Wine Review: Dubrovački Podrumi 2007 Merlotina

As much as I love the fascinating assortment of indigenous grape varieties in Croatia, many of which I have written about in these pages, international varieties such as Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Syrah, Riesling, Chardonnay, and Sauvignon Blanc—among many others (for more info, check out this previous post, Grapes of Croatia: The Internationals)—can be found throughout Croatia’s four major wine growing regions. Every once in a while a wine made from one of these international grapes shines a spotlight on the wonderful potential of world-class winegrowing in Croatia.

I acquired such a wine, Dubrovački Podrumi 2007 Merlotina, while attending the Dubrovnik FestiWine back in April, and I am very grateful that I included this wine among the many I stuffed into my suitcase for the trip back home to New Jersey (“Thank you” to Mario Tomeković, sommelier extraordinaire, for recommending it!).

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(Photo: Cliff Rames)

Dubrovački Podrumi (podrumi = “cellars”) is a winery located in Gruda, about 32 kilometers (20 miles) south of Dubrovnik in the Konavle vinogorje (winegrowing hills). Konavle is actually a lovely (but in places overgrown and underutilized) narrow field located between the Sniježnica mountain and the Adriatic Sea. Here Dubrovački Podrumi cultivates 35 hectares of estate vineyards, with another 70 hectares under contract, planted to Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Vranac, Plavac Mali, Kadarun, Dalmatinka, and Maraština.

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Dubrovački Podrumi vineyards, Konavle field (Photo courtesy http://www.bluedanubewine.com)

Merlotina is one of two Vrhunsko (Premium) quality wines offered by the winery (the other is a Cabernet Sauvignon called Trajectum). Produced from 100% Merlot, the grapes for Merlotina are carefully selected from vines planted in 1979, vinified and aged in assorted oak barrels (primarily Slavonian oak).

I’m pretty sure a lot of wine professionals and sommeliers would be skeptical of a ten-year old Merlot from southern Croatia. I too was a little concerned about its age and condition after so many years and uncertain providence). But Merlotina did not disappoint. It was a gorgeous wine, somewhat reminiscent of aged Bordeaux on the nose, with developed aromas of dried plum, blueberry, bittersweet chocolate, and distinct graphite and wood smoke notes. The wine was still nicely fresh on the palate, with juicy acidity and fine, well-integrated tannins. The only downside was that the mid-palate fruit seemed to be growing a bit thin, allowing the heat of alcohol (13 percent ABV) to press through and knock the balance slightly off kilter.

The verdict? Dubrovački Podrumi 2007 Merlotina is an excellent example of Merlot from Croatia. Although it is drinking deliciously now, I don’t recommend aging this wine any longer. Drink up!  —CR

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Photo: Cliff Rames
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Photo: Cliff Rames

 

Wine Review: Kozlović Santa Lucia Malvazija (93 Points, Jamie Goode)

On October 3, 2016, Jamie Goode, the esteemed British author of The Science of Wine and a wine columnist in the U.K. for  The Sunday Express, published a stellar review of the Kozlović Santa Lucia Malvazija 2015 from the Istria wine making region of Croatia, granting it 93 points.

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(Photo courtesy Wineanorak.com)

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Wine Review: Bibich 2015 Debit

Text and photos © 2016 Cliff Rames

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Debit, a white variety native to Croatia’s Dalmatian coast between the cities of Šibenik and Zadar, was once considered a workhorse grape of great proficiency, so much so (the story goes) it gained its nom de plume during the Napoleonic Era when Dalmatian land owners would barter and pay off their tax debts with their crop instead of coin. This was possible because debit, when unmanaged in the vineyard and left to its own devices, will produce high yields (and consequently simple, one-dimensional wine). So, debit’s proficiency and reliability  served the locals well during the Napoleonic era–and later through the 20th century during Croatia’s time as one of the republics in Yugoslavia, when Socialist-style cooperatives demanded quantity over quality.

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New Issue of The SOMM Journal Features Zinfandel from Croatia

The Sommelier Journal, recently re-launched and re-branded as The SOMM Journal, just published its October/November 2014 issue (Vol. 1/ No. 3), which includes an article entitled “Zinfandel – A Sort of Homecoming”, written by Wines of Croatia founder, Certified Sommelier, and regular contributor to this blog, Cliff Rames.

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The article’s teaser, or subtitle, reads: “Croatia’s Prodigal Grape Finds Its Roots. Can It Go Home Again?” – alluding to the article’s focus on the search for and discovery of Zinfandel (AKA Primitivo, Crljenak Kaštelanski, Tribidrag, Pribidrag) in Croatia, and the subsequent efforts to repatriate the grape to the vineyards of Dalmatia.

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A Summer Send-off with Škrlet

By Cliff Rames © 2014

Just because the sunsets arrive earlier, the shadows cast longer, the nights undulate with the mating songs of crickets and the haunting bumps of falling acorns, does not mean that it is suddenly unacceptable to drink white wine.

True, my craving for red wine – suppressed in the oppressive heat of summer – is beginning to awaken and warm my veins. Nonetheless, autumn and winter are still fine times to crack open a white wine – preferably one of fuller body – when the urge strikes or menu demands.

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Croatia’s 2014 Dalmacija Wine Expo: Three Things I Learned

By Cliff Rames © 2014

Sensory overload. That is how I would describe any one of my whirlwind visits to Croatia.

I mean it in a positive way. The country is simply brimming with vinous, culinary and natural delights. Gnarly old grapevines improbably clinging to sun baked seaside slopes. Nearly 1,200 islands sprinkled like seashells on the impossibly blue Adriatic. Countless villages and hamlets of seminal charm nestled in coves and on mountainsides. Fresh caught seafood and farm-to-table produce so succulent and cooked to perfection. The warm faces of family, old friends and new acquaintances (and an occasional donkey).  Swoon-worthy views and secret spots where you can enjoy the sights and sounds of nature that – to this New York City boy – are so intimate, pure and wonderful.

Dingač (Photo © Cliff Rames)
Dingač (Photo © Cliff Rames)

And then there is the wine. Indigenous grapes, local producers. Most of it delicious and distinct. So this is what all this beauty… this land…this Croatia tastes like, you may be inspired to declare.

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Zlatna Žlahtina 1999: Golden Grape or Faded Glory?

By Cliff Rames © 2014 

A few weeks ago I was rummaging around my father’s wine cabinet and found a forgotten, dusty bottle of white – a 1999 PZ Vrbnik Zlatna Žlahtina from the island of Krk in the Kvarner wine growing region along the northern coast of Croatia. Since my father rarely drinks white wine and didn’t even know the bottle existed or where it came from, he let me have it. For “research” purposes. 

Photo: Cliff Rames © 2014
Photo: Cliff Rames © 2014

I was skeptical. A 15-year old Žlahtina? I mean, I’ve opened 3-year old Pinto Grigio wines that were an oxidized mess. Also this particular bottle was never properly stored, languishing for most of its life on a shelf in my parent’s sunny dining room.

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