The Advantages of Drinking the Unknown – Brkić Winery in Bosnia and Herzegovina

The Brkic Family

There are distinct advantages to drinking the unknown (at least unknown to us). The quality to price ratio of grapes and places we can’t pronounce from places we can’t readily find on a map can often be ridiculously high. Josip Brkić’s wines from Bosnia and Herzegovina are case in point. Ironically, many of the attributes that help make these wines great are buzz words easily found elsewhere in the wine world. The soils are limestone (Karst). Fermentation is native. Farming is Biodynamic. Production is small and everything is done by hand. Barrels are produced from forests just a few hours from the vineyard. Total sulfur use is minimal (>60 ppm), and so on and so on. I’ll skip the part where the wines are made in the vineyard. That said, none of these things are the lynchpin for why I believe these wines deserve attention.

Brkic's vineyard

These wines are great because they are delicious while pushing us out of our comfort zone. The white Žilavka (Zhee-lawv-ka) and red Blatina are more herb like than fruity, more about texture than acidity, and aromatically make you manically search for that thing you just can’t put to words.

Zilavka
Blatina

Žilavka and Blatina

Just an hour’s drive from the Croatian coast, the vineyards are already 800 to 1300 feet above sea level in Southern Herzegovina. The area was already making wine 2000 years ago by the Illyrians and continued during Ottoman, Austro-Hungarian, and Yugoslavian rule all the way through independence in 1992. These grapes have a serious history and identity in this place. In the late 1970’s Josip took over after his father’s death and has worked tirelessly to make the wines recognized in the larger wine world. This recognition is not just with Blue Danube, but the Brkić wines will also represent Bosnia and Herzegovina at the soon-to-be-open Cité des Civilisations du Vin in Bordeaux.

Brkic ZilavkaThe 2013 Žilavka is fermented in stainless steel, spontaneously fermented, and then spends three months on the lees before bottling. The root word of the grape is “Žila” which means “vein” because the berries show intricate veins under the skins when they are ready to be picked.
Brkic GredaThe 2010 Greda (100% Žilavka) is fermented in 3000L Bosnian and neutral American Oak barrels. 15-20% whole cluster, native yeasts, full malolactic, aged 2 years on the lees, and bottled unfiltered. Who knew this whole limestone and oak thing would work out:)
Brkic Plava GredaThe 2012 Plava Greda (100% Blatina) is fermented in open top Bosnian oak without temperature control with native yeasts. After full malolactic the wine spends another 18 months sur lie before unfiltered bottling. This is one of those rare brooding looking reds than clocks in under 13% and ripe.