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Hvar - the Island of Wine #Dalmatia #Croatia

Written on 06-06-2013 by Dusan Jelic, Hvar, Croatia

One of the beautiful churches on Hvar - the Island of Wine

On May 5, 2013 just after the Dalmatia Wine Expo 2013 festival in Makarska, a group of wine journalists from the region had an opportunity to visit island of Hvar. We were part of the group taking a ship from Makarska to Jelsa. The trip was designed to promote wine tourism on the Hvar Island and was masterminded by Dalmatia Wine Expo organizers and the Hvar Association of Winemakers, headed by Ivana Krstulović Carić from Vina Carić winery.

We enjoyed a slow ride over gorgeous Adriatic Sea inhaling salty scents of the crystal blue water and soaking powerful spring sunshine. The first piece of evidence about winemaking at Hvar was dated back to 384 B.C. and this is nicely displayed on the Association’s logo of Hvar - the Island of Wine.

The goal is to get acquainted with Hvar winelands, including various micro-terroirs and various wines produced on the island, primarily from the indigenous grape varieties. We were also eager to learn more about the history of winemaking including the most recent changes and a quiet yet permanent ‘wine revolution’ which results in more and more world class wines being produced on the island. We were accompanied by Siniša Matković Mikulčić from Secret Hvar agency, who is a tourist guide with the experience in wine tourism: www.secrethvar.com, Paul Bradbury from Total Hvar and Ivana Krstulović Carić - the president of the Hvar Association of Winemakers.

We arrived at Jelsa at about 10h00 and were greeted by Andro Tomić, a charismatic winemaker and a true pioneer of modern winemaking on the island. We entered his winery that from outside looked like an ordinary family home. However inside we found a winery and a barrel room neatly keeping the precious liquid. When we thought that’s all to be seen, we suddenly found ourselves in a gorgeous Roman-style tasting room. It was painstakingly made, with the utmost attention being paid to details. Candles, discreet light, stone walls, a few sculptures with the ancient motives and a few amphorae retrieved from the Adriatic Seabed. We have tasted the full range of his wines with the basic Plavac mali and in particular Caplar 2009 (blend of Cabernet Sauvignon (50%) and Plavac mali (50%)) drunk beautifully. Tomić winery Prošek was a cherry on top.

Thereafter we went to the southern slopes of the island. The most famous Plavac mali wines are made from these vineyards. Most of the vineyards are not irrigated, except when very young and if weather conditions are extremely hot. The drop irrigation may be used just to relieve vines from the stress. It is also notable that older Plavac mali vines give more or less the same quality of fruits irrespective of the weather. No other variety had adapted to the Dalmatian terroir better than Plavac mali. Plavac is the king of Dalmatia grapes! The names of these vineyards were easily remembered: Zavala, Jagodna, Fratarsko, Sveta Nedilja, Ivan Dolac…

A memorable part of the trip was a visit to a small church built in 1901 dedicated to the Virgin Mary to save the island’s vineyard from the coming three evils: phylloxera, downy and powdery mildew. In the inscription above the church’s door it was written that ‘[…] vines are dying and we wait for the destruction of people’ which clearly links the vines with the survival of the Hvar’s population. There is only one Plavac mali vineyard from 19th century that survived and still bears fruit near the village of Dol. The reason for that is a sandy soil on which it was planted. Phylloxera could not survive on the sandy soils!

Our break was staged in Ivan Dolac where the famous winemaker from Svirče Ivo Carić from Vina Carić prepared a gorgeous meal for us clearly demonstrating his passion for cooking. We enjoyed a hearty soup, tasty anchovies, fabulous black risotto, and finally barbecued tuna together with wines from Vina Carić and PZ Svirče. Eating outdoors overlooking a vast blue Adriatic Sea on the Hvar southern slopes was indeed a scene to remember!

We then headed to a winery of the great visionary from Hvar: Zlatan Plenković called Zlatan Otok. His wines are the most decorated in Croatia. We had already seen his vineyards outside Makarska on the mainland. It is virtually possible to see Adriatic Sea from every corner of that vineyard. It was supremely refreshing to see a sparkle in his eyes when talking about his initial steps, his vision and the latest development. Zlatan’s Plavac mali and Pošip are truly great wines.

Our last visit was to Duboković winery. Ivo Duboković is a famous Croatian garagiste winemaker. His vineyards are situated on the following locations: Sveti Nikola (St. Nicholas), Sjeverne Terase (Northern Terraces) and Medvid bod. He is focused on the indigenous Dalmatian varieties: Plavac mali, Darnekuša, Prč, Kuč, Bogdanuša and Maraština. We spend time in his romantic wine cellar, tasting wines and listening to calm background music. That was indeed a great finale of our trip to the Hvar - the Island of Wine!

Most memorable images from this trip are published on the facebook page of Wines of Balkans.

I would like to thank wholeheartedly Saša Špiranec, Zoran Paunović and their team from Dalmatia Wine Expo and Ivana Krstulović Carić and her team from the Hvar Winemakers Association for masterminding such a great trip!