Monday, September 17, 2018

Do You Know Your Croatian Grape Varieties?

I'm less familiar with Croatian grape varieties as I am with Hungarian, but this last trip to Hrvatska expanded my knowledge. Like Hungary, Croatia has a long wine tradition dating back to pre-Roman periods with many wins favored by nobility throughout Europe. Here is a subset of Croatian grape varieties to start your studies.

Crljenak Kaštelanski (Tribidrag) (r)
Crljenak Kaštelanski was an almost extinct Dalmatian grape varietal until DNA fingerprinting revealed that it was an exact DNA match to both Zinfandel and the Italian grape Primitivo. It was once the most dominant red grape in Dalmatia with written records reaching back to the 15th century but susceptibility to disease lead to its decline. Yet after the DNA match the grape is being replanted with the advantages of ripening early and needs less sun than its child Plavac Mali (plus produces less tannins). Try the Dubrovački Podrumi Crljenak Kaštelanski.

Plavac Mali (r)
Grown throughout Dalmatia as a replacement to the disease ridden Crljenak Kaštelanski and now the most important red wine grape in Croatia. Plavac means blue, and Mali means small but this offspring of Crljenak Kaštelanski and Dobričić packs a punch with cherry flavors, spice, and tannins. The high alcohol and acidity lead to solid aging potential as in the Plavac Mali wines from Miloš Winery.

Graševina (w)
Although not indigenous to Croatia, Graševina (Welschriesling, Olascsrizling in Hungary, and Laški Rizling in Slovenia) is the most widely planted wine grape - particularly in Slavonia where it thrives on cooler soils and a continental climate. It is intended to be consumed young and shows its popularity and the Croatian equivalent of boxed wine. However for those producers producing a deeper style, minerality replaces some of the fruity and flowery characters with the remaining crisp acidity. The Krauthaker Graševina Mitrovac was one we discovered. There's also the Adžić Winery Graševina available in the U.S.

Malvasia Istriana (w)
Malvazija (Malvasia in Italian) comes from the Istria peninsula and is known for creating intense wines that can be drunk young like a fresh Sauvignon Blanc or barrel aged for a more complex style. One of these with excellent minerality is the Piquentum Malvazija Blanc.

Debit (w)
Debit grows best in the central and north coast of Croatia and is characterized by golden yellow grapes that provide green apple flavors and abundant citric acidity. Try the Bibich Winery Debit

Pošip (w)
A popular grape coming from Dalmatia and associated with islands of Hvar and Korčula. These wines are flavorful, rich and textured with strong aromas and refreshing notes. Toreta Winery is a large producer of this grape.

Babić (r)
Babić are blue wine grapes grown mostly in Dalmatia. These are full bodied wines featuring dark berries, plums, and figs, as well as distinct spices. The Bibich R6 Riserva blend is a great example.

Bogdanuša (w)
This grape is native to the island of Hvar in Central Dalmatia, translates to “a godsend”, and is traditionally drunk during religious festivals. The Carić Vina is the only version of this wine exported to the U.S.

Dobričić (r)
This grape is from the island of Šolta (near Split) and with Crljenak Kaštelanski is the other parent of Plavac Mali. The grapes are extremely dark red and creates a purple wine -- sometimes called “the darkest wine of Dalmatia”. The grapes do not produce much sugar so varietal wines are low in alcohol as well as extremely low in acids. But be prepared for a tannic tail to create s bitter sour cherry finish. While visiting Šolta stop by Agroturizam Kaštelanac to taste different styles of Dobričić.

Vrbnička Žlahtina (w)
Vrbnička Žlahtina is mostly grown on the island of Krk, the largest of Croatia’s 1000+ islands, and benefits from colder climates. It produces light, refreshing white wines with floral and white fruit aromas. Try the Šipun Žlahtina.

Teran (r)
Up until a century ago, this grape was the most widely planted in Istria. In best of times the wine is "ruby-red, almost purple wine of a typical, fruity aroma that is easy to recognize, and has hints of berries and pepper, unusually high acidity and high tannins and not too high alcohol content: 12 – 13%". Good luck finding it outside of Istria since there is an EU dispute with Slovenia over naming rights.

Dingač (r)
Dingač is not a grape but a Plavac Mali wine produced in the Pelješac sub-region of the Middle and South Dalmatia wine growing region. Its included here because there can be some confusion on its definition.
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