Over a summer, two travelers drink their way through the wines of Mediterranean Europe.
The Konavle region is at the most southern point of Croatia, even further south than Dubrovnik, bordering Montenegro. Historically, it was the region that produced all of the food for what was the Ragusan Republic and is present-day Dubrovnik. These days, the fields are covered with a great many grapevines and a lot of that feeds in to Dubrovački Podrumi, which is a very large wine producer in Gruda, a small town at the southern end of Konavle.
Upon first glance, the building is anything but welcoming. The concrete construction that echoes the “aesthetic” of Socialist construction is menacing. There is no business name out front and we had to look for the tell-tale signs of new bottles on palettes to know we were in the right place. With some rather awkward Croatian, we talked to a worker who was leaving for lunch and were guided around to the other side of the building where they’ve built a very pleasant tasting room, but without any signs pointing you there. Upon entering, we could see why the signs were scarce, since it was very apparent that they were set up for large tour buses to come through on scheduled trips. Only two people on a wine tasting quest were something of an anomaly. Regardless, they were very hospitable, found someone in the office who had the best English, and took us in for a tasting.
Dubrovački Podrumi produces a wide range of wines and they let us taste several of them. We first started with their basic table wines. The 2003 Cabernet Sauvignon was a light wine at 12.3% alcohol that had subtle fruit tones and licorice flavors that kicked back in to a smooth finish. The 2004 Plavac at 12.5% alcohol was very dry, but had a light, delicate nose that was surprising given the quality level of the wine. These were both below six euros a bottle, so it’s easy to see how they’re regarded as basic, everyday wines given the price.
Our host then pulled out two of their higher-cost wines that started at 22 euros a bottle. The 2004 Trajectum was very good. The nose had a bit of rose to it which made the body difficult to describe, despite it being made from Cabernet Sauvignon grapes. A little bit of berry, a touch of mint, and a slight earthiness are the words that came to mind for this wine. Very tasty, but it would be a big departure for the normal Cab drinker, although some might really enjoy that.
The other wine we tasted of this level was the 2004 Merlotina. Straight out of the bottle, it was phenomenal. The nose had great plums tones to it as well as an aroma that, for lack of a better word should be described as delicate cake. Through the body, you could almost taste the earthy stones from which the vines grow. It is comprised of 100% Merlot and is at least on a par if not higher quality than most Merlots we’ve had in California.