The rising potential of the wines of Dalmatia came under expert international scrutiny on November 24, 2014, with the first day of a major press trip ahead of this weekend's Zagreb Vinocom wine fair, a trip attended by Digital Journal.
The three-day tour of the major winemakers of the islands of Brac and Hvar, as well as the inland Dalmatian town of Imotski, includes journalists from Croatia, Germany, Poland, Austria, Finland, Switzerland, Hungary, Russia, Spain, Luxembourg, UK, Israel, Czech Republic, Slovenia, Serbia, Denmark, Macedonia and Indonesia, with Decanter Master of Wine Angela Muir MW perhaps the most high profile member of the group.
The first port of call was the island of Brac, whose world-famous stone can be found in buildings such as The White House in Washington, and which is providing inspiration for the renaissance of the island's wine fortunes. Once literally covered in vineyards and exporting internationally before a devastating attack of phylloxera, today the island has just three professional winemakers.
Of these three, two are very new arrivals on the wine scene, and the group was introduced to the spectacular success of the young Senjkovic winery over a fine dinner at Konoba Kopacina in Dojni Humac, where Magdalena and Sasa presented their small but impressive range of wines from indigenous range, including their latest addition, a sparkling Kuc.
After an overnight stay in the tourist resort of Bol, most famous for its iconic beach, the party took a tour of the other new arrival on the Brac wine scene, Jako Vino and its range of Stina wines, which have also quickly become established as some of the premier wines in Dalmatia.
'Stina' is a traditional word for stone, and the winery's image is reflected in the rich stone tradition of Brac. The importance of stone and the harsh agricultural conditions were best reflected in the presentation of the Grabica vineyard, which has been transformed from barren wasteland of boulders and shrubbery into an impressive 50-hectare vineyard, the highest on the island, whose soil is completely covered by crushed stones. Prepared by the Jako Vino project, the vineyard is now in its fifth year and has yielded three harvests so far.
The tour continued with a visit to the Stina winery, gorgeously located on the Bol waterfront and housed in the oldest cooperative in Dalmatia, founded in 1903. The beginning of the century was a golden era for Dalmatian wines, and the Bol cooperative was a symbol of that, as Brac wines were exported all over Europe, but the arrival of phylloxera not only destroyed the wine industry almost overnight, but led to mass emigration from the region due to the ensuing economic difficulties.
The efforts of Senjkovic and Jako Vino herald a new era in Brac winemaking, and the assembled international party were clearly impressed by the emerging range of wines, which were dominated by indigenous varieties such as the white varieties of Posip and Vugava, as well as Dalmatia's most important red variety, Plavac Mali.
In addition to awards for its wines, Jako Vino has enjoyed success with its unusual label, winning awards for its blank stone canvas and embossed wine name. See the video below.
A short catamaran ride from Bol brought the party to Jelsa on the island of Hvar, an island with a wine tradition dating back more than 2,400 years to the arrival of the Ancient Greeks, and the only island in the world with 4 UNESCO heritages. Legendary Hvar winemaker Andro Tomic welcomed the group in his imperious Romanesque cellars in Jelsa, before Hvar WIne Association President Ivana Krstulovic Caric guided the journalists through a comprehensive tour of the wines of the Hvar Wine Association, including Caric, PZ Svirce, Tomic, Zlatan Otok, Marijan, Pinjata and Vujnovic, before the evening concluded with dinner at Kod None in the wine village of Svirce.
The tour continues today with visits to Hvar winemakers in Vrboska, Svirce and Sveta Nedjelja, before a return to the mainland and the town of Imotski.