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Dalmatian Wine Icons 2021

It was very lively in Split on October 22nd and 23rd. Organized by the association Vino Dalmacije, the best wines of Dalmatian winemakers were tasted at the fair called "Dalmatian Wine Icons 2021". Winemakers from all Dalmatian wine regions are invited to bring their best specimens in the last four to five years, which guaranteed a particularly good wine program. The festival featured selected winemakers as well as numerous experts, wine lovers and journalists, all under the baton of the head of Mediterranean Agriculture at the University of Split, president of the Vino Dalmacija association and winemaker from Primošten Dr Leo Gracin.

The first thing we noticed while touring the festival was a large amount of rosé wine. Dalmatia began to complain that Croatian Provence is on the rise of quality rosés. It used to be limited to the well-known Benkovac rosé, but today you can find many sophisticated rosés in Dalmatian cellars. Southern France and Dalmatia have a similar climate and soil so they can compete in the production of rosé wines. In the past, rosé was only made in Dalmatia as a by-product of inferior red wine, but those days were (fortunately) forgotten. But not all rosés are the same because they are not made from the same grape variety.

In northern Dalmatia, which is somehow the most similar to Provence, rosé is made from grenache and syrah, but also Plavina. In central Dalmatia it is tribidrag / kaštelanski crljenak, and then there are island rosés made of Plavac mali. So we also tried the rosé of the Ventus winery from Jelsa, from the island of Hvar. The winery, named after the wind, offers windy wine successes - Levant, Oštro, Bura, Jugo, and the rosé got the name Maestral. Just as the mistral is gentle and refreshing, so is the bounty of this rosé wine made from Plavac mali!

Around Imotski and Vrgorac there are rosé wines made from plavina and merlot, and as a certain speciality there are also Neretva rose wines, mostly related to the area around Komarna.

Here, the rosé of the Neretva Defender Cooperative, called Opus, is made from Plavac mali, with a subtle aroma that is characteristic of the Neretva Valley and why Plavac from Komarna differs from its relatives on the central Dalmatian islands or on the Pelješac peninsula.

For Dalmatia, 2021 is also a year of wine upheaval in which dry wines have won more of the brightest, gold and platinum medals than any other wine region in Central and Eastern Europe at the highest international Decanter World Wine Awards. Some of these wines could be tasted at this event as well. "Each of the exhibiting winemakers singled out only two labels from their portfolio, which they are especially proud of. It presents them and grows to visitors personally, so the concentration of the highest quality that Dalmatia possesses and quality first-hand wine information provides those interested with an unusual experience and insight into many legendary wines of the currently most successful wine region of this part of Europe, "said Leo Gracin.

One of those gold went to the Testament winery from Jadrtovac near Šibenik for Tribidrag 2018. At the festival, we tasted his Pošip Merga Victa 2020, refreshing wine with fruit and citrus aromas from Smokvica on Korčula, and Babić 2017 from Jadrtovac, which won silver at Decanter 2019 and bronze 2020, powerful wine with the aroma of ripe red cherries and spices. In general, the autochthonous wine offer of Dalmatia is proudly represented at this festival: you could taste a lot of Pošip, Plavac, Tribidrag / Crljenka and Babić, but also some smaller wines with great potential.

Babić is an autochthonous Dalmatian red wine variety in the subregions of Northern Dalmatia and the Croatian Littoral. Two types of this variety, babić veliki and babić mali differ in bunch size and quality. Babić mali has a higher ability to accumulate sugar (by about 2%) and in distinct vineyard positions such as Primošten terraces, this content can reach up to 23%. The alcohol in babić wine therefore varies, usually from 13 to 15% vol. Babić wine is blue-red in colour, full and drinkable, with pronounced originality. It appears on the market in two quality categories; as a premium wine (Primoštenski babić from the best locations of the Primošten vineyards such as the Primošten terraces, the so-called vlačice) and as a quality wine (babić from other rocky locations in the Šibenik and Primošten vineyards). Midwifery grapes produced in other vineyards, where this cultivation is temporarily allowed, contribute to the quality of the red wines with which it is paired.

Among the many midwives who found themselves among the Dalmatian icons, we were especially impressed by Livaić Babić Templar Aurum 2016 with his label. The winery from Pirovac thus remembers the Templar land around Vrana in the Zadar-Šibenik hinterland, which is a better variety for that up to babić. At the festival, Livaići stood out with their Maraština Villa 2019. The president of the Vino Dalmacija association arrived at the festival with his Babić Gracin 2016, as well as a mixture of babić and plavac mali under the innovative name Kontra. There is no counter against the midwives, nor against these success stories from Primošten!

Another midwife that should be highlighted is the one produced by the famous Dalmatian wine house Vinoplod Šibenik. With a nice new label, babić evokes the somewhat more glorious days of Vinoplod, especially after the opening of a new tasting room in Šibenik, where the bestsellers babić and debit can be tried in a pleasant atmosphere and with Dalmatian snacks. That's why we spoke with sales manager Ivica Piližot for our Youtube channel (in Croatian):

Among other participants from northern Dalmatia were: Bora wines with Pošip 2020 and Cuvee (Merlot, Syrah, Cabernet Sauvignon) 2017, as a significant winery from Posedarje with positions in Islam Latin; a well-known Boškinac who presented himself with his blend of Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot from 2016; Ker-Vin defended the colors of Ravni kotari with Glavić Martin Syrah 2018 and Cabernet Sauvignon 2017, from the position of Nadinsko blato; PZ Masvin from Polača did the same with Cabernet Sauvignon 2018 and Crljenka 2018; as well as the Škaulj winery from Benkovac with Cabenert Sauvignon 2017 and a blend of Cabernet and Merlot called Carl Gustaf 2016; Babić 2016 and Maraština 2017 were presented by Birin Winery from Vodice; The royal vineyards arrived from Petrčane with Pošip 2020 and Crljenko 2016; Ivo Matošin arrived from Primošten with Babić zero 2018 and Babić 2017; also Prgin vina with Babić mali 2016 and 2017; small varieties were defended by Ante Sladić from Skradin with his Maraština 2017 and Lasina 2018.

If we head south, we come across Kastela crljenak or tribidrag, a wine that bears many names: tribidrag, tibidrag, pribidrag, zibidrag, grbić and many more, and in the USA-California zinfandel, in Italy-Molise: primitive. By spontaneous hybridization (therefore, without human influence) with Dobričić, this lineage became one of the parents of Plavac mali. Crljenka (without the adjective Kaštela) (and only on the Dalmatian islands) are also called some other varieties, such as glavinuša, or okatac crni. In some Dalmatian vineyards it is synonymous with plavac mali. Given the latest scientific research, this practice of using the name of another cultivar should be abandoned, and thus introduce more order into viticultural terminology. In the desire and effort of California winegrowers to find out the answer to the question of where the wine variety of red grapes zinfandel came to their area, after long and thorough studies (thanks to numerous ampelographers, geneticists, historians and Californian winegrower and winemaker of Croatian origin Miljenko Mike Grgich) answer, about which more information in this lexicon is recorded under the entries zinfandel and plavac mali.

And what tribidrag, crljenak and plavac we tried in Split! Many visitors were certainly attracted by Zlatan Plava Barrique 2013, and especially their Zlatan Plavac Grand Select 2013, both top wines from Sveta Nedjelja on Hvar that enchant with tastes, aromas, and especially the peculiarity of winegrowers! Mate Volarević brought Plavac mali Gold Edition 2016 and Komena 2018 from Komarna, Plavac who are the pride of Neretva vineyards. A beautiful story comes from the island of Vis - Vislander with a warm family story of ancestors and farmers on a distant Adriatic island, a winery that named its wines by location and marked them to members of his family, and we had the opportunity to taste Vislander Tihobraće 2017 and Vislander Ljubišće 2018, Plavac of the island of Vis!

Bastijana Winery - Tomić brings from the position of Ivan Dolac the beautiful Tomić Veliki Plavac mali 2011, as well as Pošip 2020. Plavac mali Premium 2017 and Pošip sur lie 2019, two phenomenal blends of the Terra Madre winery, arrived equally from Komarna. Plavac from Bol on Brač, Majstor 2017 and Pošiš of the same name from 2019 are the pride of Stina wine. Senjković wines contributed with their blend of Plavac mali, Syrah and Cabernet Sauvignon called Dita 2016, as well as Pošip Tristec 2019. Plavac Rizman Primus 2016 and the combination of Pošip and Chardonnay 2019 presented the Rizman Winery from Klek. The phenomenal blend from the Neretva Valley is a hit by Prović Winery - dried Merlot, Plavac mali, Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon met great in Prović Pagan 2017, and Chardonnay fans could be completely amazed by the drinkability of Prović Narona 2018. Korčula's Smokvica was proud of Pošip sur lie 2017 and 2019 from Toreta winery, while Skaramuča brought the phenomenal Dingač Elegance 2016 and Pošip Elegance 2019. From nearby Lastovo, Provin winery showed its skills through Merlot 2018 and Rukatac 2019.

Pošip Čara has already become a synonym, and Nerica wines were brought to Split by Nerica Pošip 2019 and Pošip Mindel 2016. The winery with the Zagreb address, Šimunović and Szabo, did not hesitate to offer Markus Pepejuh 2017, an excellent swimmer from Dingač, as well as Babić from Podgrebena. The inevitable Hvar Hills boasted Hvar Hills Pharos Maximvs 2013, a breathtaking Plavac, but you could also enjoy their Pošip from 2019. The Grgić winery from Trstenik stood out with a really warm label, offering great Plavac mali 2018 and Pošip 2019. It was also an unavoidable wine offer of Carić from Hvar, who poured the fullness of Plavac into Veli Visko 2018, but also delighted with the blend of Bogdanuša, Maraština, Pošip and Muškar in Cesarica 2019 wine, the real pride of the Starigroj song! Finally, the well-known Blato presented itself with a blend of Syrah and Tribidaga called Notturno 2018, and Pošip 2019. Zoro Malvasija from Dubrovnik 2020 and Cabernet Sauvignon 2018 also arrived from the far south of Croatia.

It was especially interesting (and drinkable!) To taste wines from Imotski and Vrgorac! The famous Vučja draga gave the winery Grabovac the honour to present Grabovac Draga Riserva 2019, an exceptional blend of Kujundžuša, Pošip, Žilavka, Chardonnay and Sauvignon Blanc, not to mention the Blue Lake Riserva 2016 which offered a combination of Cabernet Sauvignon, Vrana Merca, Vranac !! Katich Chardonnay 2018 and Pošip 2018 arrived from Imotski polje. The wine festival in Split cannot pass without Kastela winemakers. There were a lot of traditional varieties: Crljenak 2019 from the Marina Milana winery; Posip 2020 Ivica Milana; Crljenak kaštelanski 2017 winery Krolo from Kaštel Stari as well as their Pošip 2019; Kastel Sikuli Kaštelanski Crljenak 2019 and Pošip 2020. A wonderful story of the new variety Babica comes from Kaštel Štifilić: Vuina winery offered Štafileo 2019, as well as Crljenak Štafileo 2016. Mimica Pribidrag 2016 arrived from Omiš.

And from Kaštel Sućurac came a very beautiful Crljenak kaštelanski under a name that unites the entire Kastela story: Tradition 2018 and Vlaška 2018. We spoke with the owner Matel and Dr. Leo Gracin for our Youtube channel:

Dalmatian wine icons have set up a real wine iconostasis, and now it is up to winemakers and wine lovers to continue the good habit and head towards the wonderful wines to the taste and counter of everyone!

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