Step by step until the creation of top quality wines

The Radovan family

Radovan Winery started in 1994 on a 1.5 hectare vineyard.  There were old Malvasia vines grown in family vineyards surrounding our village of Radovani.  We began by renewing and planting new Malvasia vines and soon other varieties were introduced .  In 1996, we planted our first cabernet sauvignon grape vines (vineyards).  Our old worn-out wooden barrels were replaced by new ones made of stainless steel.  Before our first 1998 Malvasia vintage was bottled,  we used to only sell  wine in bulk.    Despite having to improvise and control the must fermentation  with a beer cooler that year, the Malvasia we produced won the gold medal at the Vinistra Exhibition.

This is how Franko Radovan from the village of Radovani summarizes his gradual but very successful journey in winemaking in the area surrounding Višnjan.   . Although it may not be described as dramatic or spectacular, today there are many wine enthusiasts who come to the family cellar door and tasting room in Radovani to enjoy the original Bacchus beverage bearing the Radovan signature.

Radovani is a village featuring large old family dwellings with characteristic tall stone walls and mighty wrought iron gates, which used to serve as a protection from cattle-rustlers. Situated on the Istrian red soil, it gently faces the sea and the southwest slope, while being surrounded by well-kept vineyards, ploughed land, oak groves…wild herbs grow in its neighbouring meadows, as well as the Istrian delicacy-asparagus which hides in its prickly shrubs.   


Four generations

The Radovan family has lived in this area since the Venetian times.   The Radovans are said to be Morlachs, although it was a long time ago.    As the family was probably agrarian then, as it is today – that might have been the start of the initial ‘wine’ gene which has been transferred to the present generatin of winemakers.

As Franco details his family’s wine growing and winemaking history, it comes to light that his family have owned farms in this district for at least 4 generations.  His ancestors cultivated the land and bred cattle. Yet, as this is the wine producing region, their primary focus was mainly on vineyards and the production of wines.   Under the Italian rule, between the two wars, this house used to produce as many as 400 hectolitres of wine every year.

After World War II, the agrarian reforms and the general development of the Istrian rural territories resulted in the size of vineyards decreasing and a subsequent reduction in wine production, which affected the Radovan family as well. Following decades of private wine growing and winemaking stagnation, the change in Istria, which occurred during the 1990s, saw the emergence of a generation of young, ambitious winemakers who applied new technologies and philosophies. Franko Radovan and his wife Danijela were among them.

Step by step until the creation of top quality wines

Family business

Due to my passion for agriculture I graduated from the school of agriculture in Poreč    Besides, I have always lived here, on the Istrian soil…among the vines. I chose wine growing and winemaking because it not only represents a challenge, but is a pleasure as well. This is a career where you can be the sole creator, making something new and better.  My late father Anđelo was a little reluctant at first, just as most elders were.   However, with my family’s support and enthusiasm, including that of my wife Danijela and mother Pina, who still works on our family farm, we have created a successful business says Franko.

The family business continues with the youngest generation. Franco’s son Antonio already works on the family farm following in the wine manufacturing steps of his ancestors, while being assisted by daughter Anna, whenever she can. Everybody is involved in the family business, which also employs an additional worker. The only one ‘spared’ is Bella, the Golden Retriever and the queen of the garden, who is always ready for a cuddle.

In the course of the last twenty years, the Radovan farm has gradually, step by step, reached nine hectares of vineyards, as well as several more under lease.


Six wines varieties

Their range includes six wine varieties, a dominant malvasia, the already mentioned cabernet sauvignon, as well as world known varieties of chardonnay, merlot, sauvignon blanc and native refosco.   Along with young wine, they also produce barrique wines, aged in wooden French barrels made of respected French oak. It is no wonder that the label often bears the official marking of a premium wine.

The winery bottles about 45,000 bottles every year and they bear  a recognizable, colourful and joyful Radovan wine label featuring a spread winged swallow as the ‘trademark’, which was designed in 1999 by renowned Istrian designer and photographer Sergio Gobbo. They can be found not only in restaurants but also in wine shops.  Franko tends to avoid selling his wines to supermarkets as their quality declines, due to potentially poor storage and shelf life. A good name is hard to acquire, and it can sometimes be lost through no fault of your own.

The quality of the Radovan wine has been confirmed by numerous gold medals and recognitions awarded at Istrian and national wine exhibitions and fairs.  Despite the many accolades, modest and unpretentious Franko, whose self-praise is more difficult to obtain than a premium wine from a grape, emphasizes the gold medal won at the 2012 Vinistra Exhibition for refosco vintage 2009, declared the best in the category of aged refosco wines at this biggest Istrian festival of wines, as a highlight of his illustrious career.

Step by step until the creation of top quality wines

Grapes vintage

When talking about vintages, he will remember 2009 with special joy. ‘Grapes were especially nice, and if done properly, wine cannot be bad’, says Franko in the Istrian čakavski dialect spoken in Radovani. This sentence also shows the important guideline in the Radovan’s winemaking philosophy: good wine starts in the vineyard. A major part of its working hours, which are actually non-existent, Franko spends among the vines as ‘the work does not ask’. Naturally, much depends on the weather. No year is ideal, he emphasizes, and the vines are different. The magic happens when they arrive at the cellar.


Encouragement to move forward

I love to make wine and enjoy the many challenges that it presents. When I produce a wine which I deem as good, and  others whose opinion I appreciate confirm it, then I am really pleased and at peace with myself. The market is flooded with wine, and I am honoured when mine are recognised.  If people who have enjoyed our wines in a restaurant, come to our cellar to try other varieties in our tasting room – this encourages us to be innovative and move forward, says Franko.

There is a lot of room to move forward.    And again, step by step, a little at a time, Istrian style, whilst listening to our roots and traditions, we will embark on new challenges.

We have been assisted by enologists in developing red wine blends –  these are the challenges which make me happy, says Franko while demonstrating his focus on progress.

There is no doubt of more to come. Indeed, swallows fly high.

Goran Prodan