“Far be it from me to keep you from the piss tasting,” said Leo. “Myself, I prefer the taste of Arbor gold.” A Feast for Crows By George R. R. Martin
I have been exploring Westeros—the world of the TV show Game of Thrones—for many years: first with my imagination through the books and the show, and more recently physically. During a recent trip to Croatia where we visited producers, we luckily were able to discover some of the show’s filming locations. But there was something I also wanted to do in Croatia: find out what the wines of Westeros—an Arbor gold, a Dornish sour red—taste like. Especially Arbor gold, considered to be the finest wine in all the Seven Kingdoms.
So as we were driving around Dalmatia visiting producers, we happily recognized some of the Game of Thrones filming sites: the Red Keep and the stairs to the Great Sept of Baelor in Dubrovnik, the Diocletian’s Palace in Split where Daenerys chained her dragons in the basement, and then I think I found Arbor gold: it was in Korčula and the wine was Pošip.
The Arbor is an island off the southwestern coast of Westeros, separated from the mainland by a narrow strait. A major wine producer, it’s the seat of House Redwyne whose sigil is a grape cluster. And you see, Korčula is also an island that lies off the Dalmatian coast, separated from the Pelješac peninsula by the narrow Strait of Pelješac.
Korčula has a long wine growing tradition going all the way back to the Greeks. Before phylloxera reached Dalmatia in 1925, the whole island was covered with vineyards and the grapes and wines were sold on the international market to phylloxera-ravaged countries. Nowadays, and especially since the 1991-1995 war, several of these vineyards with their dry stone walls are being rebuilt and replanted.
Whereas the rest of Dalmatia is mostly known for its red wines, Korčula is renowned for the quality of its white wines: the rare Grk, Maraština, also known as Rukatac, and Pošip, the most famous.
Pošip (po-ship), a Korčula native, was the first Croatian white wine with a protected geographical origin, which was granted in 1967. The name may come from the Croatian words šipak (pomegranate) and po (under). Supposedly, the first Pošip vine was found growing under a pomegranate tree. It was discovered in the second half of the 19th century near the inland village of Smokvica by a farmer called Marin Tomašić Barbaca, nicknamed Caparin. The story says that Marin Tomasic Barbaca noticed the grape growing wild while cutting firewood and was attracted by its unusual but pleasing aromas. He made cuttings for its own vineyard and then neighbors made cuttings from his plants. The first recorded Posip wine was released in 1880. There is now a monument honoring Pošip and Marin Tomašić Barbaca at the site of the discovery.
“Sansa dutifully lifted the goblet with both hands and took a sip. The wine was very fine; an Arbor vintage, she thought. It tasted of oak and fruit and hot summer nights, the flavors blossoming in her mouth like flowers opening to the sun.” A Storm of Swords By George R. R. Martin
We tasted our first Korčula Pošip at the Toreta winery in Smokvica. The place is run by Frano Banicević, a young winemaker and a soon-to-be dad of two. Founded by Frano’s great-grandfather, the winery has still the old winemaking and farming tools used at the time. While we were tasting the wines, Frano told us about how he liked the way his great-grandfather was making wine without fertilizers/pesticides, how he saw himself more of a traditionalist, and how he felt that his life was reflected through the vintages, becoming progressively more complex, as he was learning more about the land and the grape.
We first tasted the 2015 Toreta Pošip Special, a refreshing and well balanced wine (12.8% alcohol) with notes of citrus and mediterranean dried herbs. As the lobster on the label indicates, it’s the perfect seafood wine and perfectly accompanied the lovely seaside lunch of grilled fish and octopus that we had later with the rest of the Banicević family.
Then we tried the 2015 Toreta Pošip Premium and I was impressed by the wine’s deep Arbor-gold-like color and hot-summer-nights-like aromas. With 13.2% alcohol and sourced from older vines, this is a richer Pošip, showing great texture and complexity without losing its balance, freshness and minerality. But words are wind: it’s time for you to try a Korčula gold and explore the multiple facets of Pošip.