Island Whites

Somewhere in Croatia (photo: Michael Newsome) The coast of Croatia is a rugged mountainous seascape of 1000 islands. From the barren Kornati to the forested shores of Korčula, these are the jewels of the Adriatic. 3,500 miles of craggy untamed limestone coast, awesome in the truest sense. Only 66 of the islands are inhabited. Krk (Ki-rrk), Hvar (huh-var), and Korčula (Core-chew-la) are three of the largest, and most important wine wise are still very much wild. Each is home to their own autochthonous (formed in its present position) grape varieties—found little or nowhere else on earth, under conditions unique to each island, capable of expressing their position and the culture of those who farm them. The soils vary but are all limestone based. Conditions tend to be wet in winter and hot and dry in summer. Each of these producers is working small plots by hand, the dry windy growing season rarely requires vineyard treatment. Krk, Croatia’s northerly, largest island has long been famous for wine. Less of the Dalmatian islands are under vine today than historically. The 250 hectares today are a shadow of the 2,500 under vine during Roman occupation. Within Krk’s Kvarner Valley winemaker Ivica Dobrinčić maintains … Continue reading Island Whites

A Day at the Beach with Luka Krajančić

Luka Krajančić reciting one of his own poems. On the road on the Island of Korčula. These images were captured during our visit to the Island of Korčula this past summer. What was originally a tasting appointment with Pošip specialist Luka Krajančić turned into one of the greatest experiences of wine I have ever had. We met Luka at his tightly packed but spotless winery in the tiny coastal village where he lives. This was the first time I had met Luka. He is a big man but also very gentle, even shy. When we arrived a couple was already there tasting. One was a photographer without a camera and the other a young restaurateur who had just moved to the island. Our new friends were happy to start the tasting over. A happy tasting group. The range of Krajančić’s Pošip redefined the varietal to me. They were the deepest, most powerful and yet most elegant examples I had tasted. Each one was different, but always reflective of the site, the vintage and Luka’s perspective. At the end he pulled out a sample of a 1 barrel production from an old patch of red Plavac vines, very rare on this … Continue reading A Day at the Beach with Luka Krajančić

Marko Polos Hometown, and the Wine He May Have Drunk

Approaching Korčula by Ferry. After gazing longingly for two days at the picturesque walled town of Korčula across the water from our hotel balcony, we finally hop on the ferry and head back to the island with Boris. He has arranged for his former boss, at Marco Polo Tours in Korčula town, to give us a tour of the old city. This charming, professorial man in a houndstooth jacket clearly loves his native city. He leads us up the steps to the old walled city—steps that used to be a drawbridge over the moat. On the outside of the city gate is a relief of St Mark’s lion—the lion of Venice. For some 400 years, until about 1800, Korčula was a part of the Venetian empire, at the same time that Orebic, across the water, was the farthest outpost of the Dubrovnik Republic. Just inside the main gate is the early Renaissance St. Mark’s Cathedral, with more lions guarding the portal, and two Tintorettos, among other treasures, inside. As we walk through town, we’re told that the streets were laid out in a fishbone pattern in order to control the passage of hot and cold breezes through the city. Marko … Continue reading Marko Polos Hometown, and the Wine He May Have Drunk

Stipan Cebalo of Lumbarda

Over a summer, two travelers drink their way through the wines of Mediterranean Europe Stipan CebaloOne of the last wineries we visited on the island of Korčula was that of Stpian Cebalo in Lumbarda. This is on the far southeast side of the island and is a place where tourists usually just go for the beaches. But it is here where Stipan has two hectares of land and is one of the few producers of the white wine, Grk. The man knows what he is doing and has a family tradition of wine making that dates back an amazing 500 years! Grk and Plavac Grk is a well-balanced white that doesn’t really push you one way or the other, but makes for pleasant drinking and is considerably different from Pošip, the other main white of Korčula. His 2005 ‘vrhunsko’ or high quality Grk has nice fruit aromas to the top and bottom of the nose. It is a bit dry, but not terribly so and has a nice finish. Stipan does not age this in oak at all and told us that he preferred not to have the oaky aromas to the wine, which seemed to be a good plan … Continue reading Stipan Cebalo of Lumbarda

The Craft of Bleuš and Kunjašić

Over a summer, two travelers drink their way through the wines of Mediterranean Europe Stanojević and BleušTwo more of the smaller producers on Korčula are Bleuš and Kunjašić. They are both located around Smokvica and like many wine makers of this size, very tricky to find. You see, their cellars look just like any other house on the street and it’s not until you go inside that you see a whole wine making operation spread out from behind the old doors. It also makes it impossible to just drop by for a tasting or a visit, since you need to know someone who knows someone to call them and actually meet you as was the case when we went to Bleuš. But, they will always make it worth the hunt by rewarding you with good wines and great hospitality. Bleuš is a tricky name, since it really is the Stanojević Family that produces the wine now. Well, actually, it still is the Bleuš family (which they believe is really of French origins), but there were just two daughters to inherit the winery after their father passed away and it still is the custom for it to be the man’s family … Continue reading The Craft of Bleuš and Kunjašić

The Mighty Blato of Korčula

Over a summer, two travelers drink their way through the wines of Mediterranean Europe Korčulanka fresh off the production lineWhen it comes to former Communist cooperatives on Korčula that transitioned in to successful private companies, there are none bigger than Blato 1902. Named after the town that they are located in, Blato produces a massive 1,000,000 liters a year and even has the capacity to produce more. But, they don’t make only wine. The produce rakija, aniseta, travarica, smokovača, rogačica, and komovica, as well as olive oil and vinegar. All told, there are about 30 wines and products that they make. Not bad for a company that was started by the local wine growers of the area in 1902. It was a little tricky to find, being that the main building is located behind a school of all things. Once we found it, our attempts at speaking Croatian with the employees was helped up and greatly improved upon by Sanja Protić and Ante Šeparović (one of the enologists) who spoke English and gave us the history and a tasting. We tried the 2005 Korčulanka which is at 12.5% alcohol and has a light fruit to the nose. This carries in … Continue reading The Mighty Blato of Korčula

Smokvicas Toreta

Over a summer, two travelers drink their way through the wines of Mediterranean Europe Outside the tasting room with Smokvica in the background Like most single-owner Croatian wineries, the story of Toreta on Korčula is all about a family history of wine making that stopped during Communism and is now working to produce again. In this case, the man who has taken up the helm is the very young Frano Banicević, who, at 25 has begun to run the winery that his great-grandfather built at the turn of the 20th century. Like most of the new generation in Croatia that are taking over from their parents or grandparents, they are full of ideas and ways to get their wines more well-known. One of the biggest examples of this is that fact that there are actually signs to the Toreta winery and it is quite easy to find in Smokvica. Others are a little more subtle like a gradual change in the design of the bottle labels. While seen as something of a waste by the older generations, Frano is keenly aware of how much it affects the decision of the consumer. The barrel sign out front The one thing that … Continue reading Smokvicas Toreta

The Former Collectives of Korčula

Over a summer, two travelers drink their way through the wines of Mediterranean Europe Vineyards in front of Čara Built in 1983, the company that is now Pošip Čara on the island of Korčula, started as one of the Yugoslavian wine making collectives. All of the grapes from the surrounding area in the town of Čara fed in to this one factory to produce the wines of which 90% were whites. There were 100 hectares of land which over time became dedicated to the production of Pošip. In standard Communist thinking, this centralized production made sense as there were plenty of areas that produced reds, so why not focus this region on just whites as they grew extremely well there? Well, the result of this today is that the region is still primarily growing only whites and while there are a few private growers in the region, the now privately owned Pošip Čara still dominates production with 300,000 bottles a year leaving their doors. This is all done with a scant 10 people on staff, of which, one is Toni Tomić who was actually a mechanic, showing us around as he spoke the best English. But, even though he worked … Continue reading The Former Collectives of Korčula