Croatian wine making has hit dizzying heights and low points like many of the oldest wine making countries of Europe, but as with the best, a recent revival has re-established traditions that made the country so successful, bringing traditional grape varieties back to the world market. Many vines that are perfectly suited to the local hilly terrain have survived and been refreshed with the utmost viticultural care.
These grape varieties in use in Croatia can be very confusing to foreigners, not simply because the Croatian names are unfamiliar, but because many of the varieties may not be in use beyond a very limited area. The most successful grapes are in widespread use within Croatia, yet can still remain relatively unknown outside the country, so let's introduce you to some of these unique wines.
Vinarija Dingac is an old wine cooperative from Croatia, named after the famous Dingac vineyards on the Peljesac Peninsula, just above Dubrovnik, in the Adriatic Sea. They bring us their Plavac Hvar Pz Svirce (12.5% £14.75) using Plavac Mali small blue grapes from the island of Hvar. The grape is known for producing wines with high alcohol and tannins, with usual flavors including blackberries, dark cherries, pepper, and spices.
This light ruby red coloured wine is dense and robust as expected, with aromas of dried plums, black cherry, pepper, smoke and spice. It shows a fresh taste and is a typical example of a wine that Croatians like to drink with grilled tuna and a cold salad. Open an hour in advance to allow the wine to breathe and bring out the best in its aromas.
Vinarija Dingac have also brought us a white wine; Posip PZ Svirce Hvar (12% £17.25) made from the Posip grape known for producing light bodied yet robustly complex wines. Pale yellow in appearance, the nose shows pear, acacia and apricots. The palate brings dried fruit, citrus, apple, almond and the mild bitters of dried orange peel. Perfect with grilled fish, vegetable dishes and garlic sauces.
Ilocki Produmi have vineyards that are in undulating plateaus of western Odronaka in the Fruska mountains, descending to the mighty Danube. one of their finest wines is Ilocki Podrumi Frankovka Premium (12.5% £17.90), using the Frankovka grape. A red grape showing high concentration of sugars and acids with wines that are able to age well both in oak and the bottle, its ruby red wines are typically refreshingly fruity and often compared to a complex Pinot Noir.
This example is pleasant, harmonious and full-bodied with soft tannins and great potential for further maturation in the bottle. Deep ruby red colour, the scent is dominated by sumptuous red and dark berry fruits and gentle shades of spice and smoke. Try with cold appetizers of ham, sausage, cheese, or grilled meats.
Kozlovic winery has a variety of vines from 9 to 54 years of age at their high altitude vineyard. They pride themsleves on hand harvesting with careful manual grape selection. Kozlovic Malvazija (13% £13.85) uses the Istrian Malvasia grape that typically produces full, rounded wines with floral acacia, hints of almond and fruity apple, plum and apricot.
This is a full bodied, pale gold deliciously fresh white, with good body and food pairing versatility. Ripe citrus, peach and yellow fruit aromas mix with white flowers, dried grass and white pepper, whilst the intense palate adds a firm backbone of acidity, savoury and mineral qualities with satisfying length. Try with seafood or mushroom risotto, delicate white fish or more complex salmon, pasta dishes with meat or seafood, chicken in creamy sauces and grilled vegetables.