PZ Podšpilje: The Uncollective Collective

Over a summer, two travelers drink their way through the wines of Mediterranean Europe Roki Srećko shows us the steel casks. The Vugava PZ Podšpilje is one of those anomalies from the former Communist period in Former Yugoslavia. Despite being a central collective for the grapes in this area of Vis since 1924, it was never actually a state-owned collective like others that we’ve visited. Even though is was free from Communist oversight, it still maintains the rather heavy Socialist look to the building that makes it none too welcoming, although the people who work there are very friendly and were happy to see us. This is not surprising given the almost complete isolation that Vis lived under for decades. Showing us around and giving an introduction to the wines was Roki Srećko, the general manager. He also happened to be the enolog, which gave him a bit more character than the standard managers that we have often talked to. While they produce 300,000 liters a year from the 60 hectares that they source from, he only has about six people to manage all of this. We quickly got down to the business of wine and tasted their offerings. First … Continue reading PZ Podšpilje: The Uncollective Collective

A Call to Ivo Carić

Over a summer, two travelers drink their way through the wines of Mediterranean Europe As is usually the case in a small place, everyone seems to know everyone and this was perfectly illustrated when we were tasting at Svirče and they realized we hadn’t met with Ivo Carić, another local wine maker on Hvar. Ivo with his wine Despite the fact he is technically the competition, they called him up and told him to stop by with some of his wines to for us to taste. Just a bit later, in the door walks this large man, dwarfing the bottles he carried (no, that’s not a split he’s holding up in the photo, it’s a full 750ml) who, like most wine makers was delightful to talk to. Ivo started making wine as a full enterprise in 1993. Like most who started in the nineties, he was born of a long family tradition of wine making that stretches back five or six generations. He is something of a small producer making 50,000 liters a year. The grapes that go in to the production come from four hectares of his own and grapes he purchases from his neighbors. He makes two different … Continue reading A Call to Ivo Carić

Tasting Tomić and Duboković in Jelsa, Hvar

Over a summer, two travelers drink their way through the wines of Mediterranean Europe Tomić, the man himself We visited two wine makers in the town of Jelsa on Hvar: Tomić and Duboković. While there are some similarities in the end result that you taste, the wine makers couldn’t be more different. The difference really comes down to personal style. Tomić is a bit, well, blustery. The picture at the top of this article is one of the main ones that adorns the wall in his tasting room in Jelsa and is a theme echoed throughout his wines. For instance there is a side profile of his face on his bottles. He calls his tasting room a “wine studio” for some reason. In person he has a demeanor that is hard to crack, although friends of his that we met, say that is just a first impression, so we’ll give him the benefit of a doubt on that. But, egoism aside, how do his wines stack up? Well, they’re good. They weren’t our favorite on the island mainly due to how light the body is. For instance, the nose on the 2006 Pošip is very pleasant with a hint of … Continue reading Tasting Tomić and Duboković in Jelsa, Hvar

A Big Taste of Svirče on Hvar

Over a summer, two travelers drink their way through the wines of Mediterranean Europe The beginning of tastes from Andrija Carić We have visited many of the formerly state-owned, large cooperatives that were remnants of the Communist area until they were sold off in to private hands. Our treatment has ranged from pleasant to here’s our boot and there’s the door. Svirče on Hvar has changed all this, because despite the fact they are a big producer (700,000 to one million bottles a year), they were very inviting and were great people to sit and talk about the wine production on this very touristic island. Dolac barrique These guys are the biggest producer on Hvar and if you’re a grower there and not selling your grapes to Plenković, Tomić, or Plančić, then you’re most likely selling to Svirče. Even though they could let this go to their head, they don’t and they know how to make some really good wines, which naturally, we had a good taste of. Actually, it was a great taste of nearly everything they produce, which we’ll sum up with some of the shining examples showing that big wine making can make great wines. Their 2005 … Continue reading A Big Taste of Svirče on Hvar

New Croatian Classics of Plenković Part II

Over a summer, two travelers drink their way through the wines of Mediterranean Europe Plenković’s wine bar on the Adriatic After an introduction to Zlatan Plenković’s winery in Part 1 we will now continue with tasting notes on some of his wines. ‘Regular’ Plavac But, what about the wines they have now? We tasted them and they are fantastic. We started with the 2006 Zavala, which is a strong white wine at 13% alcohol that we hadn’t tasted before. It has a light fruit to the nose and carries a tad bit of citrus to it. Despite being 40% Pošip, it has a body that is more like Maraština, which is a much smaller part of the blend. Like any good wine, it gets more complex with more air, but retains the citrus tones out through the smooth finish. We then moved to the Zlatan Plavac 2005 ‘regular’. This is the most basic version of their Plavac, although it is not the ‘table wine’ level and is still very much a ‘high quality’ wine as rated by Zagreb. When you first smell the nose, it almost has some dessert wine aromas to it and is dark and sweet. The body … Continue reading New Croatian Classics of Plenković Part II

New Croatian Classics of Plenković Part I

Over a summer, two travelers drink their way through the wines of Mediterranean Europe An hour and a half by ferry from Split, the capital of Dalmatia, lies Hvar island. Called Pharos by the Greeks that occupied the island since the 4th century BC, Hvar is the longest of all Croatian islands, a narrow strip of land stretching for 42 miles. In the last few years it has become a popular touristic destination and is now famous for its lavender (of which we didn’t actually see any), and its Plavac mali wines. Plenkovićs at work While not a household name in the United States, the wines of Zlatan Plenković have gotten extremely well known in wine circles and haven’t stopped receiving international awards and recognition. Based in the little village of Sveta Nedelja on the Southeastern coast of the island, Zlatan Plenković’s first release was just a few years ago in 1999 and he has only been producing since 1996. In that time, his wines have gotten to be in such high demand that they sell out of all their reds three months after bottling. Zlatan Plenković is very unfortunately not in the best of health these days (although that … Continue reading New Croatian Classics of Plenković Part I

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 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

Miloš, Popular Beyond Pelješac

Over a summer, two travelers drink their way through the wines of Mediterranean Europe Driving up the Pelješac peninsula from the Croatian mainland, Miloš is one of the first wineries one comes across. It is located in the little village of Ponikve just a few kilometers north of the walled town of Ston with its beautiful fortress. The StagnumIt Although the Miloš family has been making wine for over 100 years, like most families in the countries of the former Yugoslavia they had to sell their grapes to the state-owned cooperatives. So it was only in the beginning of the 1990’s that Miloš became a private business, and is now producing about 50,000 liters of wine annually. Today Frano Miloš has managed to make the family winery into one of the most successful in the Pelješac region, and frequently receives large tour groups in their new tasting room and century-old family cellar. Miloš produces a broad range of wines in each of the quality categories existing in Croatia (table, quality, high quality and special). Since we couldn’t try them all, we decided to taste their most popular varietal, the Plavac. It was a vintage from 2004 with a 12.6% of … Continue reading Miloš, Popular Beyond Pelješac