Croatia’s best wines




Gianfranco Kozlović gave me a elevate in his Mercedes once more from his hilltop Santa Lucia vineyards in Istria’s Buje space to the winery. “We have lost exactly 100 years,” he talked about. “Four generations. Three wars. There had been 54-56,000ha of vineyards proper right here sooner than phylloxera; now there are 3,000ha.

“I bottled my first wine in 1987. Everything was tough: the primary bottles, the primary corks. We are small; we aren’t nicely organized. But we’re completely certain, completely satisfied.” Of what? “That we can offer something unique.”

He was speaking about his private winery and his private space, nonetheless, he would possibly have to be been speaking for Croatia itself. As co-chair of the Decanter World Wine Awards, I’d seen how properly Croatia had carried out in competitions currently, and that the best wines of the nation appeared to have no downside in commanding prices of £30 or so.

Croatia’s major wine writer, Saša Spiranec, helped manage a contemporary go to to the nation and a sequence of tastings for me. I discovered hidden treasures; definitely, I’d say that my very personal ignorance has in no way appeared as evident as a result of it did spherical Spiranec’s tasting desk in suburban Zagreb.

This horseshoe-shaped nation doesn’t merely produce good wines, nonetheless in all probability good ones, and the wine world at large has however to acknowledge this.

For comparability, you could give it some thought a jap echo of Italy. As in Italy, you’ll uncover extreme regional differentiation and a plethora of fascinating indigenous sorts of grape to call on (Croatia has 140 of its private, though solely 60 of these are commercially planted).

Like the best Italian wines, Croatian specialties are tough, almost affronting. You should be taught their language and buy a mode for his or her magnificence. Make the effort, though, and you may be amply rewarded: that is the distinctiveness to which Kozlović referred.

If you’re finding out this on a flight to Split or Dubrovnik, nonetheless, take care. “Tourism produces lazy nations,” Spiranec knowledgeable me, and vacationers are typically fobbed off with second-rate or casually homegrown wine, or imported wine (Croatia imports 5 events additional wine than it exports). It’s worth paying additional for the nation’s prime wine-growing names: see the document beneath.

The nation has 4 basic wine-growing areas, and each one has its private specialties. The most uncared for within the current day is Slavonia, close to the Danube. This broadly forested area is perhaps most well-known inside the wine world for its tight-grained oak, first various on the entire for the large tuns and vats that fill standard German and Italian cellars; nonetheless it’s often the home of Graševina (acknowledged elsewhere as Welschriesling, Laški Rizling or, in Spain, Borba), Croatia’s most typically planted choice.

Often dismissed as a clean, easy-going white, final for spritzer use, the best Slavonian Graševina is sophisticated, refined and sappy. Some producers create steely, pungent, floral examples; the middle means is to create a spherical, juicy, tenderly amenable white; and the stately and buxom wines of producers ready to reap barely later have the breadth typical of whites produced further up the Danube in Austria’s Wachau. A Croatian riposte to Grüner Veltliner? Perhaps — and, like Austria, Croatian Slavonia moreover produces advantageous Rieslings in generous sort.

With merely 500ha planted, the Croatian Highlands around Zagreb signify the least intensely cultivated and coolest of Croatia’s wine-growing areas, producing rigorously crafted glowing wines and among the many nation’s most memorable wines from “international” varieties, along with Riesling, Chardonnay and Pinot Noir.

Winegrowers on this intricately wooded, hilly panorama are the nation’s most proficient at working with ancestral methods equal to skin-fermented whites, wines made in amphorae and even buried Georgian qvevri jars.

The Istrian Peninsula moreover consists of three of basically essentially the most distinguished islands inside the northern part of the Croatian archipelago (Krk, Cres, and Rab). The basic choice proper right here is the Malvazija Istriana: gentle gold in coloration, acacia- or honeysuckle-scented and, like Graševina, capable of being every current however full on the palate, with flavors of lemon, apricot, and almond.

Istria, too, is the place Croatia’s most tough crimson choice reveals at its best: Teran. Less worthwhile examples of crimson wine primarily based totally on this choice might be tart, raw and caustic; at its best, though, Teran can furnish grand, darkish, long-lived reds with scents of leather-based, truffle, rust and bitter wild plums. Don’t, though, rely on a easy expertise.

So, lastly, to sunny, seductive Dalmatia, whose many islands have wine specialties of their very personal. The island of Korčula is the home of two fascinating whites inside the creamy Grk and the characterful, aromatic Pošip.

The close-by islands of Vis and Hvar have their very personal white varieties, too (Vugava on Vis and Bogdanuša and Prč on Hvar). The advantageous, darkish crimson choice Trnjak is grown on the mainland, in distinction, whereas crimson Plavac Mali is grown in most Dalmatian locations. One of Plavac Mali’s dad and mother is the earlier Croatian choice Tribidrag, globally known as Zinfandel.

Plavac Mali’s wines are additional approachable than Teran: they’re sweeter, fruitier, plusher. The dangers with Plavac Mali are an extreme quantity of oak and an extreme quantity of ripeness, which could render the wines raisiny in taste however dry in texture.

Croatia has many good producers, nonetheless basically essentially the most unusual is perhaps Jo Ahearne MW. After having made wines in Australia, France, Spain, Italy, Hungary and Macedonia, this peripatetic Londoner and West Ham supporter lastly settled on Hvar, the place she rents cellar space and purchases grapes, relishing her “grape geek’s heaven”.

The Ahearne wines are glorious and intricately crafted — however true to their distinctive Croatian origins. “I was showing my wines at a festival in Split,” she recalled, “and a very glamorous woman came to taste. When she tasted my Wild Skins [a blend of Kuč, Bogdanuša, and Pošip, made with skin contact], she had tears in her eyes. ‘I don’t understand,’ she said. ‘You are not Dalmatian; you’re not even Croatian — but when I taste this wine I remember all the aromas I smelled when I used to walk in the hillside with my grandfather when I was little.’ It was one of the nicest things anyone has ever said to me.”

A set of prime Croatian producers

  • Amphora and qvevri-made wines: Tomac
  • Graševina: Antunović, Galić, Hažić, Iločki, Krauthaker
  • Grk: Zure
  • Malvazija: Franc Arman, Marijan Arman, Benvenuti, Cattunar, Coronica, Degrassi, Dobravac, Fakin, Kozlović, Lunika, Matošević, Meneghetti
  • Plavac Mali: Ahearne, Kiridžija, Saints Hills, Skaramuča, Zlatan Otok, Grgić
  • Pošip: Ahearne, Milan Ivo, America, Saints Hills, Stina, Tomić, Volarević, Zure
  • Riesling: Bolfan, Kopjar, Korak, Šember
  • Teran: Marijan Arman, Benvenuti, Cattunar, Coronica, Damjanić, Degrassi, Dobravac, Fakin, Kozlović
  • Trinidad: Stina, Zlatan Otok
  • Trnjak: Grabovac
  • Vugava: Stina

For stockists, see winesearcher.com

Jancis Robinson is away

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