Tag Archives: Croatia

Kick-ass Croatia

I expected to find the good, the bad and the ugly in my latest wine adventure through the wilds of Slavonia in Croatia’s continental eastern half of the country.  Instead, what I found has led me to develop a new philosophy; if you can’t pronounce the grape variety, the producer or the region, the wine is probably a belter.

It was an eye opening experience; away from the well trodden tourist paths of the Mediterranean west of the country we drove through beautiful forested countryside that still bore the scars of the brutal war just 20 years before. We passed through grey communist era towns were bullet holes still pock marked the cement and mortar holes left buildings half demolished.  Quality wine production had all but ceased, first under the communist regime, and then as the country was ripped asunder by war.  In 1991 independence was declared and a number of small private wine estates began to emerge and the development of quality, passion and confidence in only twenty years has been astonishing.

They growers have generally stuck to their guns and are producing indigenous grape varieties to tremendous effect; Grasevina (white wine in dry and sweet forms), Frankovka (Blaufrankish) and Zweigelt have proven to be particular success stories.  The Croatian producers however will be facing an uphill struggle to get their wines internationally recognised.  Not because they lack the quality, but because the majority of people don’t even realise Croatia produce wine, the producer names demand an acrobatic feat from your tongue and the grape varieties sound like native folk dances.

Take my word for it and get your tongue dancing to that native tune. Some of the highlights for me were a sparkling Riesling, undisgorged and 12 years on the lees from the force of nature that is Davor Zdjelarevic; it was enough to silence even me as I languished in its beauty.  The achingly elegant red Frankovka’s from Feravino were simply gorgeous and when Ilok Cellers emerged with a bottle of 1982 Grasevina, I was embarrassed (only briefly) to find that, at the same age as me, it boasted far more complexity, finesse and freshness that I did.

The phoenix of great wine production has risen swiftly from the ashes of communism and war, emboldened by a patriotic pride in their local varieties and local talent.  It is now up to us to open our eyes and start indulging in the fruits of their labour because they really are worth hunting out.  There are currently only a handful of Croatian wines available on the UK market including the stunning wines from Vina Matosevic (Istria) and Krauthaker Winery (Slavonia).  Find them, buy them, drink them.  You won’t regret it.

– Alex

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Obscure varieties, anyone?

It’s been a while since I blogged, apologies. I am rather enjoying a blissful summer (largely sans wine geekery) and indulging my inner film geek by catching up on all the movies I missed whilst studying. I am also burdened with the glorious purpose that is my imminent wedding. So I haven’t really had that much wine related material to blog about.

Luckily, a couple of weeks ago I had an idea. Not quite a halleluya type moment, nor did any lightbulbs suddenly go off but it was a fun idea. Chatting to some fellow wine geeks on twitter about obscure grape varieties, it occured to me that it might be fun to organize some kind of tasting of discovery and taste the sort of wines that require you to pull out your copy of Grapes, the book. (if you haven’t seen it, this is Jancis Robinson’s mega encyclopedia of every single grape variety in existence…or not. )Thus it was that 11 of us brave souls met for dinner at Le Cafe Anglais (lovely food and free corkage on Mondays) to explore the world of the obscure grape varieties.

The wines brought were:
White
2012 Ortrugo Frizzante, Cantine Bonelli, Emilia Romagna, Italy
2011 Koshu Kayagatake, Grace Wine, Japan
2010 Rotgipfler, Heinrich Hartl, Thermenregion, Austria
2012 Atlantis (Assyrtiko, Aidani, Athiri), Santorini, Greece
2011 Malagousia, Gerovassiliou, Greece
2010 Pitasso Timorasso, Claudio Mariotto, Piemonte, Italy (although this was not right, sadly)
2011 Pošip, Croatia (white of the night)
2008 Haslevelu, Gabor, Tokaj, Hungary

Red
2012 Rossese, Bruna, DOC Riviera Ligure di Ponente, Italy
2010 Pineau d’Aunis ‘Rouges Gorges’, Eric Nicolas, Coteaux du Loir, France
2011 Braghe Freisa, Claudio Mariotto, Piemonte, Italy
2011 Listan Negro,’La Solana’ vino de parcela, Tenerife (red of the night)
2011 Fonte Del Re Lacrima di Morro d’Alba, Italy
2005 Alpha Estate’s Xinomavro, Greece

Sweet
2003 Candido Aleatico, Italy

Suffice to say, we all got to taste varieties we’d never heard of or tried before. I liked the first wine, Ortrugo….it’s light, spritzy, grapey. Like a mix of Torrontes and Malvasia with the freshness of a Txakoli or Vinho Verde. Lovely summer drink. The Rotgipfler (available at Waitrose) had an acacia honey nose and sherbety lemony palate, better than the ones I remember trying in Austria on the first MW course seminar! The real surprise was a lovely Pošip from Croatia. Sadly I didn’t seem to take a photo so can’t remember who it’s by! It’s an aromatic variety, upon smelling it you could be forgiven to think you’d just walked into a perfume shop: notes of jasmine, dried apples, nighttime flowers and with a spicy backbone. Yum, get some if you can find it! (and apparently you can, at Theatre of Wine)

On the red front, my Pineau d’Aunis (from the Loire) turned out to be the marmite of the night, some loved it and some didn’t. I liked its peppery, light and wild strawberry scented qualities but didn’t like it as much as the juicy Freisa (I am biased, I do love this variety and it was also mine!) and the drop dead gorgeous Listan Negro from Tenerife. The Listan Negro was my wine of the night, it had a seductive perfume of wild roses and red cherries underpinned by volcanic minerality and nice acidity. This is precisely how I like my wines. It was followed by Lacrima di Morro d’Alba, which we decided was like a red incarnation of Gewurztraminer with its rose petal pie peachy goodness. A bit of a mouthful, too. The last red was Greek and I must have been a bit tipsy at this point as instead of tasting notes I decided to practice writing the Greek alphabet just to see if my two years worth of Greek classes still amount to something. Well, I can still spell Ξινόμαυρο so that’s ok.

So, next time you’re browsing the wine isle for something different, look out for these bad boys. You may be pleasantly surprised, or have a marmite moment. Either way, never stop learning.

Lenka (Evil Monkey)

(for stockists of some of these wines, worth visiting Red Squirrel Wine, Park and BridgeTheatre of Wine, Waitrose, Marks & Sparks)