Over a summer, two travelers drink their way through the wines of Mediterranean Europe.
The home of the Miljas family was built in 1897 when the great-grandfather of the family began to produce wines in the Konavle Region at the southern-most tip of Croatia. With the invention of Yugoslavia, their winemaking stopped as they had to feed their grapes in to the general collective for wine production and could not produce it themselves. As Croatia broke away from Yugoslavia, they again began to produce, but only to be forced to abandon their homes when the Yugoslav Army rolled in to the area for a lengthy occupation. While their vines didn’t immediately suffer any damage, the fact that they couldn’t tend to them caused a great deal of harm to the old vines and they were forced to replant nearly all of their vines. Thankfully, they did not have to contend with landmine removal as a great many winemakers in the area of Slavonia did, which greatly sped up the process of replanting. Today, they are growing again and producing good quality wines from the region.
Like most wineries in Konavle, they were very hard to find and are actually in a small village, which as it turns out is two kilometers from one village, four from another, and maybe eight or maybe seven from another. Suffice to say, we ended up circling for a bit before finding the house where they do their production. Located in the floor of the valley that is Konavle, the vines stretch out in all directions from their home. Some are theirs, some are their neighbors, but one trait you see again and again is that these are mostly all young vines. This might be why in their current production of 16,000 a year, 70% white wines as these come across with great fruity flavors, despite the young age of the vines. The Maraština (also called Rukatac in other areas) was very bright with piquant citrus tones to both the nose and the body. In a competition for the region, it had won the gold medal in its class in 2003.
We also tasted the 2005 Plavac that they make which despite being a bit young, they were still enthusiastic about letting us taste. It will need a bit more time in the barrel though, as the nose hasn’t fully worked itself out. The body was quite good and the oak had set up well with it. In another six months, it would be interesting to taste the wine to see how it takes to a bit more oak and glass, as it holds a great deal of promise, because the 2004 from the bottle is a very solid, dry example of the wine that makes for a good drink.
Like many places we’ve been visiting during this trip, it’s very encouraging to see an old family business come back to life and start again with what they do best.