The emergence of the wines of Hvar on the international stage received further endorsement on May 17, 2012, with the successful visit to the island of an influential group of wine writers and experts from Switzerland, an event covered by Digital Journal.
At the head of a delegation of 20 visitors was Othmar Stäheli
, arguably Switzerland's leading wine writer, editor of Wine & Spirits Magazine, and a board member for two decades of Expovino in Zurich, the country's largest wine fair.
The group, on a 7-day tour of the vineyards of Croatia, from Slavonia to Peljesac, arrived in Jelsa and were taken immediately to what is potentially the largest vineyard on the Mediterranean islands, a 261 hectare plot on the top of eastern Hvar, and some 4.7km in length. With 10% already under cultivation by Hvar vintner Antun Plancic, the vineyard is expected to yield 100 tonnes of grapes this year.
The group were then escorted to the eco-village of Humac, an abandoned shpeherd's village without water or electricity, where they dined in a rustic environment as Plancic introduced his range of wines, which included Croatia's most famous grape variety, Plavac Mali, a relative of Zinfandel.
The tour continued with a visit to the Romanesque tasting rooms of one of Croatia's most charismatic vintners, Andro Tomic, who welcomed the group in flawless French, before inviting them to taste his Opolo Rose.
"Congratulations on such an excellent rose," Stäheli told Tomic in French, before requesting a second glass to savour the wine once more. "I never expected to find such a high quality rose in Croatia."
The group moved on for a tour of Hvar Town and a visit to the island's leading vintner, Zlatan Plenkovic in Sveta Nedjelja before continuing their journey to the neighbouring island of Korcula, and Digital Journal caught up with Stäheli for a quick chat in German before he left.
His overall impression of Croatian wines was extremely positive, with various pleasant surprises along the way. Indigenous white wine varieties such as Bogdanusa and Parc were of good quality, with exciting possibilities with modern technology, while the tannins of Plavac Mali and the fruit he experienced from the wines tasted clearly impressed him.
"The tannin structure of plavac mali is so good that there is no need for such high alcohol levels, and I am convinced it is possible to make a high quality Plavac Mali with an alcohol level of perhaps 13.5%."
The favourable reception of Hvar's wines by the delegation should be reflected in some positive media coverage in Switzerland shortly, as the island's wine story - a 2,400 year tradition dating back to the Ancient Greeks - finds new audiences. As previously reported by Digital Journal
, the wines of Croatia's premier island can now be found on the shelves of wine merchants of Canada, America and China. And soon, one would suspect, in Switzerland.