New Croatian Classics of Plenković Part I

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 … Continue reading New Croatian Classics of Plenković Part I

Hercegovina Produkt Delivers

Over a summer, two travelers drink their way through the wines of Mediterranean Europe Barrels in the main cellar area Hercegovina Produkt is the rather forceful sounding name for a winery that started out as a family-run operation. In 2002 the Barbarić family took their 150 year-old tradition of making wine from being a small affair to being one of the bigger wine producers in the Herzegovina region. While it comes across as a very large company when you come up to the building from the road, there are only seven people running it. One of them is enologist Mirela Gudelj who was nice enough to take some extra time to show us around and give us a taste of their two main wines: Blatina and Žilavka. Blatina and Žilavka We started with the 2006 Žilavka which was quite typical of the region. It had nice soft fruit on the nose and was very fresh. The body was similar and gave of a sense of fresh cut vegetables and fruits, pointing to it being good, paired with salads and other appetizers in a meal. There is also a touch of apricot and peach to the body, which leads in to … Continue reading Hercegovina Produkt Delivers

Vitai is Different

Over a summer, two travelers drink their way through the wines of Mediterranean Europe Sanja Juricić samples the wines of her family Vitai is the company name for the brand of wine in Bosnia Herzegovina that most people know as Gangaš. It is a very different winery in the region for several reasons. The first being that it is run by three women: Olivera Juricić and her daughters, Sanja and Anđa. This is unheard of in this area because men are the wine makers and that is the end of the discussion. Women may be the enologists for a large company, but men make the wine. Blatina big and small Obviously it was not always the case that women ended up making the wine in this company, and it was the untimely passing of Sanja and Anđa’s father that brought this about. But, instead of folding or selling to another winery as was often the case in the past, they took up the reigns and have become one of the biggest family-owned wineries in Herzegovina producing 75,000 liters last year and having a capacity of 150,000 liters. Not bad for a place that really started in earnest, in 1995 and … Continue reading Vitai is Different

Vinarija Čitluk Keeps Aging

Over a summer, two travelers drink their way through the wines of Mediterranean Europe A few of Čitluk’s top quality wines Čitluk is a smallish town in Herzegovina that has a surprising number of wineries in it. The biggest one is naturally the one that was the former collective for the area under Communism called, Vinarija Čitluk. While the name and the drab building aren’t the most exciting things in the world, they do produce a good number of wines of good quality. This is no small feat considering that they buy grapes from a massive area of 400 hectares in Herzegovina. They first fired up the barrels in 1960 and currently have 85 employees and a capacity of 11 million liters, although they produced a “mere” five million in 2006. Tihomir Prusina led us through a tasting of a few of their wines, starting with the 2005 Blatina. It had good fruit in the nose, but was rather light overall. The body was very dry and had a bit of sharpness to it. This did clear out though in the finish as well as with a bit more air in it. Main processing tanks We also had the 2005 … Continue reading Vinarija Čitluk Keeps Aging

Podrumi Andrija Expands on the Classics

Over a summer, two travelers drink their way through the wines of Mediterranean Europe Andrija’s family sharing wine, meat, and cheese Our first stop along the Vinska Cesta of Herzegovina was at Podrumi Andrija. Like most wine makers in the area, the family has a tradition of wine that formed the foundation of the company. They were a bit different, though, as they actually started making wine to sell in 1971, which was not allowed under the Communist government. Apparently, family and friends worked to hide their wine making operation. Proving that they were a crafty group, they were able to continue growing during the war with their wine being routed through other countries with some fantastic scheme that we think we were better off not knowing about. Andrija’s Žilavka Barrique But now, in the 21st century, the winery is a full-fledged operation, producing from four hectares of their own and buying from 400 other people who grow on an additional 80 hectares. This allows them to have a well-appointed tasting room where they treated us to an extensitve tasting of their wines as well as some locally made pršut (smoked ham), which we always accept gladly. We started with … Continue reading Podrumi Andrija Expands on the Classics

Bosnia and Herzegovinas Wine Route

Over a summer, two travelers drink their way through the wines of Mediterranean Europe Herzegovina, the Southern region of Bosnia and Herzegovina, is the land of sun and stone and because of this it is the biggest and single wine producing region in the country. The majority of the wines produced in Herzegovina are made with the autochtonous varieties of Žilavka (white) and Blatina (red). B&H has a long tradition of wine growing and production from the Illyrian period. However, the wine growing region in B&H was historically much bigger than it is today, but with the Ottoman rule this type of production was gradually extinguished due to many successive wars, because grapevines require a high degree of maintenance and even a month away from them can be catastrophic. Currently, the production of wine is limited to the confluences of the rivers Neretva and Trebišnjica. Herzegovina hills Because of the long wine-growing history in Herzegovina, and the quality and abundance of its wineries, last year the European Union decided to fund a project of the association of vintners of the region called Vinska Cesta (Wine Route) to promote Herzegovina wines. About four few months ago, the Tourism Association of the … Continue reading Bosnia and Herzegovinas Wine Route

Rubin: A Leading Serbian Cooperative Goes Private

Over a summer, two travelers drink their way through the wines of Mediterranean Europe A few Rubin wines Rubin is an interesting case of a former Communist cooperative that went private. One reason that it stuck out to us, was that it took an incredibly long time to privatize. Where most wine cooperatives were transferred to private hands during the 1990’s, Rubin only went private two years ago. Secondly, it’s more massive than any former cooperative we had encountered before. They produce five million bottles of liquor each year, three million of which are wine. They buy wine grapes from all over the region, including neighboring Macedonia. Lastly, they have vineyards in Kosovo of all places. All of these points make the company sound like any large-scale producer in America and thusly, our expectations were low; very low. We found it amazing that even though Rubin produces at such a large scale, their wines, especially the Terra Lazarica line are more than just drinkable and are even quite noteworthy. Rubin’s Cab Sauv We tasted the 2003 Cabernet Sauvignon Blanc that we found to have some good fruit aromas to the body and the nose. It was easy to drink and … Continue reading Rubin: A Leading Serbian Cooperative Goes Private

The Whites of Aleksandrović

Over a summer, two travelers drink their way through the wines of Mediterranean Europe Bottle and classy presentation Another winery that we sampled at the Novi Sad Wine Fair was Aleksandrović. He is located in Vinća, Topela in Serbia and like most wine producers in the region, his family had a long tradition of wine making that stopped and didn’t really start again until Communism ended and he could produce for more people than just his immediate family. Since they started up again in 1991, they have managed to build their winery up to producing 200,000 to 300,000 liters a year from the 20 hectares that they own as well as from a supply of grapes from others in the area who augment their estate grapes. Several other wines While they make a great number of wines including a Rosé and a Pinot Noir, it was only the whites that we tasted. We started a tad bit skeptical of these whites from Serbia, but were quickly impressed due to the wonderful craft that has gone in to these wines. The 2006 Riesling weighed in at 13.2% alcohol and was a blend of Rhine and Italian varietals. It was very nice … Continue reading The Whites of Aleksandrović

What is Bermet?

Over a summer, two travelers drink their way through the wines of Mediterranean Europe Downtown Sremci Karlovci Red Bermet Bermet is a sweet wine that is a specialty of northern Serbia’s Fruška Gora wine region, in the Vojvodina province. It has between 16 and 18% of alcohol and it is usually served as a dessert wine, with coffee and cookies, but can also be served as an aperitif, much like Italian Vermouth. However, Bermet is produced in a different way than Vermouth, through maceration of 20 different herbs and spices. It can be made of red or white grapes, but the exact recipe is secret and held by only a handful of families in the town of Sremci Karlovci. Dulka winery, for example, told us that he makes the base of his white Bermet are župljanka grapes, a local variety, and Merlot for his red. Other vintners seem to use Portugieser, and others blend both red and white grapes. White Bermet As the story goes, Bermet was very popular among the aristocracy of the Austro-Hungarian empire and was regularly exported to the court in Vienna in large quantities. Moreover, according to some documents, a few Bermets were even included in … Continue reading What is Bermet?

Novi Sads 4th International Wine Festival

Over a summer, two travelers drink their way through the wines of Mediterranean Europe While in Belgrade, we decided to take a little day trip to the little wine-making town of Srmeski Karlovci to discover some Serbian wines, and we discovered by chance that a wine festival was starting the follwing day in Novi Sad (from the 28th to the 30th of July), the second largest city in Serbia and the capital of the Vojvodina province. Rubin’s wines So we spent a couple of extra days in Novi Sad enjoying wines not only from Serbia, but also from the whole Southeastern European region, at this festival, which is growing in popularity every year. Among the Serbian wines, we had the chance to taste many Bermets from different producers, all them delicious, but also some excellent regular wines. Among the reds, we were impressed by the high quality of Rubin’s Terra Lazarica Cabernet Sauvignon and Pinot Noir, which were a pleasant surprise from such a big winery that produces around 5 million bottles of wine a year. In the white deparment, Aleksandrovic‘s Sauvignon Blanc was simply outstanding. Istrian lunch Then we also got the chance to taste some Macedonian and Croatian … Continue reading Novi Sads 4th International Wine Festival