The Captain of Krk and an Island Hvar Hvar Away…

Partly because it’s already hitting 80 degrees in my adopted hometown of Sacramento, and partly because I miss Croatia, I’d like to highlight two island wines this month. Island wine regions, whether they be Italian, Spanish, Greek, French, or Kiwi, are all fiercely independent with their respective language, food and wine. Croatia is no different and the Island of Krk and the Island of Hvar both possess something unique from the mainland. At the risk of both a Star Trek and Star Wars pun, these are both serious wines with great stories, made by wonderful people, and from impossibly beautiful places. 2013 Šipun Žlahtina, Island of Krk, Croatia… Crossing the bridge to the Island of Krk, one might be surprised by all the advertisements; some for a local casino, some for other types of seemingly out of place entertainment venues. Sadly this is the direction most of the inhabitants of the island are heading to generate income. The idea of producing a physical product, be it wine, olive oil, or other goods is being left behind for the easier income of renting out apartments. There is however, one man who is not only sustaining himself and his family with winemaking, … Continue reading The Captain of Krk and an Island Hvar Hvar Away…

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

Sansigot: A Story of Grape Rescue on the Island of Krk

Historically, politics and wine make a bad pairing—and the combination certainly hasn’t favored the survival of indigenous grape varieties. Think of the vinepulling and planting schemes around the world that largely promoted high yields or courted commercial trends. Communism, in some countries, presented a different challenge: populations migrated to the cities or left altogether, viticulture languished, and vine varieties dwindled to a select few. The Sansigot grape, traditionally grown on the island of Krk just off the Croatian coastline, was one of Communism’s casualties until Ivica Dobrinčić of Šipun winery set about reviving the diversity of grapes that once grew on the island. Sansigot is a black variety that, before the 1950s, made up about 20 percent of black grapes growing on Krk. It has also grown on the tiny island of Susak to the southwest, where it is described as yielding “deeply colored, full-bodied wines” (Robinson, et al, Wine Grapes). On Krk, Sipun and one other winery make a varietal Sansigot that is light-bodied, with a delicate floral aroma and low tannins—a difference Ivica attributes to the separate location and new winemaking technology. During Communism, industrialization was the national priority, with the result that people moved to the cities … Continue reading Sansigot: A Story of Grape Rescue on the Island of Krk

A Day at Katunar, on Krk Island

Panoramic view of the city of Krk on the island of Krk. The next morning, we set off for the island of Krk, driven by Antonella. Driving east toward Rijeka, we pass Tuscan-looking hill towns and a public forest at the side of the small, local highway, which Antonella tells us is a truffle forest where locals go to try their luck. There is a controversy about continuing public access to the forest, which the truffle hunters consider their right. At Rijeka, we need to take a sharp right turn and head south, but first, we need to get past Mt. Ucka. There’s a tunnel through the mountain, but we decide to go over it, and head upward at a steep angle along switchback curves, past tiny, five-house towns, through the forest. We stop as the road starts to slope downward again, to look out over the Adriatic toward Krk to the south and Rijeka below us (shown), situated in the dog’s-leg turn where Istria becomes the Kvarner region of northern coastline, mercilessly blown in winter by the bura, Croatia’s version of the mistral winds. First we drive through the resort villas of Opatija, playing a game of “if I … Continue reading A Day at Katunar, on Krk Island