Wednesday, 26 July 2017

Croatian Wine for Beginners

While Croatian wines score better and better points on the international competitions, they remain generally exotic on the international market. Infamilliar varieties names, tongue-breakers of brand names and general loss at the regions character and the style of winemakers make them a rare and difficult choice. But, many believe, this is bound to change. Soon.

The capital city of Republic of Croatia is Zagreb. The country, which belonged to Yugoslavia until 1991, has an area of 56,510 sq km and 4.7 million inhabitants. White wine dominates in Croatia, with excellent red wine grown in Dalmatia and on the islands. Croatia has a diverse typography: a large plain extends across the interior, separated by a mountain range from over 1,778 km-long coast and offshore islands. A continental climate with hot summers and cold winters prevails in the interior.
Five recently awarded Croatian wines
The coast is blessed with a Mediterranean climate with mild, rainy winters and dry summers. The Greeks brought vines to the Adriatic islands in the 6th century BC. The culture spread from there to the coast. A splendid vine growing tradition arouse, with Croatia occupying one of the leading spots in the Mediterranean basin. Later, the Romans spread vine growing throughout the country as well. Cisterican monks laid the foundation stone of the abbey cellar in Kutjevo (on the drawing below) in 1232.

Powerful red wines

The Croatian wine landscape divides in two: the coast - Istria, the coastal strip of Dalmatia and the islands, and the continental area of Slavonia in the north.

Area under vine: 55,000 ha
Operations: 400 of relevance (30 of which are cooperatives)
Production: 1.2 million hectoliters
Annual per capita consumption: 40,8 lt
Main white varieties: Graševina (Welschriesling), Malvazija (Malvasia), Bogdanuša, Semijon (Sémillon), Sovinjon (Sauvignon Blanc), Traminac (Traminer), Pinot Gris, Beli Burgundac (Pinot Blanc), Maraština, Riesling, Rumeni Muškat (Gelber Muskateller), Pošip, Chardonnay, Grk, Debit, Kujundžuša, Vugava, Zelenac, Škrlet, and Žlatina
Main red varieties: Plavac Mali, Babic, Crljenak, Plavina, Refosk, Teran (Refosco), Hrvatica as well as Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot.
Continental Croatia with the Danube region comprises the wine growing areas of Zagorje-Medjimurje, Plešivica, Pokuplje (Kupa area), Prigorje-Bilogora, Slavonia and Podunavlje (the Danube area). Mostly white wines are produced there.

On the Croatian coast, the vines extend from Rijeka to Dubrovnik. Here are the winegrowing areas of Istria, Sjeverna Dalmacija, Srednja/Južna Dalmacija and Dalmatinska Zagora. Excellent and powerful red wines, made from autochthonous grape varieties such as Plavac Mali grow here. Its relatives, the Zinfandel from California or the Primitivo from Apulia, are better known.

And some local wine riddles

Incomparable varieties. There is really no lack of different grape varieties in Croatia. Of course, some have immigrated from neighbouring countries over the years, while others have been based here since antiquity. For grape experts, so-called ampelographers, the country is therefore a true Eldorado. While most of the wine world seems to concentrate on Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc, Merlot and Cabernet, Croatia’s vintners score with independence and character.

In Dalmatia, the red Plavac Mali (on the picture) has long been the grape of choice and is to be thanked for two of the most famous red wines, the Dingač and the Postup, comparatively powerful, extract-rich and yet velvety-spicy reds. Another interesting variety for red wines is Babić. The wonderful archipelago of Dalmatia also produces white wines and there tend to be the light, fresh and full of herb spices compared to the reds. The best known here include Grk, Vugava and Pošip.Sem

Prošek – a concept for success.
The name Prošek probably reminds connoisseurs in the wine world of a sparkling wine, Prosecco. However, the Croatian Prošek has more to do with Vin Santo or port. Prošek is made from various grape varieties, white as well as red. The grapes are dried in order to concentrate the sugar content in the must. The result is rich in alcohol and sweet. Prošek is in any case powerful, sweet dessert wine.

The New Zealand connection
. When the vine pest overran Croatia’s vineyards at the end of the XIX century, a significant number of families decided to emigrate. They took their knowledge of wine along. The Croats were particularly active in faraway New Zealand, where they became one of the founders of the wine industry. Estates such as Nobilo and Babic, which operate internationally nowadays, are of Croatian origin. Jim Vuletić, who comes from a Croatian immigrant family, is the creator of one of the best red wines in the New World, The Providence.

The Zinfandel mystery. A good ten percent of the vines, cultivated in California, are of the Zinfandel variety, which produces a velvety but truly alcohol-rich red wine and is therefore often processed without skins into a sweet rosé wine, the “White Zinfandel”. This variety has long been considered an independent California grape variety. Until scientists set about researching the origin of the cult red wine. By 2001 , the opinion was that the variety originated from southern Italy or Sicily and was identical with the local Primitivo grape.

In Italy, artful vintners began to label their wine “Zinfandel”. They were wrong. A team of Californian and Croatian experts proved that both the Zinfandel and the Primitivo are clones of an old grape variety which originated from Dalmatia. It is called Crljenak and is also known by the name Okatac. The previously largely unknown Crljenak is also the father of another important red wine: the Plavac Mali – a cross between Crljenak and Dobričić.

“The Feast of the Scholars”. It is the Illyrians, who experimented with vines in the territory of the present day Croatia during the Bronze and Iron Age. However, wine growing only developed properly with the founding of the Greek settlements in the area.

A script with the descriptive title “The Feast of Scholars”, which reports on the production of wine in the Greek colony of Issa (present day Vis Island), also originated from this time. This particularly tasty wine is – compared to the other wines – supposed to have been considered the best in the entire ancient world.

This text is courtesy of ETRSTE GROUP and was first published in their The Wine Book of ERSTE Group album under the chief edit of Peter Moser.




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