I’m learning more about Croatian wines every day.
I’ve come along way from my initial exploration, which was more about wandering the City of Trogir to see what I could find, on a random basis, in the 30 – 40 kn range. (around €6) This is still a great way to enter into the world of Croatian wine, but there is SO much more to learn.
What I’ve learned, in a month, about Croatian wines:
I’ve learned that there is a strict quality classification system, so that consumers know what they are getting. To my knowledge, such a system does not exist in the U.S.
This means a wine has to meet certain standards in order to be considered a Quality, or Kvalitetno wine. if you order a house wine, it may still be decent, but may not meet the strict standards wines in this category.
At the corner store or supermarket, you will see the difference: the higher shelves are dedicated to the higher quality wines, which of course makes sense. You can get decent wines even at the corner store.
I’ve learned that much of the winemaking dates back to ancient Greece, but that the origins of some of the grapes of this region are native to Croatia. You can find some very specialized wines, even just in Dalmatia.
I’ve learned that it’s best for me to continue learning by exploring one variety at a time. My method is now a bit less random, but I still enjoy some nice surprises.
I’ve learned that Croatian wines are not widely promoted or exported throughout the world, a fact that I’m frankly perplexed by.
All of this means that there is a whole frontier with Croatian wines, waiting to be “discovered.” I hate to use such cliched words, but in this case, (pun intended) it’s true.
One of the most well known wines from this region is Pošip, a grape variety that is indigenous to the island of Korčula. It is grown inland, so production methods are mostly manual. The soil and grape varieties can vary even within one island.
It is amazing to me how heavily researched some grape varieties are, and how the history of winemaking parallels the complex and fascinating history of Croatia. Pošip is one of those wines.
• The variety found in Korčula was not brought by sea from the Greeks, (which is typical of many of the grapes grown in this region) but is 100% native to the inland region of the island. This is based on genetic research and testing. The grapes lineage comes from 2 lesser known grapes: Bratkovina bijela and Zlatarska bistrica.
• It has been branching out to other locations on the Dalmatian coast, islands, and hinterlands, including the Pelješac region near Dubrovnik, (this name you will hear a lot when it comes to Croatian wines) Hvar, and Brač.
• The season for this grape is earlier than usual, due to its sweetness.
It was originally neglected as an “old school” wine until some innovative winemakers began producing some award-winning, elegant, diverse, and definitely “new school” wines.. in a good way.
It has a clean, crisp flavor, and for those fond of American Chardonnays, some wines have a nice golden color and are aged in oak barrels. (Yes, I like oak-y wines)
Some are “brighter” and have more of a slight citrusy tang, while others a milder, fig or apricot flavor. The former is preferred on a hot Dalmatian day, (some even enjoy it on the beach) while the latter is perfect as a mellow late summer or autumn wine.
Pošip has a definite Dalamatian personality which I’m becoming accustomed to, and it’s becoming my replacement for my beloved Central Coast (as in Santa Maria, not Zadar) Chardonnays.
Food pairings typically include grilled fish, cheeses, and pasta dishes. I tend to treat it as more of an apertif wine, sometimes even having a little sparkling water on the side.
I’ve tried it with Crne Rižot, a traditional Dalmatian dish, at Stare Grede in Split, the perfect place to meet a friend for lunch.There are also plenty of opportunities to sample this wine in the City of Trogir.
Jakša Krajančić, a newcomer, who is getting great reviews.
Mike Grgich, (world famous for his award for best wine in Paris, 1976, which caused so much of a stir a movie called Bottle Shock was made about it) A bottle of his award winning Chardonnay is on display at the Smithsonian. So if you are curious about something famous and world-renowned, give it a try. I hear it is worth it.
Just when I thought that I learned about the majority of white wines (bijelo vino) in Croatia, I discovered another lesser known wine:
• It is related to the Gewürztraminer grape from Germany. The word Gewürz means fragrant spice, which means that this is a wine that can be enjoyed for its aroma as well as its taste. Like the Pošip grape, it also has a complex and fascinating history.
• This winery is a favorite of the Queen of England. You can buy wines in all price ranges.
I’m not the queen of England, but maybe I have a shot at becoming the queen of unpretentious wines in Croatia. I was looking for a great value for around 100/150 kn, which is more than I typically spend, which is usually more in the 10 Euro/70 kn range for a bottle. (and sometimes less than that)
I was told that this wine has a predominant flavor and aroma of roses.
It did, but I detected a nice, clean but complex peach flavor. And yes, now I’m starting to understand white wines from a whole new dimension by enjoying the AROMA of a wine.
Its recommended pairings are fine cheeses, but I didn’t experiment with food pairings, due to laziness but also because it wanted to let the wine stand on its own, and allow it to be the centerpiece of pleasure. This wine to me was meant as an apertif to enjoy slowly, while watching an Adriatic sunset. Which I did, right from the veranda at Villa Pape.
Ready for some Reds? (Here, black, or crno) Next stop: North to try some Babić wines!
Julie Odler is an American writer, digital marketing consultant for T&W marketing, and a former acupuncturist living in the Split/Trogir area, Sarajevo, and Belgrade. She loves Croatia and writes about her experiences in her own blog, The Balkan Nomad.