What We Have Been Drinking in Croatia

I just got back from a vacation with my family where we spent the better part of last week in Split, Croatia. Since it was the first time along the Dalmatian Coast for all of us, we took in a lot of the tourist attractions, but we still had a bit of time to do as the Dalmatians do and drink a little bit of wine. Here were some of the wines we tried:

Tomac Le Diplomat Extra Brut, Plešivica, Croatia: 390 kuna ($60 restaurant) and 120 kuna ($18.50 retail). 80% Chardonnay, 20% Plavac Žuti. On our first night in Split, Croatia, we all woke at 9:00 from a four-hour nap starving and a bit cranky. We wandered the unfamiliar town for a bit before deciding on an outdoor table at a restaurant not too far from our VRBO. Within moments of sitting down, we were besieged by what must have been an entire colony of mosquitoes since we all started smacking our bare legs mercilessly. While it was a bit pricey, we tend to sparkling wines at times of trouble and this was entirely pleasant. This wine comes from the Plešivica region just outside of the capital, Zagreb, and it is known for its sparkling wines and Pinot Noir. Bright and citrusy nose, quite clean and precise. Those traits follow through on the palate. Not sure it’s “worth” the rather hefty tariff we paid at the restaurant but it was a bright spot and a great way to start our stay in Dalmatia. I was surprised, though, the following day when we found this in the tiny grocery store in the middle of town for less than a third of what we paid the night before. It is good to know that the practice of restaurants marking up wines 300%+ exists in other countries besides the U.S. (there really needs to be a sarcastic font). Very Good to Excellent. 88-90 Points.

Stina Godiment Pjenušavo Extra Brut Jako Vino, Brač, Croatia: Retail: 79 kuna (about $12). Pošip, Vugava, Chardonnay, Viognier. On our second day in Split, we found the tiny Sparr grocery store in the middle of town, which had a limited wine section with only two local sparklers. This one comes from Brač, an island just off the coast of Split and includes perhaps the most widely grown Croatian grapes, Pošip, and one of the rarer white grapes, Vugava, which is only grown on the island of Vis (which we would visit in a couple of days). Light straw in the glass with a heavy dose of pear on the nose. Tart and angular on the palate with an intense minerality. Completely dry and delightful but lacking a bit of depth. A great wine to drink while playing Diplomacy since the game requires as much attention as possible. Very Good. 87-89 Points. 

2018 Stina Godiment Cuvée Vina Brač White Blend, Croatia: 180 kuna ($28 restaurant). Pošip, Vugova, Chardonnay.  Since we had some modest success with the sparkling wine the previous night, I opted for the still version (more or less) at another restaurant right next to our apartment (there are a ton of seemingly good restaurants in the old town area of Split). Green apple and pear on the otherwise flinty nose. Tart and spunky with a bit of body on the mid-palate. This has a healthy dose (according to the waiter) of Vugova, which is only grown, as far as he knew, on the islands of Brač and Vis, just off the coast of Split. That was good enough for me to order it, so I guess he did his job. The kids were exhausted, the wife was exasperated and I was excited. For the most part it was what I expected: straight and to the point with good fruit flavors, a dash of acidity, and a nice finish, which was far more than I got from the boys. Good to Very Good. 86-88 Points.

2018 Sagul Rosé Pelješac, Dalmacija: 190 kuna ($29 restaurant). 100% Plavac Mali. We had just returned from an all-day trip to Dubrovnik, which fulfilled a nearly life-long desire of mine, but rendered us all exhausted. We were able to squeeze into the restaurant practically adjacent to our apartment, which specializes in local cuisine. This, a “local” wine, made from the most common Croatian red variety, which seemed to fit. Fairly dark for a rosé with a rather odd combination of strawberry and rose-scented candle wax. Or an artificial potpourri, the kind of aromas that emit from your grandma’s bathroom before, well, you know. The palate is equally odd (but not necessarily bad, just different) with nice fruit, yes, but also a slightly odd medicinal aspect. Although odd, it grew on me. At least a bit. I think. Good to Very Good. 86-88 Points.

2017 Rak Maraština, Sjeverna Dalmacija, Croatia: 280 kuna ($43 restaurant). 100% Maraština. After a tough day of kayaking in the Adriatic Sea, we got the kids a slice of pizza, locked them into the apartment, and headed to a wine bar that I had been wanting to try since we arrived in Split. According to the waiter, this is made by a father and son team who do everything from growing to bottling in the town of Šibenik, about an hour north of Split, along the coast. They produce three wines (red, white, rosé) with very limited distribution. The nose is reminiscent of a stainless Chard from Southern Burgundy or perhaps a (mostly) unoaked Chard from the Central Coast of California. Sweet tree fruit (pear, peach) with another note I just can’t place. Hazelnut? Marzipan? I’m not sure, but the lounge singer is not helping; she’s powering through several sultry covers. The palate is exciting, enticing, even electric. Racy acidity, reserved fruit, that nuttiness that was impossible to describe on the nose. Really close to a whoa even before you add in the ambiance, context, externalities. Excellent. 90-92 Points. 

Ivančić Griffin Dark Side, Plešivica, Croatia: 480 kuna ($74 restaurant). 100% Portugizec. It was our last night in Split, after a day on the beautiful island of Vis. We were exhausted, but we needed to clean the apartment, pack, get the kids in the shower, and find them something to eat. Ugh. We also had to organize a taxi for our departure the following morning. At. Four. Thirty. In. The. Morning. So we decided on a bit of a celebration and a small splurge on this wine that is the only red sparkling wine made from Portugizec in the world (as far as I know). We had seen wines from this producer from the inland area near Zagreb, the capital, but had not tried any. This is a bit special as it is Zero Dosage and a brilliant ruby color. In fact, it might be even darker than that. Dark berry marmalade fruit and I could swear there are hints of chocolate (but my wife disagrees). Fruity and full-bodied. Really full-bodied. With all that fruit it comes off a little fruit-juicy but it is really tasty, and not for the shy—this will challenge your preconceptions about sparkling wine. Excellent. 91-93 Points. 

About the drunken cyclist

I have been an occasional cycling tour guide in Europe for the past 20 years, visiting most of the wine regions of France. Through this "job" I developed a love for wine and the stories that often accompany the pulling of a cork. I live in Houston with my lovely wife and two wonderful sons.
This entry was posted in Chardonnay, Maraština, Plavac Žuti, Plešivica, Portugizec, Pošip, Viognier, Vugova, Wine. Bookmark the permalink.

1 Response to What We Have Been Drinking in Croatia

  1. Dr B says:

    It takes a lot of knowledge and inside information to a valid being ripped off by restaurants. This is why I like France, away from the big cities, most wines are “local” and priced at often only 50% markup. A year ago we were hunting for a very special bottle of Chablis in the village itself that we know costs only about €45 from the winemaker. We couldn’t get one so ….. booked dinner in a local restaurant and paid ….. €70 for a bottle. Local power!


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