Updated: Oct 21, 2021
The summer heat swept Northern Dalmatia well when we arrived on the wine-growing slopes above Petrčane, not far from Zadar. Here today stand the Kraljevski vinogradi - Royal Vineyards, one of the successful wine stories of the Zadar region. Historically, the vineyard existed on the same slopes as early as 1072. Namely, the Croatian king Petar Krešimir IV in 1066 donated vineyards to the newly founded Benedictine monastery of St. Mary in Zadar, led by his sister, Abbess Čika, great-granddaughter of Queen Jelena and Croatian King Mihajlo Krešimir II. Her records state that a distinctive, harmonious and drinkable wine came from the area of Petrčane and Punta Skala.
Then, for Martinje in 2009, viticultural life returned here with the opening of the Kraljevski vinogradi winery, a company dedicated to plantations of exclusively original Croatian grape varieties, especially those that come from the area of Ravni Kotari. This trend is becoming more and more obvious, and especially dear to wine lovers. But the peculiarities of the Kraljevski vinogradi do not stop here. Visiting the tavern Kraljevski vinogradi, which was created to enjoy indigenous wines and a rich gastronomic offer, we discovered that this vineyard rests on a vine that grows out of stone. The berries enjoy a beautiful colour palette, from the greenery of the vine, across the blue sea, to the white stone. The vineyards offer a beautiful view of Petrčane and Zadar, as well as the islands. This is the right place to enjoy local wine varieties!
In this microclimate between Velebit and the sea, a pleasant wind always blows, which is a boon for the healthy growth of the vine. All this is reflected in the awards that Royal Vineyards receive, from a silver medal at Decanter 2017 and 2018 to a gold and silver award Mundus Vini 2018. Dedication to local varieties is explained by the director of the winery Zoran Pantalon: "Our passion for quality is woven into every drop, and the true focus on the autochthonous, ie on the three original Croatian grape varieties: Pošip, Plavac mali and Crljenak, as well as the production of top wines, are the features of this new Zadar wine-growing and winemaking house ".
An old story from Korčula says that at the end of the 19th century, the winegrower Marin Tomašić Caparin stumbled upon a wild vine between the places of Čara and Smokvica and was amazed by its strength and sweetness. The vine grew on a large pomegranate (šipak), so Caparin, remembering his surprise, called the vine pošip. Pošip will soon become one of the most popular wines in Dalmatia and will spread to all corners of the Dalmatian wine-growing karst, including the Zadar hinterland. Oenology has long revealed that Pošip has been known since the ancient Greeks, and this wine with a pronounced personality, bright golden yellow colour and greenish sheen is offered in the Kraljevski vinogradi as a top Pošip in the basic offer, and as Pošip Barrique and Pošip Prestige in a limited version.
The distinctive aroma of Pošip gives the fruity flavours of apricot and fig, it is fresh and goes perfectly with all fish dishes, shellfish and white meat. At first glance, the wine is strong, so the waiters joke with us that Pošip is like all Dalmatians: "It hits you first, but in fact they are mild in nature"! Limited Pošip Prestige lies for eight months in wooden Slavonian oak barrels of five litres, so barrique is not overemphasized and gives fruity notes and a light scent of Mediterranean herbs, with the inevitable minerality. Still, everyone will give preference to the mature and aged Pošip Barrique, which is kept for a year in an oak barrel, creating a powerful wine, fresh and with specific aromas of Pošip mixed with barrique notes.
Rose Scuro is also cultivated on Punta Skala, a drinkable and light rose that originated as a cuvee of the Plavac mali and Crljenak varieties, and mild notes of fruit and herbs create an elegant spring and summer wine that the hosts call "Dalmatia in a glass". The well-chilled Rose Scuro is great for appetizers and light meals, and is, therefore, a phenomenal summer choice. One of its "parents" is Crljenak or Tribidrag, an old Croatian autochthonous variety about which there are records from the 15th century. Unjustifiably neglected, Crljenak was nurtured for decades in hidden Dalmatian vineyards and thus survived, only to regain his old glory in modern times. Oenologists, after a sometimes heated discussion, found that Crljenak gave rise to both American zinfandel and Italian primitivo, making Dalmatia the source of some of the world's most famous wines. Crljenak of Kraljevski vinogradi is a fruity and drinkable wine of a distinct red-ruby colour, with pronounced aromas of blueberry, blackberry, plum and raspberry, with an almost mysterious taste. It is recommended with tuna, shellfish and meat dishes.
Another famous red wine of Dalmatia is the inevitable Plavac Mali. Needless to say, this is the most important Croatian red wine variety, because objectively the most famous red wines are from the vineyard of Plavac Mali, which was created by crossing the Crljenak and Dobričić varieties. Stone vineyards by the sea are the best locations for planting this vine, so it is not surprising that Punta Skala is an excellent terroir of this wine. The deep ruby colour and with an accentuated aroma hint at a rich and heavy wine, but the surprise is in its drinkability, balanced tannins, and aromas of ripe cherries and plums. A great wine for meat dishes, but also fish, crabs and shellfish!
As a sweet finish, we also tasted Muscat, which is characterized by a divine scent and light sweetness. The straw-yellow wine gives a pronounced taste with floral aromas and ripe muscat grapes. The harmony of this wine from the rocky ground is manifested in the proudof the hosts that call it liquid poetry in a bottle.
All wines have been brought to a climax here, and this is what the chief oenologist Dean Crnošija says: "Our orientation towards the top and prestigious wines has proved to be justified and confirmed at regional competitions where we have achieved flattering championship wine titles. " Indeed, the combination of stone, sea and sun, wind from Velebit and the Adriatic, all wrapped in the Croatian medieval viticultural heritage, makes these vineyards - royal!
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