We always love to visit Carić winery, not just for their excellent wines, but also for the friendly chat and a chance to catch up with owners Ivana and Ivo Carić. Theirs is a small, family run operation with a growing reputation both within Croatia and internationally – in fact their Bogdanjuša wine was recently featured in Saveur magazine, which was very exciting!
The winery is based in Svirče, though like other Hvar winemakers, their vineyards are in small parcels scattered around the various different terrains of the island. So white varieties are grown on the flat agricultural plain between Stari Grad and Jelsa, while red is grown in the terraces around Svirče or on the steep south facing slopes above the beaches of Zavala and Ivan Dolac.
Before our tour of the vineyards, we were invited to lunch at the winery’s unofficial hospitality suite – that is, Konoba Kod None in Svirče! Winemaker Ivo Carić enjoys cooking, and he’s rather good at it, having run his own restaurant before giving it up to concentrate on making wine. Wife Ivana is the Marketing Director, and the current President of the Hvar Winemakers’ Association.
Our lunch started with a Kod None speciality – Pogača stuffed with onion and anchovies, and we also enjoyed a very tasty Black Risotto, made with cuttlefish ink. Pogača might be thought of as a doubled-over pizza, in a similar way to a calzone.
Next came the selection of grilled fish, served with blitva – potatoes cooked with swiss chard and lashings of garlic and olive oil. The Mediterranean diet is a UNESCO protected cultural heritage, and justifiably so! Along with the magnificent spread, we enjoyed a glass or two of Carić wine. The lunch and tour was in honour of Michael Newsome and Eric Danch, the team from Blue Danube Wine, the company that imports Carić wines into the United States. The idea was to give them the story behind the wines, and an understanding of where they’re grown.
Carić wines are proudly based on local, indigenous varieties.
Bogdanjuša – translation: God-given – is a single varietal white wine, very light and pleasant. Only grown on the island of Hvar in vineyards on the Stari Grad plain. Available in the USA from Blue Danube Wine.
Cesarica – translation: Empress is a play on the name Carić which means little Emperor – a white blend of local varieties bogdanjuša, pošip, maraština and parč grown in vineyards on the Stari Grad plain.
Rośe Marino – a pun on Rosemary and Rose Marine – is a traditional opolo or rośe wine from the terraced vineyards around the village of Svirče. It’s a blend of Plavac Mali and the very local Hvar varietal Darnekuša.
Jubo’v – a reference to their son Ljubo and ljubav, meaning love – is a blend of Plavac Mali and Merlot, also grown in the terraces above Svirče.
Plovac Ploški – is the local dialect for Plavac Plaže, meaning Beach Plavac – their premium single varietal Plavac Mali from the southern vineyards, which are referred to as the “South Beaches” of Hvar. Two versions exist: the blue label, and the barrique version with a brown label. The blue label Plovac Ploški is available in the United States from Blue Danube Wine.
After the lunch, we went on a tour of the vineyards. The village of Svirče is set amongst terraced vineyards in a very pretty valley just where the terrain rises up towards the mountain range that is the backbone of this island. At the edge of the village is the remarkable rocky vineyard full of twisty old vines belonging to Boris Carić, who supplies some of the grapes for the Carić wines. We photographed this amazing vineyard back in January, when the vines were all neatly trimmed – but look at it now! Fresh growth, lovely green leaves and stems with new buds! It has a way to go, but the recent wet weather should help the vines develop.
There are more vineyards above us, and Ivana points out which parcels are theirs. Young vines on these slopes need watered in the hottest months, when it doesn’t rain. As they mature, they’ll put down deep roots and not require any extra irrigation.
Carić have vineyards low down near Zavala, and higher up towards Ivan Dolac. You get a real feeling for how much hard work and running around is involved in cultivating small pieces of land on these steep slopes. No tractors or automated machinery here, it’s all intensive manual labour.
The very best Hvar wines are grown on these south beaches, with the protective mountain behind, and the sea reflecting the sun’s heat from below. It’s a very similar environment to the vineyards of Dingač and Postup on the Pelješac peninsula. The names here to look for are Zavala, Ivan Dolac, and Sveta Nedjelja.
After admiring the sheer effort involved in tending these vineyards, Ivana took us to visit a small chapel in Ivan Dolac. Above the door is a plaque with a moving supplication to the Virgin Mary for her help in preventing the vines from dying. The year was 1901, and phyloxera had arrived in Zadar, on its way to wiping out the vines and livelihoods all down the coast. Very emotional.
From Ivan Dolac, we followed the road down to Sveta Nedjelja, for a look up at the amazing steep vineyards tucked under the rock face. For the spectacular view from above, take a look at this photo taken by Ivana Carić on a rather sunnier day, of Ivo working in the vineyards!
You can find out more about these wonderful Carić wines from Hvar here: