The Original Estate Bottled Wine
During the 1920s, Baron Philippe de Rothschild, proprietor of Chateau Mouton Rothschild, began persuading the owners of Bordeaux’s first growths that, to protect their reputation, their wines should be chateau bottled. This was thought a historic moment for fine wine as others followed: in Burgundy, it was called domain bottling, elsewhere estate bottling.
Yet over two hundred years before the Bordeaux first growths, estate bottling had been introduced in the original purpose-built cellars of Ilok, standing proudly on the eastern Danube. Wine history had been made here before. When earliest winemakers first brought vines up the Danube from the east, they planted around Ilok. Then Romans made famous wines here, over two thousand years ago. But it was much later visitors from Rome who made their mark on modern wine. Pope Innocent XI had been awarded Ilok by the Austrian Emperor Leopold in 1697 and sent his Odescalchi cousins to run the estate. There they opened the region’s first purpose-built cellars and bottled Ilok’s celebrated Traminer, on the estate. In this way, they could protect their wines’ quality and reputation from outside merchants who bought in bulk and bottled wines with lower standards and lesser scruples.
To this day, if Ilok Cellars is not on the bottle, it will not have been bottled there. It will not be the real thing. This is why, when seeking the perfect match for smoked salmon or foie gras or carp from the Danube below, those who know insist on Ilok Cellars Traminer. No other wine has quite the same exotic aroma, smooth texture or long, long finish. No other wine has the Ilok Cellars mark of quality.
Today the cellar master is pouring a notable Traminer for notable guests. This is Ilok Cellars 2010 Icewine, a very rare wine from the anniversary of estate bottled wines at Ilok Cellars. On this day, another important anniversary is being celebrated. For this is June 2nd 2013, exactly sixty years since the coronation of Queen Elizabeth II, when Ilok Cellars wines had graced the royal table. This year it is Ilok Cellars Icewine which has been despatched to Buckingham Palace and here those cellars are hosting a simultaneous celebration.
The picture is a perfectly Croatian mosaic of cultures as the President first toasts the Queen, then his guests: the British Ambassador; the Habsburg descendant of Leopold who awarded Ilok to the Pope; and then their visitor from Italy, from the Odescalchi family who first bottled Traminer here. The President notes that nobody knows of an earlier estate bottling tradition and that from this year all Ilok Cellars bottles will carry the insignia: “the original estate bottled wines”. “If this is not on the bottle, it is not the real thing”. Together, each raises a glass of what is, without doubt, the real thing: to Ilok Cellars, the original estate bottled wine.