Located on the Pelješac peninsula along the Adriatic Sea in Dalmatia, Postup is Croatia’s second oldest geographically protected wine-growing appellation (granted in 1963), lying just northwest of its more famous sister region, Dingač.
Like Dingač, Postup is home to the Plavac Mali grape and produces bold, powerful, sometimes off-dry to slightly sweet wines such as the benchmark Postup Mare from Bura-Mrgudić.
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 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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
I don’t usually write reviews which are not about wine. But one exceptionally valuable book forced me to compose my first book review. Luckily for me and my readers, the subject of the book is wine, which gives this review some credibility.
The book is called “Plavac Mali – A Croatian Grape for Great Wines”, written by Edi Maletić, Ivan Pejić and Jasminka Karoglan Kontić.
(Editor’s note: The Plavac Mali book was expertly translated into English by Jagoda Bush.)
The Croatian wine scene already owes a lot to this trio of scientists (with some more stress on the first two names), and this book is just a logical continuation of their productive and valuable work. Remember, it was these scientists who discovered the origins of Plavac Mali, as well as the fact that Zinfandel is actually a Croatian variety called Crljenak.
This trio of scientists also identified Malvasia Istriana as an indigenous grape, and then discovered that Malvasija Dubrovačka belongs to the same family as numerous Italian and Spanish Malvasias, like Malvasia delle Lipari.
Let’s not forget that they also saved a large number of indigenous grape varieties that were previously on the brink of extinction, and they have published many scientific papers. Edi Maletić is also publishes texts in mainstream magazines, and I must admit that I’ve enjoyed reading his columns for years. His style of writing is at first somewhat dry, factual and scientific. But he eventually incorporates interesting stories to which the general public can relate without losing their scientific value.
Their new Plavac Mali book is an example of such a style. It is extremely serious and competent, but written entertainingly enough so that anyone can (and must) read it. The most important parts deal with ampelography, which means that the book provides clear evidence of the origin of Plavac Mali, explains and defends the science behind the identification of the Croatian origin of Zinfandel (Crljenak), clears some misconceptions about the many local synonyms for Plavac Mali, and establishes and explains the relationship between Plavac Mali and other Dalmatian varieties.
Other parts of the book are also interesting, especially the section that explains the specific conditions required to transform Plavac Mali from a mediocre to a superior wine.
It is very interesting to know that this book was proposed and funded by the “Grozd” Plavac Mali Association. This is unique in that Grozd is an association of Plavac Mali consumers and enthusiasts – not winemakers. The fact that an association of consumers has contributed to the expansion and sales of a wine – more than all professional associations of winemakers and winegrowers together – is somewhat amazing. With the honorable exception of Vinistra, many Croatian associations of winemakers are not doing much, or if they are, we don’t see many results. In Grozd’s case, the result is fantastic: an excellent book about a unique and important grape variety which will be cited and used for decades.
Reviews of four excellent Plavac wines from three different vintages:
Korta Katarina Dingač 2006
Excellent vintage from a very ambitious winery. Its aroma is still dominated by the lingering presence of oak, which detracts from its appeal. But in the mouth it shows perfect harmony. The tannins are abundant but not astringent. The balance of alcohol, extracts and acids is excellent, and the finish is very long-lasting. Wait at least another year before drinking.
Bura Dingač 2007
Dingač is a superior vineyard site that managed to handle the very hot 2007 vintage well. While other Plavac wines from the same vintage are often overly mature already and somewhat dull, Bura’s high, mountainside vineyards are cool enough to give this almost concentrated wine the necessary balance and the final smoothness. Excellent wine.
Mare Postup 2007
Unlike Bura, Mare did not manage to stop the high level of sugar in the grapes, so part of the sugars remained in the wine, making it a bit sweetish. But at the same time the aromas are uniquely nice and intense. Dry figs, prunes and walnuts prevail. Beautiful wine. It is not a wine meant to be paired with food, but a glass or two of this sweet nectar at the close of the day makes an unforgettable experience.
Saints Hills Dingač 2008
This wine has not yet reached the market, but it is already on the way to become one of the best. It has a beautiful smell of pure Dingač aromas, like prunes, baked cherries and traces of dried figs mixed with finely balanced oak notes. The taste is extraordinary, incredibly mature for such an early vintage, amazingly balanced, rich and delicious, with tamed tannins, and in the end, despite its obvious strength, adequately soft and smooth.
Note from the Editor: Wines of Croatia is now accepting pre-orders for the Plavac Mali book. Limited quantities will be available in the U.S. in September 2010 – exclusively from Wines of Croatia. If you wish to reserve your copy, please email: firstname.lastname@example.org. Price: $35 (includes USPS Priority shipping to addresses in the U.S.; additional shipping costs will apply to addresses outside the U.S.)