Updated: Feb 19, 2019
It was 1932. Already well known American actor Charlie Chaplin travelled from Vienna to Trieste, but he chose not to go through the Alpine crossings and high mountain roads. Instead, he ventured through the valleys of North-Western Croatia. Chaplin spent some time in Villa Horvat, a big house still standing in the middle of Plešivica village, where was a restaurant and a hotel. The owners, family Horvat, was buying Portugizac wine from their neighbours, the Režek family. We should be careful, though, as the European Union „teaches“ us it is not Portugizac, but Purtugizec, as the word war exists for protecting the wine. English-speaking folk names it Blauer Portugieser, and for all of you who think it is originally Portuguese wine... well, it is not. Its origins are to be found in Austria. Chaplin didn't drink much, but he liked the Režek's Portugizac, so he asked for it the next day and enjoyed it with lunch. This was written down by Mrs Vera Horvat, the last member of the Horvat family.
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Later, these testimonies came to Mrs Dragica Režek, wife of a known Plešivica's winer Damir Režek. His grandma and grand-grandma worked in Villa Horvat and thus we know Chaplin ate chicken in a sauce and had Portugizac. Aparently, Chaplin was not the only world famous person to visit the wine-growing Plešivica Hills. There are some evidences that Isidora Duncan was also here. The Režek family used the historical facts to present a new line of wine from their cellar – the Charlie Chaplin wine and the Isidor Duncan dessert wine. The area of Jastrebarsko can use the historical personalities living in this picturesque region, as there are many who were born here or dwelled in this town. Among them are politicians Vladko Maček and Ante Starčević, bishops Antun Bauer, Alojzije Stepinac and Franjo Kuharić, novelist Ivana Brlić Mažuranić, historian Tadija Smičiklas, linguist Petar Skok, etc.
But one of the biggest tradition in this region is viticulture. Plešivica wine road is now almost twenty years old, although the wine makers had their cellars open for guests long before. Most of them are situated on the Plešivica, a hill that divides the sunny southern slopes of Jastrebarsko and the northern and colder areas of Samobor. Plešivica is somewhat dull from afar, but when one enters its hills and valleys, one appreciates beatiful nature and great microclimate for grapes. It is the homeland of Portugizac, Plavec, Zelenac and Šipelj, but also benevolent region for Chardonnay, Rhine Riesling, Sauvignon, Traminer, Pinot. In recent times also several sorts of Sylvaner found its place here.
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For years, Plešivica was mostly known for Portugizac. This young red wine is a symbol of autumn and first young wine in the continental Croatia. It blends best with roasted chestnuts, gingerbread, cheese, walnuts, and homemade Jastrebarsko sweets. It was brought here by Napoleonic armies and planted by the French soldiers. Since the beginning of 19th century, Portugizac is the local wine on Plešivica. It has characteristic ruby-red colour with purple glow. Aromas remind of blackberries and is easily drinked. Besides the autumn dishes, it blends well with game dishes, roasted sausages, pork and sauerkraut. Many older generations know how jolly it was to come on Plešivica Hill and enjoy the young Portugizac and these typical dishes for large parties.
The wine growing area of Jastrebarsko had its start with the local noble family Erdödy, whose properties existed all over this region. Count Erdödy bought in 1736 the wine cellar in Mladina and the family was the owner of this legendary place until 1922, when the last count, Stjepan Erdödy, died. In the socialist Yugoslavia, the cellar was nationalised and after the Croatian independence it was bought in 1998 by the Agrokor corporation. Erdödy was the founder of serious wine production in Jastrebarsko, but the local families on Plešivica already cultivated the grapes and had vineyards on the sunniest slopes. Old sorts such as Hrvojka, Stošinec and Veselnica are today almost extinct.
Churches and chapels of Jastrebarsko region show how devoted people are to the Virgin Mary and saints connected with wine. Many churches are dedicated to Our Lady, but others bear the names of patron sains such as St. Vincent, St. Urban, St. Michael, and St. Martin. All of them are celebrated throughout the year in the vineyards and vineyard houses (klet). But the main wine festival of Jastrebarsko is the Jaska Wine Festival (Jaskanske vinske svečanosti) in September. This manifestation is used to present the wine makers and their wines, and announces the grape harvest.