The Donkey Plavac & Milos Plavac: two typical Dalmatian wines.
Like many people present at last week’s Croatian wine festivities, I was unfamiliar with Croatian culture. Sure I’ve eaten cevapcici and even made ajvar recently, but I do not come from there, nor does my family, and before Croatian wine entered my life I knew only one Croatian, philosopher Daniel Kolak.
I was excited for the first ever Grand Croatian tasting, having tasted a handful of their local wines, and being particularly intrigued by a former vintage of Dingac Winery’s Peljesac, or ‘The Donkey Wine’ in some circles. I knew that the variety had alluring aromas of flowers and herbs, an elegant translucence, and beguiling sense of fruit. Still I was not prepared for the diversity and terroir-specificity this grape offers.
The Big 3 Plavac.
The grape most commonly linked with Plavac Mali is Zinfandel, which originates in Croatia and is a relative of Plavac. I typically describe the wines as exhibiting the deep, dark fruited spiciness of Zinfandel, with the old-world body of Gamay. The grapes and wines are surely related, though each with a very distinct personality.
Between the Hudson Terrace grand tasting and consumer event put on by Oenocentric with Blue Danube at Veslo in Astoria, I tasted at least 20 distinct Plavac Malis and blends, discovering a wide range of styles. Sometimes with a touch of residual sugar, there were both soft and light wines and others that were bold with more structure. One of the most exciting aspects of this variety is that it produces unique wines with complexity, even in its simpler expressions. It was and remains thrilling to explore the Southern Dalmatian regions and sub-regions, and impossible to enjoy the wines without longing to visit the places they convey.
This diversity promises a category of wines full of food pairing opportunities. Milos Plavac is served locally with oysters, something I hope to recreate in NY soon. We can also easily imagine it’s tea-like flavors complementing tea-smoked duck, a Hunan dish. Beyond pairing with its own and other cuisines, I expect Plavac Mali to be especially suited to the innovative and fusion menus popular in New York. I can almost taste how the duck confit empanada would draw out the floral and spicy flavors of Bura Galerija.
Milos vineyards on the Peljesac.
Now, after drinking my way up and down the Peljesac peninsula, I feel connected to Croatia. If ever I thought selling wine in New York was blasé or just a job, working with this set of bridge building wines has restored my enthusiasm tenfold. Plavac Mali, a true Croatian treasure, is one of the most exciting varieties we have access to. Though admittedly hard to pronounce, this grape outside the realm of the familiar invites you to become a part of its Aegean coastal culture.
(We are very happy that Tess Rose joined the Blue Danube Wine team. Tess will represent our wines in New York.)