Hello, wine-lovers! I’ve been invited by Charine Tan of “Exotic Wine Travel” to attend one of, if not the … Croatia’s biggest wine events – “Vinart Grand tasting“. And boy, oh boy what a treat this was!
Among the organizers is none other than Saša Špiranec, a well-known expert in the tasteful world of wine. He’s a wine critic, contributor, the author of books “A Guide to the Wines of Croatia”, “Wine Roads” and “Wines of Croatia” and co-author of “Croatian Gourmet Icons” and “Fairy Tale Flavours of Međimurje”. He’s also a judge at numerous competitions, including IWC and DWWA.
Spreading knowledge and culture
Vinart is not just a typical wine fair, one of its biggest assets are workshops, which happens for four days prior to the event, this year namely 28th and 29th of February, and 4th and 5th of March. They included vertical tastings of numerous producers from Croatia, and themed sessions of winemakers from Croatia, Slovenia, Italy and also Champagne. I’ve been lucky enough last year to join two of them.
Vinart Grand Tasting 2020 – the numbers
If I haven’t convinced you of Vinart’s grandiosity then let the numbers speak for themself. 25 workshops in 4 days, 143 winemakers & importers, 22 from Croatian Uplands, 36 from Croatian Istria, 3 from Kvarner, 33 from Dalmatia, 7 from the Croatian Danube, 10 from Slavonia, 4 importers, 6 from Slovenia, 5 from Serbia, 1 from Montenegro and 16 from Bosnia and Herzegovina.
Quite a set-up, and for me impossible to give an adequate and deserved focus to all of them …
About Croatian wine
Before touching my highlights let’s dedicate some lines to Croatian wine. In 2018 a total of 19.583 hectares of vineyard surface were registered. Approximately 640.000 HL of wine is produced, a little more than 52 % in the continental part and a little more than 47 % in the coastal region. A total of 198 vine varieties are cultivated with 125 considered to be indigenous.
The country is split into 4 wine-growing regions:
- Slavonia and the Danube
- Croatian Uplands
- Istria and Kvarner
Out of 198 registered varieties, 98 are found on the National list of recognized vine cultivars, suggested as varieties fro wines with a protected designation of origin.
Based on the data from the Agency for payment and agriculture, fisheries and rural development, the mainly grown varieties are Graševina –Welschriesling (23 %), Malvazija Istriana (8,3 %) and Plavac Mali (8,1 %). A total of 16 Croatian PDOs have been recognized so far.
Drumroll … Ladies and Gentlemen, my Vinart’s highlights
|BIRE – island of Korčula
Grk 2019 showcasing what temperature-controlled fermentation in stainless vats can express to this indigenous variety. Fine Mediterranean herbal notes, and hints of tropical fruit. Refreshing and lasting.
Grk “Defora” 2017 a fine example of eight-month Sur lie aging in a 1.000-liter oak barrel. Here’s where depth and complexity are added. Notes of wood, caramel, butterscotch, mature tropical fruit, and dried herbs. The taste is complex, soft and refreshing the palate. The lingering finish is marked by its minerality and a hint of spiciness.
|ZURE – island of Korčula
Grk “Bartul” 2019 expresses another face of Grk; intense aromas of white flowers, fresh fruit, and herbs. Fresh and mineral with a lasting aftertaste.
Grk Sur lie “Reventón” 2017 combines 11 months of Sur lie aging in Garbellotto barrels. Showcasing toasty aromas, hazelnuts, mature white and tropical fruit, butterscotch, sweet spices, and herbal notes. A play of balance on the palate in between its complex, and soft taste with its mineral and fresh signature.
Pošip 2019 with scents of white fruit, with pear, peaches gooseberries, white flowers, and wild mint. Lots of sunshine and pure Korčula taste in its mineral aftertaste.
|KRAJANČIČ – Island of Korčula
Luka Krajančičs’ is considered to vinify Pošip wines of different styles that are the epitome of this ancient variety.
Pošip Intrada 2019 represents the fresh variation of Pošip. With aromas of white fruit, white flowers, Mediterranean herbs, with a refreshing and mineral aftertaste.
Pošip Sur lie 2017 is packed with complexity, tropical fruit, honeysuckle, herbs, and sweet spices. It has a fuller body and a balanced taste.
Pošip statut 1214 2016 is named after a document describing the vegetation and life at Korčula. The wine is marked by fermentation in barrels on lees. Sweet spices, honey notes, dried apple slices, tropical fruit, citruses, and a mineral hint. Balanced and full-bodied, with elegance and persistence.
Pošip II 2016 showcases an amazing expression of a macerated Pošip. Forest honey, incense, wild mint, sage, resin, sweet spices. Incredibly complex, full-bodied and lasting, balanced aftertaste with a spicy purfle.
|SKARAMUČA – Pelješac peninsula
When thinking of Dingač, than Skaramuča is a must. Winemaking has been in the family Skaramuča for ages, but the real evolution began in 1992 when winemakers were allowed to open private winemaking business.
Pošip Skaramuča 2018 is made entirely of grapes from the island of Korčula. A fine, fruit-forward, white flowers and nuts driven Pošip.
Pošip Elegance 2018 is produced with selected grapes from Pelješac. As the name says it is marked by a distinct elegance, with aromas of mature fruit, dried Mediterranean herbs, and sweet spices.
Rose (Mali Plavac) 2019 with aromas of berries, roses, hibiscus, and peaches. Refreshing and mineral.
Plavac mali Elegance 2016 has a deep ruby red color. Aromas of sour cherries, blackberries, sweet spices, tobacco, and a hint of leather. Complex and lasting, warm.
Dingač Elegance 2015 is the culmination of Dingač, deep, dark ruby color, and dense. Intense and fruity, blackberries, marasca cherries, vanilla, chocolate, leather, and dried Mediterranean herbs. Complex and lasting palate.
Mala Nevina 2018 is a blend of Malvazija Istriana and Chardonnay, harvested from the vineyard of St. Ante close to the village of Radovani. Strawy yellow with a fruity bouquet, notes of apple, exotic fruits, white flowers, and white pepper. Freshness and minerality spike here with an elegant medium-bodied aftertaste.
Nevina 2016 the same cuvée is used as for Mala Nevina, only more care in the selection of bunches is done here and it undergoes aging in oak. Citrus start, with lime, peaches, tropical fruits, that open to honey, nuts, and herbs. Soft, fresh and mineral with a more present body and persistency of taste.
Malvazija Belaj 2018 stands for the fresh rendition of Belaj’s Malvazija. Aromas of green apple, pear, citruses, acacia. Medium-bodied, fresh and tasty.
Blend Belaj 2018 is a cuvée of 70 % Malvazija Istarska and 30 % Chardonnay. Strawy yellow, with a golden hue. Intense aromas of mature fruit, golden delicious, peach, pineapple, lemon, hints of butter, sweet spices. Softness and freshness, mineral, with a quite lasting aftertaste.
We visited this super-modern winery about a year ago. the play here is serious, wines are crafted with pinpoint precision with maximum attention to quality.
Pošip Ego by Jeličić 2019 is actually made with grapes from Korčula but vinified in Kutjevo. Citruses, peaches, pears with a nice play in between freshness and minerality in the finish.
Macerator 2015 represents a long macerated Riesling of a combination of large oak and concrete egg vinification. Whoa! Ballsy, complex, direct. Intense aromas, dried fruit, raisins, rum, sweet sices, caramel and it just keeps opening up. Full-bodied, intense and persistent, a wine to store and enjoy in a couple of years.
My first encounter with Bikicki, a small winery from Fruška Gora, was last year at the Balkan sommelier championship. Their CU blew me away, and I was happy to meet Đorđe at the fair.
Uncensored 2016 is the name of their Traminer. 7 days of maceration and 9 months of barrel aging. Intense aromas, from pears, white flowers with camomile, citruses, tea … Warm on the palate, soft and fresh, lasting with a spicy finish.
S/O 2017 represents Đorđe’s vision of Sauvignon Blanc. After 7 days of maceration, it goes into a large barrel for 6 months. A bit reserved on the nose, but on the palate, it reveals aromas of dried flowers, straw, dry white and tropical fruit, nutmeg … Quite lasting and full-bodied.
CU 2018 is the Pinot Gris that really imprinted my mind. Coppery color, dense. Intense on the nose, with mature peach, papaya, orange peel, sweet spices. Warm, fresh and lasting, with a spicy finish.
Authentic wines of this garage winery from Fruška Gora. Wines, that stylistically recall New World. Fruit driven, full-bodied, marked by refinement in oak barrels, complex … If you name your wines with the likes of ChiChardonnay, Sauvignon Blake, Pink Punk then nonconformism is assured. A must taste!
Another impressive winery from Fruška Gora, and guys what wines! Serious winemaking, focusing on producing ballsy, complex, intense and lasting wines. The Grand Trianon is a blend of Syrah, Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon and sees its twin Deux Mers which was laid to rest for 8 months in the Adriatic sea. Not to forget their Syrah, which attracts with a lipstick smacked silhuette under the name “Stiffler’s mom”. Room for immagination definitely …
Matjaž Lemut is a well-known character in the world of wine. He’s the driving force behind Modri – Les Noirs festival, and together with his team organizes this event dedicated entirely to Pinot Noir … Undoubtedly he has a love affair with this variety, but did you know that he produces also some state of the art Pinot Gris?
Pinot Gris 2019 showcases what this variety can express in the windy climate of Vipava Valley. Honeydew melon, pear, peach, lemon, and a grassy finish. A refreshing and lasting, medium-bodied wine.
Nostra 2018 stands for a blend of 50 % Pinot Gris, 25 % Sauvignon Blanc and 25 % Chardonnay. Part of this wine (30 %) undergoes aging in Slavonian barrels for six months, constantly racking the sediment. It strikes the nose with its fruitiness, aromas of apples, pears, tropical fruit, then lemon peel and buttery notes. The palate is soft and lasting, with a spicy finish.
Rubido 2017 is the Bordeaux homage … 70 % Merlot, and 30 % Cabernet Sauvignon. 2 days of cold and 8 of classical maceration, to be refined than for 16 months in a combination of Slavonian and French barriques (10 % new). It reveals intense aromas of blackberries, raspberries and marasca cherries. The wood presents in the form of carob, vanilla, cinnamon, and cloves. The taste is vibrant, tannins are accentuated but are starting to round-up. Intense and persistent, full-bodied wine, with nice aging potential.
I’ve been following this winery for years now. Verus is the result of the passionate work of three friends, that aim to produce honest, genuine wines that express the variety, vintage, and territory of the Ljutomersko – Ormoške Gorice in Slovene Styria.
Sauvignon Blanc 2019 expresses in a dense, strawy yellow with green hue colored wine. With intense aromas of green apple, gooseberries, papaya, elderflower, mint, and nettle that showcase both freshness and maturity. Rich in structure, soft, with an accentuated freshness that elevates a lasting and elegant taste. A must-try for all lovers of this variety.
Now, by all means, this doesn’t mean there weren’t other amazing wines, these are just the ones that stood in my mind. There have been some excellent examples and wineries that deserve all of the attention, and I’ll have to be on the look-out in the future for some in-depth knowing.
Some of them include Erzetič from Goriška Brda, with their Cabernet Sauvignon Amfora 2016 which first matures in oak barrels and then it goes to mature in qvevri, interesting approach but the result is incredible!
Korak winery from Plešivica with their Sur lie Chardonnay and Sauvignon.
The Grabovac winery with their Kujundžuša and tannic Trnjak.
Gracin with the finest expression of Babić.
A real jewel was also Serbia’s Temet with wines from varieties like Tamjanika, Morava, Smederevka, and Prokupac, often blended with international varieties like Chardonnay, Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, and Merlot. They stood out not just by their big, complex and intense wines but also by their well developed, minimalistic brand design. Catchy and a real treat for the palate and eyes!