Over a summer, two travelers drink their way through the wines of Mediterranean Europe
In Kiridžija’s cellars
While there is a great deal of large-scale wine production going on in Potomoje on the Pelješac peninsula, there are also a number of small producers who are crafting excellent wines on their own terms. They’re not easy to find and if you were to ask us where they were, we’d most likely have to point you to the first place we asked a person who knew a person who knew a person that eventually led to the homes and cellars of Kiridžija and Matković. Both of them are tucked away in homes where you’d never suspect that some fantastic wine making was taking place.
We started with Kiridžija. He has been making wine for the last 12 years, which is right in line with most of the region, as that was the time when the former Yugoslavia fell apart and they were able to start producing on their own again. In his 300 year-old home, he produces small quantities of both Plavac and Dingač. Let us reiterate that these are actually the same grape, but grown in very different regions of the peninsula. His 2004 Plavac at 12.6% alcohol retails for about $5 and has a nice, rich nose that had mint, berry, and tobacco aromas. The body was very pleasing as well with a buttery finish that really reigns in the sharp, dry tones that can be common in lesser Plavac vintages. The 2006 Dingač, with a rather hefty 16.4% alcohol, is so deep and flavorful that it is dangerous. Aged in Hungarian oak, the body is succulent and you really want to keep it on your palate as long as you can. Over the oak there also emerges some nicely subtle, sweet berry flavors.
For now, Kiridžija is enjoying his wine and exports part of his very small production to a very lucky Switzerland. As for what the future holds, that is a bit more uncertain because, like a great many wine makers in this region, he has two children who aren’t going to pick up the craft and one who is too young to start, but might down the road, only time will tell. Whatever the case ends up being, we hope that these wines will continue to be made.
Tasting Matković’s Plavac
Then there is Petar Matković, whose family started making wine in 1536. He is from the 14th generation of wine makers! Sure, there have been some starts and stops in there due to such things as Communism, but the tradition continued regardless. Currently, they sell a great deal of their grapes to the local cooperative, but they also keep a small portion to produce 3,000 bottles of Dingač and 15,000 bottles of Plavac. Currently, they pick from 30,000 vines, but have planted some new vines in the Dingač region that they’ll start harvesting soon.
We tasted the 2004 Dingač which had a great, soft nose of tobacco aromas and a smooth finish. It was a bit light on fruit aromas and flavors, which is most likely attributed to the oak flavors taking over from the six months it spent in French oak. We then also tried the 2004 Plavac which had quite a bit more fruit than the Dingač, yet had more of the deep, frothy nose that we’ve become accustomed to in the the Dingač. But overall, a very quiet, subtle, and easy to drink Plavac.
While they are producing rather different wines, these two producers are craftsmen and we included them in the same article, because their approach is the same: small production, based on a love of the grape.