Dalmatia: “Between the Devil & the Deep Blue Sea” (Part V of the Neal Martin Report)


 

Neal Martin, eRobertParker.com

 

 

Editor’s Note: With this report, Robert Parker’s influential “Wine Advocate” journal has published its first-ever review of a selection of wines from Croatia. The report and subsequent scores were written and posted by Neal Martin of www.wine-journal.com and  www.erobertparker.com and are reprinted here with permission.

This is Part V in our series of post from Mr. Martin’s report, presented here for informational purposes. The statements, suggestions and reviews contained herein are purely Mr. Martin’s work and are subject to copyright and may not be republished elsewhere without permission of the author.   

In Part II of his report, Mr. Martin discussed his perception of the “wrongs and rights” of the Croatian wines he tasted. For your convenience and introduction to the tasting notes and scores presented here, below is an excerpt from the section where he discusses Dalmatian wines.     

Plavac Mali grapes (photo by Cliff Rames)

Plavac Mali and Babic are naturally acidic grapes, the latter prone to vegetal notes if not fully ripe (much like Cabernet Franc.) This coerces winemakers to pick as late as possible and ferment the wines up to 15 or 16 degrees, which is completely understandable, but in many cases this precipitates unbalanced wines that I could not imagine drinking in any quantity. Consequently, Croatian winemakers are stuck between the devil and the deep blue sea: reduce alcohol and risk under-ripeness or maintain high alcohol and risk one hell of a hangover, potentially for both consumer and sales?

What is the solution to this?

For me, it is a simply a case of going back to basics, examining the optimal picking date more carefully, piecemeal analysis of the vineyard and its terroir, managing the fermentation more meticulously and I have to say, not being corralled into producing high alcohol wine or nothing. This will all come from deepening experience and empirical learning. They need to learn that masking under-ripeness with layers of new oak often renders a bland, characterless wine that could come from anywhere and says nothing about where it comes from. High alcohol wines can sometimes work but only if you cannot feel the alcohol and the wine is perfectly in balance. 

 

Part V: Tasting Notes of Dalmatian Wines

 

Plavac Mali vineyards at Postup (photo by Cliff Rames)

 

2006 Postup Mare – 72
This Dalmatian wine is made from Plavac Mali. It is rather jammy and slightly acetic on the nose. Over-extracted, raw and lacking freshness on the palate. Tasted May 2010.

2006 Milicic Dingac – 81
From Plavac Mali, this has blackberry, damson, raisin and a touch of fig on the rustic nose. Simple, bucolic palate, brutish tannins, dense and tarry on the finish. Dour and too alcoholic. Tasted May 2010.

 

(photo by Cliff Rames)

 

2007 Suha Punta Babic – 81
Made from the Babic grape variety, this has a leafy, rustic nose with blackberry and earth. Tannic entry, coarse tannins with a foursquare, grippy, brutish finish. Tasted May 2010.

2007 Korta Katarina Posip – 89
This has a fine nose with dried honey, mango and yellow flowers. Good weight on the palate, ginger, nectarine and dried herbs. Quite spicy towards the finish but it maintains good definition and disguises the 14.7% alcohol well. Tasted May 2010.

photo courtesy Korta Katarina winery

 

2007 Ivan Dolac – 81
From the Plavac Mali grape and delivering 15.2% alcohol, this has a simple, rather reductive nose that keeps the fruit in a straightjacket. The palate is a little over-extracted with some raw, rather vegetal notes spoiling what would have otherwise been a pleasurable wine. Tasted May 2010.

2006 Ivan Dolac Barrique – 87
This has a well-defined nose with blackberry, redcurrant and a touch of boysenberry with a slight musky note developing in the glass. Firm tannins on the full-bodied palate, not a wine of finesse, reminding me of a youthful brutish Tannat. Served with some rump steak you might get away with this because I like the bucolic charm of this wine. Tasted May 2010.

photo by Cliff Rames

 

2007 Tomic Plavac Mali Barrique – 88
This Plavac Mali has a fresh, well defined bouquet with notes of wild strawberry, damson and black cherry jam. The palate is just a little jammy on the entry, thick chewy tannins but softening nicely towards the rounded, spicy finish with boysenberry, mulberry and a touch of gingerbread. Good length. Satisfying. Tasted May 2010.

2007 Zlatan Plavac Barrique – 81
A natural nose, wild hedgerow, blackberry, a touch of mulberry, sea salt and green olive. Moderate lift. The tannins are a little hard and there is a nagging vegetal element spoiling the finish. Over-extracted? The 14.7% is too much. Tasted May 2010.

photo by Cliff Rames

 

2007 Zlatan Plavac Grand Cru – 84
Blackberry, bilberry and a touch of woodland on the nose: gaining intensity in the glass, nice definition. Firm tannins but better balance than 60, a touch more finesse with chewy black tarry fruit on the Madiran like finish. Firm grip, a lot of dry extract here. Tasted May 2010.

2006 Postup Donja Banda – 89
This Dalmatian Plavac Mali has a leafy, rather mulchy nose with blackberry leaf, raspberry, green olives and a touch of musk. The palate has dry tannins, mulberry and boysenberry, a slight digestive element towards the finish that shows fine balance and a lovely savoury tang at the back of the throat. Very fine. Tasted May 2010.

photo by Jeff Tureaud

 

2008 Saints Hill Dingac – 83
This is another high alcohol wine (15.5%). This has a slightly reductive nose. Black olive, blackberry wine gums, a touch of melted tar and cooked meat. It has a spicy palate, a little over-extracted, high alcohol and some vegetal elements marring the finish. Tasted May 2010.

Next: Part VI – the final installment – of the Martin report will feature the reviews and scores of sweet wines.

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