wine indeed.

His Vitovska is also a wonderful wine. I have come to love this variety since I started enjoying it by means of the wines of Natasa, Benjamino and especially Paolo. All of them with time on the skins. For this reason, Matej’s Vitovska is absolutely amazing because Orange wine masters surround him yet he works greatly well without the skins. His Vitovska has a pale soul, limpid yet full bodied, aromatically intense and silky character.

Finally, Stara Brajda is an adorable blend. Each of the elements found in the previous two wines are present here, with the adding of the Friulano, another local variety that was formerly known as Tokai Friulano now only as Friulano. What can I say about this wine? I also love it. As mentioned, with a short time on the skins.

His white wines undergo an ageing of approximately nine months in oak, depending on the vintage.

Besides these three wines, Matej works with the Terrano, a subvariety of the Refosco. This is a very tannic, rustic grape. It requires masterful hands to work with it because if not controlled, it can produce wines that are very hard to drink. Refosk is its counterpart in Slovenia and Croatia, in the Istria area. Here I found some examples that were melting the glass due to its extreme rusticity. In places there is a small confusion about this grape as its name is Refosco (Refosk) but the name of the wine is Terrano (also Teran). Again, Terrano is a subdivision of Refosco.

I haven’t tasted Matej’s Terrano wine as it is a grape I don’t particularly favor, though. Natasa and Marco Felluga are producing very interesting Terrano wines as Giorgio Clai is doing in Croatia. This is another reason for visiting Matej again.

Finally, he produces two sweet wines, one with Terrano and the second with Malvasia.

Lupinc is a wonderful small winery. Matej’s wines are amazing for me. He produces around 15,000 bottles per year. I love white wines with body and structure, complex and appealing as his wines are. His B&B is also a very nice place to stay for visiting the area. In any case, a must-do visit.