Dalmatia Wine Expo 2016: Three Things I Learned

By Cliff Rames

(Note: I first visited the Dalmatia Wine Expo in Split, Croatia two years ago in 2014. You can read my 2014 “Three Things I Learned” post HERE.)

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Drinking wine could be compared to reading a book. Some books, like some wines, serve as mere entertainment, devoid of depth and enjoyed in a moment. Quickly they fade into the past without commemoration or recall.

Great books, though, capture and captivate your imagination. Glued to the page, each word enthralls…every sentence propels you deeper into the folds, eager to know what comes next…how the plot develops…what happens to the characters. The best among them may even influence and affect your life’s journey.

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Wine Wanderlust: 7 Tour Operators in Croatia

Text and photos by Cliff Rames © 2015

It’s inevitable this time of year. Suddenly you notice passenger planes and the drift of jet trails among the clouds. You linger a bit longer than usual in daydreams. Bird songs awaken dormant desires to let loose and fly. You pine; an unsettled, almost haunting feeling settles in your breast. Call it an itchiness of the soul. You sense subliminal messages embedded in the whispers of warm breezes, summoning you: Go, they say. Make plans. Travel!

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Paul McCartney once sang of this condition: “Light out, wanderlust…help us to be free…light out, wanderlust…head us out to sea…what better time to find a brand new day…oh, wanderlust away…”

And just as dandelions and pollen are harbingers of the season, so too are the numerous emails that arrive in my mailbox, sent by intrepid people bitten by the wanderlust bug. Any recommendations for winery visits, they ask. Best wine regions to explore in Croatia? Suggestions for wine tour operators?

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Sunday Snapshot: Pickin’ Pošip

A freshly-picked cluster of Pošip grapes.

(Photo: Copyright © Cliff Rames)
(Photo: Copyright © Cliff Rames)

Pošip is the signature native white variety from Korčula island, although it is also cultivated in other areas of Dalmatia along the Adriatic coast of Croatia.

Pošip is distinguished by large, elongated bunches with oval, egg-shaped berries with relatively thin skins. Wines produced from Pošip can be full bodied with medium to medium-high alcohol; a viscous, oily texture; and notes of pear, fig, stone fruits, Mediterranean herb, wild flowers and honey.

Key producers of Pošip wines include: BIBICh; Grgić; Jako Vina-Stina; Korta Katarina; Krajančić; Kunjas; PZ Pošip-Čara; Toreta; and Zlatan Otok.

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Images from the Wine Roads of Croatia #7 – Grk

“Grk the Geek”

Grk vineyards, Lumbarda, Korčula wine-growing hills,Southern Dalmatia sub-region, Coastal Croatia.

Grk is a white wine grape native to the island of Korčula (a place it shares with Pošip and Plavac Mali) and is predominately planted a low-lying central valley of red sand between the Adriatic Sea and Lumbarda village. Currently there are approximately 40 hectares of Grk planted at Lumbarda at elevations rising to 20m above sea level.

Notice the red grapes at the end of the vine rows. The Grk vine is gynoecious, meaning it only produces female flowers and cannot self-pollinate. As a result, growers must intersperse vineyards with plantings of Plavac Mali grapes to pollinate the Grk.

Producers of Grk wines include: BATISTIĆ-FIDULIĆ; BATISTIĆ-ZURE; BARTUL CEBALO; BRANIMIR CEBALO; CEBALO-POPIĆ; MILINA-BIRE; and MILINA-LOVRIĆ.

Related links: Daily Mail UK: Croatia – On the Trail to Find Grk

Photo © 2012 Cliff Rames

Wines of Croatia News Round-Up for January 29, 2012

 

In case you missed anything, here is a round-up of the latest links to the news articles, blog posts and videos that highlighted Croatia, its wine or wine culture.

 1. Daily Mail: Croatia – On the Trail to Find Grk

January 22, 2012

 The UK’s Daily Mail writes of “Tipple Tourism” and goes in search of Grk, “a wine made on a Croatian island”. 

 

 

2. HM’s Food & Wine Magazine: Exploring the Croatian Wine

January 24, 2012

Nepal discovers Croatian wine.

 

 

3. Love that Wine: Diversity in Wine

January 24, 2012

The Wine Sleuth and Thierry’s Wines name Croatian wines and the Malvazija grape of Istria as “ready for prime time”.

 

 4. By the Tun: Top 10 Wines from Croatia (from my Recent Trip)

January 25, 2012

Wine blogger Mattie John Bamman offers his choice for the Top 10 Wines from Croatia.

 

 

5. Harpers: Trade Urged to Support Up-and-Coming Regions

January 26, 2012

Why new regions like Croatia and their wines are not “novelties” but are “here to stay”.

 

 6. Sherman’s Travel: Top 10 Off the Path Wine Regions

January 26, 2012

Travel experts Sherman’s Travel names Istria among it’s Top Ten wine regions to visit and includes shout-outs for Franc Arman, Benvenuti, Giorgio Clai, and Kabola wineries.

 

 

7. Wines of Croatia Blog: Images from the Wine Roads of Croatia #3

January 27, 2012

The third installment in a series of photos that celebrate the wine roads of Croatia. This time: the “Golden Slopes”of the Baranja wine-growing hills.

 

 

8. The Chicago Wino: 500 Years in the Making

January 28, 2012

Wine Review: Babica “Štafileo” 2008 from Vuina winery.

 

 P.S. We love to hear from you!

If you have comments or other news to share, please comment on this post or email us at info@winesofcroatia.com

 

Croatia Scores with Feature Story in Wine Enthusiast Magazine

 

For the first-time ever, Croatia finds itself featured in a prominent mainstream U.S. wine magazine.

Wine Enthusiast, one of the leading wine journals in the English language, published three articles in the September 2011 print and online issues, all dedicated to Croatia and its wines, food culture, and appeal as a travel destination.

The September issue, which pronounces Croatia as “An Historic Wine Lovers Paradise” on the cover page, also includes reviews of 16 Croatian wines, as well as hotel, restaurant and winery recommendations by region.

Encompassing seven full-color pages (in the print edition), the lead story by Wine Enthusiast Contributing Editors, Lifestyle & Entertaining, Mike Desimone and Jeff Jenssen (AKA: World Wine Guys) is entitled “Croatia – In Living Color”.

In the article the Wine Guys detail their “journey from north to south along the Adriatic coast”, which they describe as an “underexplored jewel by the sea” that “offers rich history, splendid scenery and epicurean delights—starting in Istria, and then down the Dalmatian Coast, with its 1,000 islands”.

The online version of the magazine offers two additional articles. The first is written by Desimone and Jenssen and is called “Exploring Croatia”.

The article provides detailed hotel, restaurant and winery recommendations based on Desimone’s and Jenssen’s experience while traveling in Croatia in October 2010, when they spent a week visiting Croatia’s capital city, Zagreb, as well as Istria and Dalmatia on the coast – regions they described as “a wine and food lover’s paradise”.

The online version of Wine Enthusiast contains a third article by Kristin Vuković with the mouth-watering title, “Consuming Croatia” highlighting some of the “gastronomical delights” one can experience in Croatia. Inside you’ll find two scrumptious recipes, one for Palačinke (Croatian crêpes) and one for Grilled Mediterranean Branzino with Blitva (Sea Bass with Chard).

Kristin’s yummy recipes are matched with wine pairing suggestions by Certified Sommelier and founder of Wines of Croatia, Cliff Rames.

Wine Enthusiast is a wine magazine, so let us not forget the best part: the wines! The September issue contains scores for 16 Croatian wines in its Buying Guide, including labels from Agrolaguna, Belje, BIBICh, Dingač Winery, Grgić, Iločki Podrumi, Istravino, Korta Katarina, Matošević, and Piližota. All wines were reviewed by Wine Enthusiast Tasting Coordinator, Anna Lee Iijima.

Six of the best-scoring wines are highlighted in the magazine under the headline, “Top Wines of Croatia”. Most notably, two wines were awarded 90-points: Grgić Vina 2009 Pošip and Korta Katarina 2006 Plavac Mali.

 

If you can, we strongly recommend that you pick-up a copy of the September issue and read all about it. Or check it out online (links embedded above). May we also suggest that when you open this historic issue of Wine Enthusiast, you raise your favorite glass of Croatian wine. It is certainly a time to celebrate!

They say that every journey begins with a single step. The publication of these three articles may have been one small step for Wine Enthusiast magazine, but it was a giant leap for the Croatian wine industry.

From this new height the stars on which so many dreams are planted today seem a little closer. To reach them will require much more hard work, a smart and effective marketing strategy, and new investment in people, ideas, tools and material. Beyond the star that is Wine Enthusiast magazine lie many more stars, solar systems and galaxies. Collectively they form the heavens.

Do we have what it takes to get there?

One additional note: We applaud Korta Katarina Winery for having the foresight and business savvy (and resources) to recognize an opportunity. The winery invested some serious cash to purchase a full-page color advertisement in the September issue for its 2010 Rosé. Readers of the magazine – who may feel compelled to seek out a Croatian wine or two – will in the preceding pages notice a very juicy ad for an excellent Croatian Rosé – one that just happens to be available in the U.S. and other export markets.

With that, Korta Katarina became the first Croatian winery to advertise in a mainstream American wine magazine. The bar has been raised; let us strive to leap higher still!

(photos by Cliff Rames)

Wines of Croatia Interview with Joe Campanale

Joe Campanale

Joe Campanale, beverage director and co-owner of three hot New York City restaurants – dell’anima, L’Artusi, and Anfora – recently visited Croatia to attend the Dalmatia Wine Expo and tour some of the country’s wine regions.

(Photo by Maggie Hoffman)
Anfora Wine Bar, NYC (photo by Graham-Kates)

In a charming and sweetly memorable moment from his trip, Joe sent out this tweet on Twitter:  “Ok I’m about to fall asleep in Korčula but this picture of vineyards clinging to a mountain is still on my mind http://t.co/LxEWtsj“.

Vineyards on Hvar island (photo by Joe Campanale)

In this exclusive interview, Joe shares some more thoughts and observations about his trip and offers some sage advice for the future of Croatian wines.

1. You just returned from a tour of a few wine regions in Croatia. What are your general impressions of Croatia as a country and as a wine-producing country?

Croatia is country with a ton of stunning natural beauty, like the electric-blue Adriatic coast, breathtakingly steep vineyard sites, endless islands and incredible mountain peaks. It is fascinating to see a country as a relatively new quality wine producing country trying to find its way, sometimes with great success. I think the quality is only going to improve as the vines get older and as winemakers become more experienced and share information with other producers.

(Photo by Joe Campanale)

2. Was there anything that surprised you? Disappointed you? Blew you away?

I was surprised by the extreme beauty. It was really one of the most stunning places I’ve ever been, and I was not expecting that. I was blown away by the sheer steepness of some of the vineyards, especially in Dalmatia. It is heroic to work them.

High altitude Plavac Mali grapes on Hvar island (photo by Joe Campanale)

I was also surprised by the truffles! Croatia is one of the few places that truffles grow in the world and they were incredibly delicious.

I was disappointed to see a lot of Plavac Mali wines that were unbalanced, too hot and alcoholic, often with 15.5% alcohol or higher and residual sugar.

Seaside Plavac Mali vineyards, Hvar (photo by Joe Campanale)

3. How many of Croatia’s different indigenous grapes varieties did you try through the wines you tasted? Any favorites?

We probably tasted 15-20 different grapes. I loved the white grapes Pošip and Grk for their minerality and crisp acidity, though Grk was just a bit more complex. As for red grapes I thought that Terran had the most potential for its structure and food pairing ability.

Cebalo Grk (photo by Cliff Rames)

4. Were there any particular wines that really impressed you? Any “wow” moments?

Miloš 1994 Plavic Mali showed me that Plavic Mali has an incredible ability to age when it’s made in a balanced style with alcohol kept in check. Also Miloš is one of the few producers making wine a very traditional, natural way. He holds the wines back until they are ready to drink.

Frano Miloš (photo courtesy of Miloš winery)

5. You visited Tomac winery and tasted his “Anfora” wine. Wines made in amphora are a particular interest of yours. What did you think of Tomac’s version?

I love Tomac’s Anfora wines and his entire philosophy. His wines were balanced, nuanced and delicious. They were also unique but not in a way that would turn off people who haven’t had them before. I also loved his Pinot Noir.

Tomislav Tomac (photo by Joe Campanale)
Tomac Anfora (photo by Cliff Rames)
Tomislav & Zvonimir Tomac (photo by Joe Campanale)
Tomac, buried anforas (photo by Joe Campanale)

6. Can you offer a little advice on what Croatian winemakers can do better to compete on the world market, particularly in the US?

I’d say focus on creating wines and flavors that are indicative of Croatia. Embrace your native grapes and create wines that go well with food. Croatia is never going to be able to compete at the lowest end because of cost parameters and there is so much competition for “international-styled” wine. So the only way Croatia can compete is on it’s uniqueness of high-quality, balanced wines.

(Photo by Joe Campanale)

7. Say one thing that American consumers/wine lovers should know about Croatian wines.

Croatia has an immensely diverse amount of grape varieties and terroirs, creating the opportunity for a wide range of wine styles. There are a few very interesting wines now but these wines will continue to improve.

(photo by Joe Campanale)

8. How did you like the Croatian restaurants/cuisine? Do you have a favorite dish? Any food and wine pairings that you really liked?

The restaurants were of an extremely high quality. We ate a lot of extremely fresh fish and the local shrimp were especially sweet and soft. One of the fun things that quite a few restaurants did was that they put out a wide variety of olive oils for us to taste with our breads. One restaurant even had 15 local olive oils on the table.

Seaside restautant in Dubrovnik, Croatia (photo by Joe Campanale)
Succelent Adriatic prawns (photo by Joe Campanale)
Dried Dalmatian figs & local schnapps (photo by Joe Campanale)
Not everything was about wine: Clai Plum Brandy (photo by Joe Campanale)

9. Would you like to return to Croatia someday? Where would you go?  

Of course! There are a 1,000 islands and I’d like to explore them all but I want to go back to Korčula first.