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

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. 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. Žilavka and Blatina Just an hour’s … Continue reading The Advantages of Drinking the Unknown – Brkić Winery in Bosnia and Herzegovina

2012 Brkić Plava Greda by Nenad Trifunović

Bosnia-Herzegovina may not be a country you would associate with ageworthy, distinctive wines. That is probably because you have not tried one of the finest red wines being produced in the country: Brkić Plava Greda. Josip Brkić’s biodynamic vineyards are located in the distinguished Southern Herzegovina region where grape cultivation dates back at least 2,000 years. “Greda” is the name of the vineyard where Josip sources the indigenous Blahtina grape for this wine. Wine writer Nenad Trifunović has followed Plava Greda for several vintages and generously shared his perspective with us. The original reviews, as well as all of Nenad’s work, can be found on his blog site Dnevnik Vinopije (Wine Drinker Journal). 2012 Brkić Plava Greda by Nenad Trifunović Multilayered, complex, sophisticated, biodynamic, organic farming, Bosnian oak are all terms often used in the attempt to describe Plava Greda. Interestingly the same terms are not automatically associated to Herzegovina and even the autochthonous variety Blatina. However, when someone asks which Blatina would I choose as the finest representative of its variety and origin, Plava Greda from Brkić is my top choice. I admit I rarely purchase wine in quantity apart from a few bottles since I have no suitable … Continue reading 2012 Brkić Plava Greda by Nenad Trifunović

2006 Monastery Tvrdos Vranac: Twice as Nice

Until I began working for Blue Danube, I, like the majority of Americans, had never tasted a wine from Bosnia and Herzegovina. Clearly, I was missing out; the region is steeped in ancient winemaking tradition. By comparison, these Balkan countries make France seem very New-World. The reason grapes have been cultivated here for thousands of years is simple: their terroir, the confluence of the sunny maritime climate and mountains produces robust grapes. This entry focuses on the 2006 Vranac from Monastery Tvrdos of the Trebinje region of Herzegovina. The Tvrdos Monastery sits on the banks of the picturesque Trebišnjica river, 15 miles as the crow flies or, due to circuitous roads, a two hours drive from the Adriatic coast. It is here that the river erodes topsoil, creating the fields of karst endemic to this region. Although hot summers and mild winters characterize the region, winds blow simultaneously from both the nearby Dinaric mountains and the Adriatic. The indigenous grapes, the white varietal, ŽZilavka, and Vranac have been grown in the region for centuries. Vranac is a supposed relative of the Croatian Plavac Mali, the ancestor of the Californian Zinfandel. The monastery is perched on the foundation of a 4th-century … Continue reading 2006 Monastery Tvrdos Vranac: Twice as Nice

Bistro SF Grill Rocks

Hosts Hasim, Seni, and Gino at Bistro SF Grill. San Francisco has recently added a very vivid food destination and we are happy to be part of it with our wines: Bistro SF Grill. This is a gourmet burger restaurant owned and managed by three multi-talented friends hailing from Bosnia-Herzegovina: Hasim, Seni, and Gino. We sometimes jokingly call them the ‘Balkan Trio’. The line-up. In a short couple of months the trio has managed to put their ‘almost famous’ burgers on top of the heap. This is not your ordinary burger joint where the choices are between American or Swiss cheese. At Bistro SF Grill they serve only the finest beef some of it as exotic as Alligator, Buffalo, and Ostrich. Then there is a Lamb Burger and another made from organically fed Kobe beef. I tried most of them and my favorite is the Balkan Burger, made from a mix of lamb and beef with savory spices. Our wines from Balkan countries like Slovenia and Croatia pair beautifully with these burgers. For instance, try the Donkey Dingac or the Bibich Riserva R6 with a Balkan burger and you will agree that the wine will make the flavors jump. The … Continue reading Bistro SF Grill Rocks

Herzegovina is Here

Looking out over the town and vines of Međugorje in the heart of Herzegovina. There is a great deal of truth in the saying that “good things come to those who wait”. About two years ago, I discovered what a great wealth of wine was on offer in the Herzegovina region of Bosnia & Herzegovina. Unfortunately, beyond what I could pack in to my suitcase for the flight home, I was unable to taste it since. This has all changed now that the wines of Vinarija Čitluk are available to be purchased here in the U.S. And from our travels in 2007 you can read all about a visit to Čitluk here. The best part in all of this is that Blue Danube Wine Co. was able to get a hold of most everything Čitluk produces, thus providing a great taste across the core varietals of Herzegovina. A Roman carving in Herzegovina This includes several of the white Žilavkas, several of the red Blatinas, and even some Vranacs which people will find is a bit different than what is being made across the border in Montenegro. For those looking to try a bit of everything, there are the Premium Mostar … Continue reading Herzegovina is Here

The First Wine Guide to Dalmatia & Herzegovina: Vinologue

I walked through Pile Gate in Dubrovnik, my friend Ivana leading the way down the Stradun and then off on a side street that I hadn’t yet discovered in the Old Town. We arrived at a bar named Carpe Diem, sat down in the early evening and ordered. I had no idea what to order. I didn’t speak Croatian and so I was ordered a glass of red wine. At this point, everything changed. The wine was the Zlatan Plavac from Zlatan Plenković. That was in 2004 and I remember thinking it would be fantastic to learn more about these deceptively good Croatian wines, but there was nothing to be found. While beach tourism was taking off in Croatia, there were no wine brochures and there were no wine guides. People in most of the shops didn’t really know all that much as wine was wine. Frustrated and stubborn, I dug and started to read every scrap of news I could find. I drank more wine. I learned Croatian. I found importers in the US like Blue Danube Wine Company, learned more, and drank more wine. In 2007, I met my future wife who helped me to focus my interest … Continue reading The First Wine Guide to Dalmatia & Herzegovina: Vinologue

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

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

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