Wines from Croatia
at the Wine Rack
The Stari Grad Plain, which is a UNESCO World Heritage Site on the island of Hvar, Croatia, is an agricultural landscape that was set up by the ancient Greek colonists dating back to the 4th century, and is still operating today. This makes Croatia one of the oldest wine-producing nations in the world, albeit ranking 30th in terms of volume. Croatia has two main wine regions: Continental (Kontinetalna) and Coastal (Primorska) which are made up of over 300 geographically defined wine-producing areas, and a strict classification system to ensure quality and origin. Most (67%) Croatian wine is white, 32% is red, then there is a tiny amount of rosé produced. Like many old world wine countries, Croatia has many indigenous grape varietals as well as a recent influx of French varietals.
Miljenko ‘Mike’ Grgich
Perhaps the biggest name associated with Croatian wines is the legend Mike Grgich — born Miljenko Grgic in Croatia in 1923. Grgich shot to fame when he was a winner at the Judgment of Paris 40 years ago with his 1973 Chateau Montelena Chardonnay. He returned to Croatia in 1990 and opened Grgich Vina Winery there in 1996, growing and making native Croatian varieties. Grgich was also involved in zinfandel DNA testing that showed it is genetically identical to the Croatian grape Crljenak Kastelanski. This proved his long-held belief that zinfandel’s origins are Croatian.
After former UN Executive Jamaican/Croatian Henry Thompson and his Croatian wife Ksenija settled back in Jamaica after retiring from their hectic globetrotting assignments, they wanted to create a business that would connect the two countries they love, and Crowines — Croatian Wines and Products Limited — was formed last year. Why should we be interested in Croatian wines? Great value for money,that’s why!
What we tasted
Crowines offers a range of wines from two main producers at this time — Ilocki Podrumi, one of the oldest producers, and Belje Winery (pronounced bel-yeah), the largest producer. While each winery produces wines from all the major international grapes, it is the indigenous varietals, or the homegrown versions of the noble grapes that I am always interested in tasting. Crowines has 22 wines on their price list, so I still have more tasting to do.
Graševina is the most popular white wine varietal grown and produced in the region. This wine is what some of us refer to as a chameleon grape; it can produce great wines that are dry, off-dry and sweet. When the Ilocki Podrumi Graševina hit my taste buds, all I could think about was Muscadet meets Chablis meets dry Riesling — gentle citrus, bone dry, fresh. Frankovka — a grape varietal also known as Blaufränkisch, is a spicy, lively, fruity, soft, drinkable dry red wine. We sampled one from Vina Belja made with grapes from their Baranja Vineyards. My favourite was the Vina Belje Pinot Crni Premium (Pinot Noir). It was a bit fleshier and fruitier than your typical old world wine, with a slightly intense mouthfeel and some noticeable tannins. I found the Croatian wines to be pleasant, fresh and enjoyable, and I will need to try some more shortly. Crowines has begun some work on the ground here in Jamaica, and those who have tried them have been enjoying them a great deal.
A day without wine is like a day without sunshine. - Anon
Christopher Reckord - Information Technology Entrepreneur & Wine Enthusiast. Send your questions and comments to email@example.com. You can also follow me on Facebook, Instagram @chrisreckord and on Twitter: @Reckord