Grapevines have been adorning the southern slopes of the Pelješac Peninsula on the Dalmatian Coast since the beginning of mankind. The Plavac Mali grape variety thrives remarkably well in such sunny Karst soil and this is where the king of Croatian red wines, Dingač, dwells. The ancient wine culture of Croatia is the origin of the most famous American grape, the Zinfandel. Here is your chance to taste a top quality original.
The appellation. An hour drive north of the marbled streets of Dubrovnik, the Pelješac Peninsula extends roughly 40 miles out into the Adriatic covered in pine forest, olive trees, figs, herbs, and head-trained vines planted in extreme, steep, rocky soils. Vineyards are planted almost exclusively to the rugged native grape variety Plavac Mali (little blue).
Only recently discovered to be the centuries old offspring of Crljenak Kaštelanski, or what we call Zinfandel, by UC Davis scientists, it indicates a wine culture 1000’s of years in the making. Designated in 1961, the precipitous south facing sea cliff vineyards of Dingač is Croatia’s first protected wine region and the most famous site for Plavac. Vinarija (winery) Dingač takes its name from this special site.
Founded in 1937 by 550 winegrowing households contributing as one collective, since the privatization which followed the end of Yugoslav Communism in the early 90’s the number has dropped to 300, but their challenges and successes are still shared. Today Vinarija Dingač produce 4 Plavac based wines the lighter “Plavac” and “Peljesac”, both sourced mostly from the cooler Župa Valley, small amounts of “Postup”, a special site classified in 67’, and the flagship “Dingač, Dingač”, to indicate both the winery and appellation.
In the vineyard. There are basically 2 types of growing locations Vinarija Dingač grapes are sourced from. The large cooler, more fertile interior Župa Valley, and the famous Dingac and Postup vineyard sites, which slope upwards of 45 degrees toward the sea and often without the aid of terraces, soils are predominately limestone with layers of detritus and gravel, yields are often less than 1 kilo per plant. Motorized vehicles and mechanical harvesting are impossible and the reason the stubborn donkey adorns the Vinarija Dingač labels and without whom, grape cultivation here would not have been possible. The near constant exposure to the sun, reflective heat from the Adriatic, drainage in the rocky soil and the cooling “Bura” winds create a perfectly suited terroir for these head-trained and dry farmed vines.
In the cellar. Grape growers deliver grapes typically by tractor at the winery. Manual harvest is aimed at a 22°-24° Brix target range and then followed by crushing and destemming. Due to the lack of humidity in the vineyard, vines are never sprayed for Peronospora (molds) and a healthy yeast population allows for a full wild fermentation in stainless steal. Grapes are then pressed into used oak barrel for about a year of aging. Racked back to tank to settle, wines are sterile filtered, corked and bottled.
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