Over a summer, two travelers drink their way through the wines of Mediterranean Europe
An hour and a half by ferry from Split, the capital of Dalmatia, lies Hvar island. Called Pharos by the Greeks that occupied the island since the 4th century BC, Hvar is the longest of all Croatian islands, a narrow strip of land stretching for 42 miles. In the last few years it has become a popular touristic destination and is now famous for its lavender (of which we didn’t actually see any), and its Plavac mali wines.
Plenkovićs at work
While not a household name in the United States, the wines of Zlatan Plenković have gotten extremely well known in wine circles and haven’t stopped receiving international awards and recognition. Based in the little village of Sveta Nedelja on the Southeastern coast of the island, Zlatan Plenković’s first release was just a few years ago in 1999 and he has only been producing since 1996. In that time, his wines have gotten to be in such high demand that they sell out of all their reds three months after bottling.
Zlatan Plenković is very unfortunately not in the best of health these days (although that isn’t stopping him from enjoying life), his sons taking up the reigns of the business with great aplomb. We chatted with his younger son, Nikola who was a great host. He told us about some of the experimentation that they’re doing in conjunction with the main Agronomical Institute in Zagreb where they are trying to grow Zinfandel, Primitivo, and Plavac Mali side by side in their vineyards. Why would they do this?
Simply for the fact that these are grapes that are all closely related and in fact Zinfandel is the parent of the other two. So, they are curious to see how the grape will grow after a 150 year holiday in California. We were curious what they were going to do with the grapes after harvesting and testing and with a bit of prying, Nikola said that they would most likely bottle them, but he wasn’t sure. So, as crazy as it sounds, there might be a Croatian Zinfandel and a Croatian Primitivo to buy at some point in the near future, although the release is most likely going to be so small that it will be hard to find anywhere.
Next, we talk about the wines of Zlatan Plenković’s winery in Part 2 in our coverage of his winery.