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 was built out of a small, 150 year old cellar.

Another reason why they are unique is because in addition to the regional standards of Žilavka and Blatina, they are also trying to make a bit of rosé and champagne.

We tasted both their 2006 and 2004 Žilavka. The 2006 is still a bit young, but you can’t taste it. There is some oak to it from the Slavonian barrels that they use, but overall it is very mellow. There is a strong dose of citrus to the nose as well as some green apple. The body is smooth and doesn’t betray the rather high alcohol (for this area) of 13%. The 2004 is much more oaky, which is natural given the amount of time in the barrel. It is quite a bit heavier than the 2006 and has hints of the herbs that are used in travarica, a high-octane popular Croatian spirit. The very palpable meatiness to the body gives way just a little bit in to the finish. Trying to decide which of these years is better is impossible though as they are both quite good, albeit nearly completely different wines.

The old family house

While we didn’t get to the rosé, we did try the 2005 Blatina. It is good, but also very young. There is a good deal of tannic strength to the body, but the nose has good fruits. More air doesn’t really change it all that much, but it will be interesting to see how it progresses with more time in the barrel.

It will also be interesting to see how this winery will progress. Sanja has been studying at the enology institute in Zagreb and is well versed in the craft of wine. These women are doing a great job with their wine and only time will tell how the wine will mix with local patriarchal ways. We hope it will somehow mix well and we will definitely pay them another visit in the future.