Malvazija from Istria is widely known in Croatia and beyond, a grape variety that has made Istria one of the best wine regions in the world. But there is also Malvasia from Dubrovnik, rooted in the Konavle vineyard, a somewhat forgotten variety that is making a comeback and taking its place among the top wines of Southern Croatia.
Malvasia from Dubrovnik is a very late variety of white grapes, which is grown in the Konavosko polje near Dubrovnik and from whose sweet grapes, if the grapes are picked at the optimal moment of maturity and the processing is carried out in an appropriate way, produces a highly alcoholic and excellent premium wine of the same name, which is grown in the area of Konavle, Dubrovnik and on the island of Korčula.
The fact that the wine of the same name is mentioned in the documents of the Republic of Dubrovnik also speaks of the long tradition of cultivation in this part of Dalmatia. Namely, in 1424, the Great and Small Council of Dubrovnik banned the sale of wine at higher than approved prices.
"Whoever violates that provision," it was written then, "let the wine he sold at a higher price, i.e. the value of his wine, be taken from him. And the innkeeper who sold it has to pay 25 perper to the Dubrovnik municipality, unless the Dubrovnik municipality allows the malvasia to be sold, then he can sell it however he likes". Mentioning the name Malvasia almost six centuries ago is a kind of interesting thing not only for Croatian wine-growing history, but also by world standards.
We talked about this variety and its wine successes with wine expert Ivo Ivaniš, who held a workshop on Malvasia from Dubrovnik at the 16th Vinocom.
Ivo Ivaniš: Few people have heard of Dubrovnik Malvasia because it is a variety that almost disappeared from Konavle until the agronomist Anđelić initiated its revitalisation in the 1970s. The Homeland War then again prevented the development of this wine variety, and in 2000, around two thousand Malvasia vines were recorded. Now the plantations have grown to about 80 thousand.
Who were the initiators of the new wine scene with Malvasia?
Ivo Ivaniš: The first vineyards were made by Crvik, and then Niko Karaman from the Faculty of Agriculture in Zagreb got involved and revitalized the variety. Between 2004 and 2005 there was a wave of vineyard planting and today in Konavle we have a dozen producers of Malvasia from Dubrovnik.
Can we connect it with Istrian Malvasia?
Ivo Ivaniš: Malvasia from Dubrovnik is not the same variety as Malvasia from Istria. It belongs to another Malvasia family, related to Malvasia from Madeira, and in Spain and Italy it is sometimes found under the name Malvasia Aromatica. It is not such a widespread variety, but it can be found throughout the Mediterranean.
Is this an obstacle for the protection of Malvasia Dubrovnik?
Ivo Ivaniš: I personally think that it is not necessary to build walls. The wine is good and you should work to maintain that quality. Protecting the name or variety alone will not make the story of a good wine. Much more should be devoted to the creation of good wines than to the protection of wine as a variety. Currently, about 60,000 bottles are produced in Konavle, which can be sold relatively easily in Croatia.
What was the idea of the workshop?
Ivo Ivaniš: I am guided by the idea of Austria, which after the debacle with antifreeze in the 1980s started a new wine story in Europe with small and expensive quantities. It is not so much the quantity that is important as spreading the story of Malvasia, so that it is heard about. The variety is very potent, from fresh to aged wines. But we know too little about her. It has only been grown in this area for about twenty years and we do not have a winery that will produce five or six annual harvests in a row. This is the way winemakers should go. We tasted sparkling wine, fresh wines, barricaded in oak barrels, macerated, orange and natural wine, which is produced using the old winemaking methods. This whole range shows what Malvasia as a variety can give.
Fotografije: Taste of Adriatic & Malvasija Karaman