Updated: Feb 19, 2019
The old sommeliers of Vinodol and Krk called this wine žlahtno, meaning noble. A sip of straw-yellow and fresh delight is a definite reason why we stick to the old taverns of the clifftop town of Vrbnik, instead of swimming in the sea nearby. Žlahtina is, without a doubt, one of the best products from the island of Krk and blends perfectly with local meals. Its fresh aroma and light taste makes it excellent wine for summer.
The locals are so proud of this wine, they even have a festival dedicated to it. Every end of June and beginning of April is a time when wine cellars are packed with gastro-nomads seeking new experiences. But why the heck the festival begins in Vinodol, which is on the mainland and certainly not on the island of Krk?!
Well, there is a simple explanation. Žlahtina originates from Vinodol. No, wait… It comes from Vrbnik! No, that must be a mistake, there is an older sort of Žlahtina near Bribir… As always, when something is good, people like to boast with the originality of the product. The vine was indeed cultivated earlier in Vinodol, but the Vrbnik Žlahtina is specific, not to be found anywhere else. And when you buy it in a local store in Croatia, do check if it says “Vrbnička Žlahtina” as that notes the local terroir.
You can’t miss much, as there are only several Vrbnik Žlahtina producers in this rather small terroir: PZ Vrbnik; Katunar; Nada; Šipun; Ivan Katunar; Čubranić & Sons; Frajona. And of course, PZ Gospoja of family Toljanić. We paid them a visit: Gospoja - Lady of Žlahtina
Before Žlahtina became famous on the island, it gave fruit in Vinodol. During the 20th century, guys there didn’t care much for tradition: they’ve bought houses on the coast and started a sun-and-sea tourism business. But some resisted the trend: the arrival of Mr. Miroslav Palinkaš, who came as a war refugee from Slavonia, was a special blessing for Vinodol, a valley between mountains and sea whose name translated means simply a wine valley. He is currently the only winemaker in an ancient settlement and makes superb wines. Of course, we paid him a visit as well:
Essential part of the Žlahtina Festival is an ancient tradition of razgon. Krk is, as you have to know by now, a famous sheep island. Sheep herding is present all over Krk and razgon begins on first Sunday after the celebration of Saint Peter and Paul. Just as St. Peter sorts out sinners before the gates of Heaven, so do the shepherds sort out sheep after milking them and let them roam freely on the pasturelands.
The rest of the summer sheep live in drmun, a pastureland bounded with dry stonewalls, a specific kind of rural building in Croatia – you can wrap Earth two and half times, that is how many dry stonewalls exist in Croatia! Shepherds visit them now and then, sometimes for milking, sometimes to bring them water, and also to help sheep in giving birth to lambs. And we all know where most of this lamb finish… Indeed, Krk lamb is among the best in Croatia, with a scent of Mediterranean herbs but still having those juicy bits with fat. Don’t forget to try typical lamb stew, just as we did in tavern Ulikva in not so far away Omišalj.
Not all families had sheep, as it meant to have pastureland too. Some people had drmuns, others helped as shepherds. And they did share milk and sometimes meat. No bankers, no lawyers, plain and simple sharing. Shepherds made cheese from milk and curd. This sheep curd is a basis for the traditional povitica cake, while young sheep cheese cannot be left out from presnec. Even today, these cakes can hardly be made in an industrial way, and Žlahtina comes along in the time of razgon.
Yes, it seems quite romantic, and it is, but some traditions are still kept alive. In this God-fearing town (lots of priests and bishops stem from Vrbnik), events like St. Peter and Paul and razgon afterwards are followed with a special care. Everyone else dealing with local products, wool, and herding arrive, from other parts of Krk or even from other islands (the best way to see what competition does), and razgon finishes as a jolly good fun for tourists and even more so for the locals. Thus, don’t forget to visit Krk next summer!
Tourist Board Vrbnik Placa vrbničkog statuta 4, 51516 Vrbnik Tel/Fax: +385 51 857 479 E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org