Monday, July 20, 2020

Grape Spotlight: Montenegro & Herzegovina Vranac

Last October, the Embassy of Montenegro poured an excellent Plantaze Vranac ProCorde Special Reserve Dry Red Wine wine during an International Club of DC dinner. For many of us, it was the first time sampling this ancient grape that is indigenous to this relatively dry, mountainous, and Mediterranean climate. Specifically, the grapes for this wine were grown in the Podgorica subregion, Montenegrin basin of Lake Skadar - the largest lake in Southern Europe and shared with Albania. This Vranac was a dense wine with dark fruit, firm tannins, earthiness, and abundant acidity - the latter being retained by the cooler climate.  DNA  evidence also suggests that Vranac is related to Kratosija - the local synonym for Tribidrag-Crljenak Kastelanski, Primitivo and Zinfandel.

From Montenegro, Vranac spread to southward into the Macedonian Republic which has the largest plantings of this blacked skinned grape and northward into Bosnia-Herzegovina which has the third-largest planting.  In Herzegovina, plantings are clustered around Mostar which is a much hotter Mediterranean climate than Montenegro - yet Vranac is still able to retain its acidity even in warm climates. This was evident by the 2012 Wines of Illyria Vranac ($17) which resembles Italian Primitivo rather than American Zinfandel as this Black Stallion has disciplined juicy dark red fruit and layers of acidity. It finishes with a hint of bitterness and saline.  This and other Illyria wines are available on the East Coast and hopefully soon in the DC area through Siema Wines.

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