One of the finest wine-tasting experiences on the island of Hvar has got to be the magical cellars of Ivo Duboković. The outside world is suspended, as you step down into his konoba, piled high with barrels and casks on all sides. This is a working winery, where it all happens.
Tucked into a corner is a table, set with tablecloth, candelabra and dishes of bread and cheese. The wines have already been decanted for a couple of hours or so to be ready for us. It’s all very thoughtfully put together, including his personal selection of music to accompany the wines. We settle down to listen to one of Croatia’s most innovative winemakers tell us the story of how he makes his wines.
The Duboković family has been making wine for centuries, and it’s this experience that Ivo draws on for his inspiration. How did his father and grandfather make their white wine that was still so enjoyable after 14 years or so – longer than you would normally expect for a white. What was their process? Of course the answer was simply “the usual way”!
Recreating the same qualities in new wine takes experimentation and time. An artist can paint a picture in a few days or maybe months, but a winemaker must wait several years to find out what’s worked, and what hasn’t. So Ivo’s cellars contain many versions of trials for each year, grape variety, barrel type, etc, etc. In amongst pouring his released wines, he’ll give you a taste of something different, for example the same wine aged in acacia, as opposed to oak.
Here are the current released Duboković wines
Moja B – single varietal Bogdanjuša, macerated for 3 days gives a more full-bodied version than most!
Moja M – single varietal Maraština is very different kind of white that if you closed your eyes you’d swear was red wine.
Moj Otok – translation: My Island – is a blend of white varietals indigenous to Hvar: Maraština, Bogdanjuša and Kuč
No. 11 – a rather lovely rosé from Plavac Mali in the dry, Provence style
Laganini – single varietal Darnekuša, one of only two that I know about, and very different from the Plančić version. This is much softer and more laid-back, and was a featured wine in the recent Dalmatian fjaka tasting!
2718 Sati sunce u boci – or 2718 Hours of Sun in a Bottle, which is the average hours of sunshine per year on Hvar that go to make the wine. A very drinkable, fresh Plavac Mali
Prije 6009 Godina – or 6009 Years Ago, which is inspired by the oldest-known depiction of a boat on a piece of pottery, found in Grapčeva šplija on Hvar. Dated to 4,000 years BC, the image appears on the wine label, first bottled in 2009.
Medvjedica – made from Plavac Mali grapes grown on the southern slopes. The name means a female sea lion, and Ivo compares this wine to a woman emerging out of the sea
Medvid – top of the range Plavac Mali, using grapes from the south slopes, and aged in oak casks. According to Ivo, this is now the woman all dressed up for dinner!
Prvi Poljubac – First Kiss – this dessert wine is a traditional prošek that is just sublime.
Don Petar – a red dessert wine made from Plavac Mali, another traditional prošek that pairs wonderfully well with chocolate.
The stories that go with the wines are fascinating. It’s a very special experience, hearing the winemakers personal vision. Ivo credits his cousin and Master of Wine, Ivan Barbić, as an major inspiration and mentor to his own process. And Ivo’s wines really are something special. As he says himself, the wine should be allowed to express its own character, not “photoshopped” into something different. He believes in the natural process, using organic products for the best tasting wines. As yet largely unknown outside of Croatia, they are served in all the best restaurants here. Artisanal wines made in small quantities, they are very exclusive and well worth seeking out.
The Grand Cro organization consists of Croatia’s premium wine estates, with some very well-known wineries: Bibich, Bolfan, Saints Hills, Korta Katarina, Meneghetti, Roxanich, Boškinac, Bakovic… and Duboković. What a fine set of wines! Their brochure is a stylish passport with winery stamps and space for notes. Great idea!
But Duboković doesn’t just make wine – he now has a wonderful range of premium olive oils. Our favourites are the rosemary and the basil, not forgetting the wonderful chilli olive oil.
And then there is the rose liqueur, traditionally made with layers of rose petals and sugar. In Ivo’s case, he must have a really big rose garden, what a superb jar of rose petals!
To find out more, check out the Duboković Wine facebook page