That said, I was able to try a good number of wines, mostly from the Dalmatian area. Thanks to Matthew and Charlene, who’s book was a helpful primer to the wines and to Leo F and Todd W who had some good advice.
If anyone is interested:
Here are brief notes on some of the wines I tried. Many of them I could not find in CT, and created new wines. I hope that will change as the region gains in renown.
- 2018 Krajančić Pošip - Croatia, Dalmatia, Srednja i južna Dalmacija, Korčula (8/16/2019)
One of the handful of bottles we brought back form our trip. Pear, honeydew, citrus pith, and white flowers on the nose. Mid weighted with dry extract without any heaviness. This has good lift and freshness on the palate with a sense of chalkiness. A nice balance of soil, acidity, fruit and with a bitterness on the back end that I think adds to the whole. Finishes quite long yet at the same time clean and mouthwatering. Outstanding and a terrific value. 90 (90 pts.)
- 2018 Fakin Malvazija Istarska - Croatia, Istria and Kvarner, Istra, Zapadna Istra (7/25/2019)
Citrus, pear, and white flowers on the nose. It has good texture with freshness inner florals along with nectarine and a sense of chalkiness. Finishes crisp and fresh. Overall excellent. 90 (90 pts.)
- 2018 Krajančić Pošip - Croatia, Dalmatia, Srednja i južna Dalmacija, Korčula (7/25/2019)
Bright and fresh. Higher toned than the intrada. Pear. Citrus pith and tarragon, with a really nice herbal slant. Clean and refreshing on the palate with a chalkiness I really liked. It's less serious than Inrada but I might like it more. Kind of like enjoying a fedespiel more than the corresponding smaragd. Playful and very enjoyable. Outstanding (90 pts.)
- 2018 PZ Nerica Pošip Čara - Croatia, Dalmatia, Srednja i južna Dalmacija, Korčula (7/25/2019)
Very floral on the nose, the fruit is mostly pear, and fresh squeezed peach juice on the nose. On the palate, it's fresh and a much more floral driven posit than any other I tried. Pretty and lithe for posip. Very refreshing (90 pts.)
- 2017 Vedran Kiridžija Plavac Mali - Croatia, Dalmatia, Srednja i južna Dalmacija, Pelješac (7/25/2019)
Wood and rich dark berries, spice, and dark chocolate on the nose. There is good density and balance with relatively good acidity. the is a little jaegermeister like spice to it. Well made but wood is too prominent for me. Outstanding in a too big style for me. NR for that reason.
- 2018 Antun Milina Pošip - Croatia, Dalmatia, Srednja i južna Dalmacija, Korčula (7/24/2019)
Saline citrus and pear on the nose. It's Full-ish bodied yet with excellent acidity. Plenty of dry extract, it's expansive on the palate but not heavy. Little honeydew on back end. Outstanding. (91 pts.)
- 2018 Merga Victa Pošip - Croatia, Dalmatia, Srednja i južna Dalmacija, Korčula (7/24/2019)
Pear and yellow fruits, with a nice herbal undertone. One the palate, it has great freshness and lift. Good extract and a tactile density without coming off heavy. Best posip I tried. (91 pts.)
- 2018 Jako vino Stina Godiment - Croatia, Dalmatia, Srednja i južna Dalmacija, Brač (7/24/2019)
Fresh saline and herbal nose with persimmon and passion fruit, pear, and lemon. This was weird and seems to be varietally consistent with the sparkling form the same producer and variety. There is good acidity and a sense of minerality and chalkiness. It is a pretty unique nose and fruit profile (at least to my Croatian wine novice self) that I liked more in the sparkling version. Singular and interesting more than enjoyable to me, but I have no frame of reference. (86 pts.)
- 2018 Antun Milina - Croatia, Dalmatia, Srednja i južna Dalmacija, Korčula (7/24/2019)
Broad and reductive rose, with pomegranate and red currant. It's a little out of kilter. Chalky. Drinkable but hopefully forgettable. Not great. 83 (83 pts.)
- 2018 Bire Grk - Croatia, Dalmatia, Srednja i južna Dalmacija, Korčula (7/23/2019)
At Bire Lumbarda, Korcula
Fresh citrus and white flowers on the nose. Mid weighted but with density and depth. Most of all there is a transparency and pretty to the fruit and mineral. A little sweet tart, mandarin orange, and a little bitterness like grapefruit pith that adds to the whole. Great minerality, with depth and sneaky power. Outstanding. The best wine I had on the trip. (93 pts.)
- 2015 Bire Plavac Mali Dessert - Croatia, Dalmatia, Srednja i južna Dalmacija, Korčula (7/23/2019)
AT Bire Lumbarda, Korcula
Made form very ripe grapes and then fermentation is halted with cold, leaving RS.
Dark berries, bitter chocolate and amaro on the nose.It has good acidity that retains it's freshness. Very interesting. Never had anything like it and I like it. (91 pts.)
- 2018 Zure Pošip - Croatia, Dalmatia, Srednja i južna Dalmacija, Hvar (7/23/2019)
Saline, herbal pear and citrus pith. Palate mid-plus weighted with good acidity with dried fig and pear. Chalky and with excellent dry extract. Long finish. (90 pts.)
- 2018 Bire Rosé - Croatia, Dalmatia, Srednja i južna Dalmacija (7/23/2019)
At Bire, Lumbarda Korcula
Strawberry and a little lactic note. It's crunchy, fresh, and lifted. Clean and pure. One of the best roses I tried on the trip to Croatia. (89 pts.)
- 2015 Bire Plavac Mali - Croatia, Dalmatia, Srednja i južna Dalmacija, Korčula (7/23/2019)
At Bire Lumbarda, Korcula
Wood spice and vanilla on the nose with dark berry fruits. It's structured on the palate, with ripe dark berry fruits, dark chocolate, roses, and tar Tar. Full bodied. Rich and very well made in a style I don’t like. Quite long. Would be a great hit if you love ripe Zin or Cali cab. Really well made, but not in my wheelhouse. NR for that reason.
- 2018 Krajančić Pošip Intrada - Croatia, Dalmatia, Srednja i južna Dalmacija, Korčula (7/22/2019)
A herbal and stony nose with subtle white flowers. Steely and fresh on the palate, clean and focused with lemon and pear mostly. Good mid palate density yet light. There is a softness but not to meant as fatness to the relatively broad yet light palate presence. Limestone. Chalky. Elegant. Serious wine graceful. Lovely. Oddly it reminded me a little bit of Olivier Lamy's "Princee". One of the best wines I tried during my trip. (91 pts.)
- 2018 Franc Arman Malvasia Istriana - Croatia, Istria and Kvarner, Istra, Zapadna Istra (7/21/2019)
Fresh lilacs and citrus pith on the nose, with a little savory herbal background I liked. On the palate, light to mid weight with good balance. a little bitter (that I liked) with lemon and green apple. Decent balance. Salty. (88 pts.)
- 2018 Kabola Malvazija Istarska - Croatia, Istria and Kvarner, Istra, Zapadna Istra (7/20/2019)
Fresh nose, a little herbal and aromatic, with fresh fennel, cantaloupe and honeydew, and a little sweet tart.Good texture and dry extract
Mid bodied. Quite good. Good persistence. (90 pts.)
- 2018 Adzic Graševina - Croatia, Slavonia & Danube, Slavonija, Kutjevo (7/20/2019)
Little aromatic musky nose with cantaloupe. Good dry extract, acidity and minerality, with a sense of limestone. A nice mix of soil, acid and fruit. Excellent balance. (89 pts.)
- 2018 Tomić Beleca - Croatia, Dalmatia, Srednja i južna Dalmacija, Hvar (7/19/2019)
Bright fresh and herbal with lemon, chalky Oyster shell salty feel to it. Mid bodied yet still fresh. Good acidity and dry extract. Mouthwatering finish. Great with green olives. (90 pts.)
- 2018 Kabola Rosa - Croatia, Istria and Kvarner, Istra, Zapadna Istra (7/19/2019)
Salmon color strawberry. Currant. Little floral. Good acidity and balance. Fresh fruit. Refreshing. One of the better Croatian roses I tried on the trip. (89 pts.)
- 2018 Krauthaker Graševina - Croatia, Slavonia & Danube, Slavonija, Kutjevo (7/19/2019)
On the nose, it smells fatter than it is. It's ripe and plump but simultaneously crisp with lemon pith, oyster shell, mandarin orange and tarragon. It is a little plump, but has good depth and balance. Sneaky long on back end. Pretty serious if not completely harmonious. A wine of contrasts. Very interesting. (88 pts.)
A few more that I was unable to create a new wine for in CT due to lack of enough information to create an accurate profile:
2018 Vostinic Klasnic Skrlet
Oyster shell and stony with excellent cut. Texturally a little waxy like Hunter semillon. Finished super clean and sneaky long. Mouthwatering. 88
2017 Divina Aurum Posip
A little plump, maybe better if served a little cooler. Musky. Overall, well made with good depth. Pretty well balanced. Little round around the edges but still pretty good. Would like to follow the bottle over time. 88
2018 Bogdanjusa caric
Fresh floral green apple and citrus. Soft around edges with decent balance. Little tarragon herbal background. Not bad. Perfectly serviceable if forgettable wine. 86
2018 Kabola Rosa (Istria)
Salmon color strawberry. Currant. Little floral. Good acidity and balance. Fresh fruit Refreshing. 89
2016 Tomic Plavac
Full bodied. Fruit driven with decent acidity. Dark berry. Tar. Likely the red wine I liked most during the trip.
2016 Testament Plavac
Full bodied. Powerful yet balanced. Tarry dark berry fruit. Good acidity. Another well made wine if not in my wheelhouse of preference.
NV Godiment Sparkling wine from Brac
Tokaji like nose. Candied Orange on nose, melon, redcurrants. Almost a bitters type nose. Fine bead outstanding texture. Crisp. Unusual flavor profile for me but it grows on you. Weird to me but very interesting and clearly well made.
Overall, I found the whites I tried to be well made, balanced, and inexpensive, nearly all representing terrific value. They were solidly in the B/B+ to occasional A range, but were pretty consistent. For the most part, I think at their price points they stand shoulder to shoulder with many better known wine regions in Europe. They had good acidity and soil notes, with a mix of savory and fruit, often with a saline slant that I think added to the whole. More importantly, almost without exception, they complimented the local food very well.
The wine stores seemed to be charging around 1.5 of what cellar door pricing (from the 2 wineries I visited), so extrapolating that to what I paid in stores, most of these wines were terrific values. If that was a pretty standard markup, then the most expensive ex- cellar wine I tried was about 15e.
There were plenty of wine regions I never tried, and would love to try some from more inland areas. I focused for the most part on the regions I was visiting with a couple exceptions. Happily, Istrian Malvazija was one of them.
I really liked the couple of Istrian Malvazijas I tried, and when I return to Croatia, I would like to visit Istria, and these were quite exciting to me. They were perhaps the most lifted, fragrant and lithe wines I tried. I liked the Posip I tried, most of them from Korcula. It was funny, as I read that majority of Korcula’s Posip grows in a large flat plain on Korcula. I guess all is relative in scale. One an island around 6 km x30 km, large is relative. Cara is in a beautiful small valley with rare flat land that looks over the sea which is around 2km away. A part of this valley has an amphitheater like southern exposure. It’s a rustic, tiny little hamlet with a beautiful view of the sea. Of the Posip I tried, I preferred the fresher low alcohol style in the 12,5 range, but even the ones that came in at 14+ degrees, did not taste alcoholic. The Krajancic regular Posip was an amazing value at around 10E cellar door. His Posip “Intrada” was a more serious wine, that I would like to have the opportunity to try with a few years age, as it seems to have the stuffing to age, and likely needs some.
One of the most interesting grapes I tried was Grk, and I am sure it is the rarity factor and story of Grk that made it an even better geek out wine. Grk at this point is, with very rare exception, only cultivated on the east end of Korcula (an island off the Dalmatian coast). Lumbarda is the town that Grk calls home. Lumbarda (fortunately only 5 km from the home we rented), has a rare area of sandy soil. It sounds like Grk may have been only ever grown there, or wiped out by phylloxera everywhere else, and survived in this small, atypical terroir of sandy soil. I only tried two Grk’s from there, Zure and Bire. I am not sure how many producers make Grk. Zure was very good and Bire truly outstanding. The Bire Grk was the best wine I tried all week. From what I have read, Bire seems to be the premier producer of Grk. I brought a few bottles of this home with me. His Grk is a wine I plan to pour blind amongst much more “serious wines”. I honestly believe that their rendition of Grk is a world class wine. It is not by any means among the world’s best, but it has nothing to be ashamed of being drunk alongside supposed “great” wines. I plan on pouring it blind to my group at some point. I predict it will not steal the show in a lineup of wines much more famous labels, but I predict it will end up being in the middle of the pack. The idea that it was 110 Kuna (around $16 USD) at the cellar door, I find amazing. I doubt I have had a better, more serious wine at that price in a long time. Add to that, it’s history and uniqueness, and it is one of my favorite geek out wines I have had in a long time.
I had very limited red wine exposure, and all of it was Plavic Mali. I was not seeking out red wines during the trip as it was usually 30C and we were outside eating fish or lighter food, but I did venture and try a couple. Plavic Mali is either the parent of other very close relative of Zinfandel, and evidently needs to be pretty high in sugar to reach phenolic ripeness. I am sure it is a personal preference that made me appreciate these less. They seemed to be broad shouldered, forward, high alcohol wines, often with prominent wood. A couple seemed quite well made in a style I really do not enjoy. Others were less good and I did not make TN’s on a couple of those. I think a lot of these would be big hits at a barbeque or braised meat dinner on a cold day, or if you prefer ample, forward, higher octane wines. That said, with my limited, mostly unguided sampling of these reds, I would be irresponsible to come to any conclusion about the wines. I would be just as likely to have something I didn’t like going into a wine store nearly anywhere in the world and guessing what to try with limited knowledge.
To me, what seems so interesting about the region with regards to wine is that the industry seems to be in a youthful learning and rapid growth phase. There is tremendous history here. I think one of the areas has had continuous cultivation of grapes for over 2000 years. I do not mean any of the following as political, just as it relates to wine:. The Ottoman Empire put a damper on wine production. Then things picked back up under the Hapsburg Empire, then took a devastating hit from phylloxera in the early 20th Century (a little later than much of Europe), then war. This was followed by Communism, with a pressure for higher production, lower quality varieties and vineyard practices.
Figure in that the wall fell in ’89, then several years of strife/ civil war, what has been accomplished in the last 25 years is terribly impressive. It seems like there is a lot of limestone at least in the areas I visited, and I have no doubt that there is excellent terroir. The wines, even with my limited experience there tasted were wines that conveyed a sense of their home. I also like the seeming trend, at least with the limited whites I tried, that they seem to be trying to take advantage of their freshness and acidity, and floral nature rather than pounding it with wood and aiming for extraction. This could be just my bias in what type of wine I asked to try and focused on based on my limited research and helpful book by Matt And Charlene. I am not sure about that. Anyway, I digress.
To summarize: Go to Croatia. It is beautiful. There is great history and culture. The wine seems to be very good and occasionally outstanding based on my limited exposure. Most importantly, the wines compliment the experience. I think in the end, that is what wine is supposed to do.
Thanks for reading