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article imageHvar wines: Plavac Mali 'could unite China and Russia'

By Paul Bradbury     Jan 16, 2012 in Travel
Hvar - A Chinese visitor to Croatia's premier island and the planting of new vines on Hvar's fabled southern slopes opens the latest chapter in its rich 2,400 year wine history
The latest installment in the fascinating story of the emergence of Croatian wines on the international stage involves a prominent Chinese businessman, an elite group of wine enthusiasts from Zagreb, and the planting of an organic vineyard in one of the premier wine-producing regions in the country - the southern slopes of the island of Hvar - according to a report in regional daily Slobodna Dalmacija on January 15, 2012.
Croatian drinks for the Chinese market
The Chinese businessman was Zhang Zhuben, vice president of Tadee Holding Group, which recently signed a 1.5 million Euro agreement with leading Croatian drinks company Badel 1862, to bring Croatian alcoholic drinks into the domestic Chinese market. The initial agreement, which was described as more symbolic than of material worth by Minister of Economy Radimir Cacic, opens the door to a potentially lucrative market for Croatian vintners - Chinese wine consumption is growing at 50% a year.
Accompanied by Badel General Director Srdjan Orbe, Zhang Zhuben visited the island of Hvar - named by Lonely Planet as its number 5 destination for 2012 - last week, and his trip included a stop at the Svirce winery, and he also performed a symbolic planting at a new vineyard at Medvid Bad, on the southern slopes between Zavala and Ivan Dolac, slopes whose vineyards also contain the grapes of the producer of Croatia's only Grand Cru, Zlatan Otok. The Chinese visitor expressed his interest in the Ivan Dolac barrique wine for Chinese domestic consumption.
The Plavac Mali Association
The elite group of wine enthusiasts is the Association Plavac Mali from Zagreb, a small but influential collection of individuals, whose prime goal is to promote the growth, marketing and knowledge of Croatia's most noble grape variety, Plavac Mali, whose ancestors include the better known Zinfandel. The exclusive group includes just twelve Croatian wine producers, four of which are from Hvar.
The vineyard in question is a unique experiment to make what could potentially be one of the world's finest wines. Local vintner Francesco Dubokovic is overseeing the project, and he explained the potential of this superbly located vineyard:
A world-class wine produced on Hvar?
"We believe that this vineyard will give excellent results, due to its outstanding terroir, and it is virgin land which has never been abused or treated The fact that the vineyard is only two hectares is not a limiting factor. Chateau Petrus is only a few hectares and is known throughout the world."
Dubokovic emphasised the excellent conditions provided by the location on Hvar, whose wine tradition dates back 2,400 years to the Ancient Greeks, and whose vineyards experience the most sun in the Adriatic. The vineyard has a 35% slope and enjoys triple insulation from the sun, rocks and sea. Some 6,000 vines have been planted in recent days, in addition to 7,000 previously.
At the end of the recent festivities, President of the Mali Plavac Association Zeljko Stipinovic spoke about the strong interest in wines from the Plavac Mali grape from China and Russia, and he was quoted as saying by Slobodna:
"Plavac mali could unite Russia and China as well as anyone else."
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