Website: Plančić Winery
Country Location: Croatia
Dry farmed, incredibly windy, and relentlessly beaten by the sun, the island of Hvar is an ideal place to grow Plavac Mali.
The appellation. The Island of Hvar enjoys the most hours of sunshine per year in all of Croatia. The resulting natural raw beauty of the island is only rivaled by its incredible agricultural history. Namely, this starts with the UNESCO protected Stari Grad Plain on the western end of the Island. These are agricultural parcels (900x180m) called “Chora” replete with a rainwater collection system, cisterns, and rock walls dividing everything within a maze of stone roads. These stone pathways are worn down by human traffic the same way St. Peter’s foot is in the Vatican. In fact, this whole system may sound somewhat typical to Roman times, but it’s been farmed this way for over 24 unbroken centuries starting with the Illyrians (pre Greek). This crazy fertile patchwork of grapes, olives, onions, fennel, figs, rosemary, and lavender is basically a polyculture of the Croatian kitchen. Heading up about 4 kilometers into the heart of the island toward the impossibly steep vineyards of the south side (Sveta Nedjelja and Ivan Dolac), you’ll also find another impressive agricultural feat, the terraced amphitheater vineyards of Dubje. These hand made rock terraces are planted to two indigenous red grapes called Plavac Mali and Darnekuša. The Plančić family has been able to infuse the flavors of the Star Grad Plain into this heavily exposed and high altitude vineyard since 1919.
In the vineyards. Gand Cru Dubje is composed of terraces 220 meters high at around 150 meters above sea level. The soil and terraces themselves are predominately composed of limestone. Dry farmed, incredibly windy, and relentlessly beaten by the sun, it’s an ideal place to grow Plavac Mali. Yields are low (0.5 kg per vine plant), there is no need to drop fruit, and despite the sun, the high altitude coastal winds elongate the growing season and maintain freshness in the ripe fruit. Grapes are cultivated by hand and harvested by hand. In addition to Plavac Mali, Plančić also grows Darnekuša in Vrh, a small plain 580 meters above sea level. These vineyards are arguably the highest above sea level in Croatia. Incredibly aromatic and able to retain high acidity, it’s the perfect blending partner to Dubje’s Plavac Mali.
In the cellar. The Darnekuša is typically picked up to two weeks before the Plavac Mali and fermented in Slavonian (Croatian) oak barrels. Natural total acidity can easily hit 7 g/l so secondary fermentation is necessary. The Plavac Mali produces more sugar, has smaller berries, and has thicker skins so extraction is naturally high. Maceration is therefore relatively short after de-stemming. The Plavac Mali also ferments in Slavonian oak and even after spontaneous fermentation, there is often 2-4 g/l of residual sugar that adds weight and texture rather than sweetness. Wines are blended and aged up to 18 months in small oak barrels and then 12 months more in larger oak casks before unfiltered bottling.