We just spent a happy couple of days exploring the latest in Croatian wines at this year’s Dalmatia Wine Expo. We’ve enjoyed going to this event since the first one in a sports hall in Makarska. It’s now a very polished conference complete with educational seminars and exhibiting winemakers, held at the Radisson Blu hotel in Split. But something seems to be missing from the buzz and crowds of previous years. In an unfortunate collision of timing, Dubrovnik now holds their Festiwine around the same dates, dividing both the exhibitors and the visitors. Will Dalmatians never learn that coordinating their efforts works for the good of everyone? But despite the lighter attendance, the quality of the seminars and of course the wine was as great as usual!
Our slightly late arrival on Friday meant that we missed out on the Perfect Match pairings, and Saša Špiranec’s guide to the potential of the top Plavac wines of the 2012 harvest. Bad timing! Instead, we explored the wine expo, noting the presence of more rosés, and sparkling wines. Last year, I think there was only one sparkling wine, and now it seems every second or third winery produces an offering in that category. My favourites were the Bolfan Centurion, and Pjenušac Grabovac. Of the rosés, I still love Suha Punta’s Opolo, 2009 – same vintage as last year and tasting great! They don’t make the rosé every year, and there’s a gap of three years til the next one.
One notable addition to DWE this year was beer from San Servolo in Istria! Himself was very pleased to try the three variations and declared them all to be excellent!
Friday evening saw the special Culinary Stars dinner with wine pairing by Bolfan wines. Being fresh off our transatlantic flight from California that day, we decided not to drive anywhere, and opted for dinner at the Caper Grill in the hotel. The culinary star here is a promising young chef called Tonči Puljić. They need a little more practice at providing vegetarian versions, but all in all, it was tasty food and beautifully presented. here’s the menu:
Adriatic oysters with passion fruit emulsion – served with Bolfan Centurion Pjenušac
St Jacques mussels, foam of parsnip & white chocolate garnished with chorizo chips – served with Bolfan Rajnski Rizling
Wild Sea Bass, green asparagus tips, beurre blanc of Dalmatian Oblica olives – served with Sauvignon Bolfan 2013
Roast quail breast, slow stewed shallots in red wine and lava dumplings – served with Bolfan Pinot Crni 2013
Valerone fruits and chocolate – served with Sauvignon Paida 2011
The next day, we spent time exploring more of the reds on offer, plus I found a couple of pošips which made me happy! Edico had a tremendous selection including Volarević, Bire, PZ Nerica and Miloš – which made up for those wineries not having a personal presence there. Really enjoyed the Milina Pošip from Smokvica, and also Toreta’s very fine Pošip, which we were already familiar with, having visited the winery last year.
While Hvar was well represented by Tomić, Vujnović and Zlatan Otok wineries, you had to look carefully for the Korčula wines, and I didn’t see any from Vis. On the positive side, it was good to see Brač with two wineries, both fairly new. Senjković is run by a young couple who are already making a name for themselves, and Stina wines are maturing nicely. Time for another trip to Brač to investigate further!
Moving back to mainland wines, we were greatly impressed by Nikša Mimica’s Kuća Sretnog Čovjeka (House of the Happy Man) winery in Omiš. What a great name for a winery! He had Pribidrag, which is the same as Zinfandel, and a mušcat ruža omiška which was very interesting. He had found some old vines which he sent to Germany to be propagated. That’s an old varietal which was mentioned by Alberto Fortis back in the 1700s when he toured the Dalmatian coast in a scientific expedition.
Further north, from the Kaštela region we had 4 wineries offering a chance to taste the original Kaštelanski Crljenak which is identical to Californian Zinfandel. The story of finding the old vines and verifying the DNA is fascinating, and the wines are rather good. Clearly, we need to spend some time in Kaštela to find out more! The wineries are: Bedalov, Krolo, Matela, and Vuina.
Continuing on up the coast, from the Šibenik – Zadar region, we had Suha Punta, Birin, the Sladić wineries, and Bibich. The grape varietals from there tend to be a little different from southern Dalmatia and we have some strong wines coming out of that region. Road trip is planned for this month – reports to follow!
Of the day’s seminars, we couldn’t miss the team from Taste of Croatia and their presentation on foreigners in Dalmatia – foreign grapes, that is! More of this seminar in a separate post.
As well as appearing with the Taste of Croatia team, Miquel Hudin also gave a comparison of Catalunya and Dalmatia as wine-growing regions. Interesting! More of that separately, too.