Dalmacija Wine Expo: trip to Hvar
Posted on 9 May 2013
My third day in Dalmatia was a day trip to the island of Hvar. It is a beautiful location. It markets itself as the sunniest place in the Mediterranean, but it is also very verdant with lush vegetation covering the north side of the island. The southern part, hotter and more exposed, and also quite steep, is drier and more stony but still looks less arid than e.g. the Aegean islands.
Hvar was a big producer of wine in the 19th century, before the advent of phylloxera: 6,000 hectares under vine on this island 50 km long and 10 wide. Nowadays only 280 ha are cultivated. There are only 15 or so bottlers of wine, but a nice spirit of community too as all producers work together to improve the image and visibility of Hvar as a producer of good wine and a wine tourism destination.
Highlights of this tour included a stop at Ivan Dolac, a small hamlet and the island’s true grand cru. It is a spectacular location overseeing the Adriatic, with bush vines of Plavac Mali planted on really steep slopes. The soil is poor stone limestone, benefiting grape ripeness as the white stones reverberate the intense sunlight. Then we drove to northern Hvar to see a 140-year-old pre-phylloxera vineyard of Plavac on red sand. The vines look poignant, so old that they cannot support themselves. There are only 40 or so plants left. The farmer who tends these vines let us taste his amateur home-made wine from them, which other than rustic and volatile, had a remarkable vibrancy ad depth of cherry flavour to it.
We tasted proper wine at several wineries, including Carić (where I really like the white wines too, including the intense Cesarica), PZ Svirče, Tomić, and Zlatan Otok, a real Hvar institution with a reliable range of red wines.
But the real gem was a meeting with Ivo Duboković, one of Central Europe’s outstanding individualists. He produces 25K bottles a year that taste like no other wine in Dalmatia. His white wines are particularly provocative on an island with no great successes in that colour, where the local Bogdanuša grape makes wine of little presence and interest, Pošip (not really local; it comes from Korčula, a neighbouring island) is prone to excesses of ripeness and extract, while Maraština, Prč and Kuš have yet to reveal any definite individuality. Duboković takes the orange wine route by macerating his whites for 4 days, and both the Moja M[araština] and Moja B[ogdanuša] taste like Retina-displayed, glorified versions of their bland selves. However it is the Moj Otok blend, with its larger-than-life spiciness and brilliant underlying acidity, that really stole my heart. (Incidentally I wrote this wine up here two years ago without knowing the story behind it).
Duboković’s reds are, if anything, even better, starting with the tackily titled 2718 Sati Sonca [Hours of Sunshine] displaying amazingly pure amarena cherry fruitiness, while the Prije 6009 Godina [Years Ago; refers to Europe’s first neolithic drawing of a ship that was found nearby] packs in more intensity of sun-blushed tomatoes. These amazing wines come from the theoretically inferior northern vineyards while Medvjedica 2009 and Medvid 2009 are 100% Plavac wines from the hot southern coast; I can’t remember a silkier, purer, juicier 15.5%-alcohol wine. His sweeties are even more amazing: made by cooking the base wine in the guise of ancient Roman refrutum. It takes a bold man to actually cook your wine. Duboković is, in a way, the Gravner of Dalmatia: the prophet of a new reality.
Disclosure: my trip to Croatia was sponsored by the Dalmacija Wine Expo.