Updated: Oct 12
Many do not even know that in the Zadar suburb of Diklo, known for its beautiful coast and views of the Zadar islands, there is a winery of one of the best winemakers in Northern Dalmatia, Trifun Poljak! It is secretly hidden under a beautiful holiday villa and family house, but as soon as the story of wine production starts, the size and heartiness of this place are visible. In the last ten years, Trifun Poljak has received more than a hundred awards for its wines, which is a great success for a returnee from Switzerland!
In finding the upper limit of quality, Trifun Poljak does not shy away from the expensive process in order to enjoy the production of great wine, which is the cause of numerous awards at Croatian and world wine fairs. We admire his medals and trophies displayed in the space next to the wine cellar. The 19-year-old boy from Poljaki near Nin did not expect all this when he went to St. Gallen with his future wife Rada Maria. Today, the two of them live in Diklo, proud not so much of the trophies as of their children Žana and Dejan. The kind host soon takes us to his cellar to taste the fruits of his hands which Trifun says is a Dalmatian terroir trapped in a bottle.
We try young Maraština with a great smell and taste, with an ideal acidity of six per cent. The straw-yellow wine gives elegant aromas of ripe fruit and honey. Maraština is obtained from small grapes and from sparse soil, which is why high-quality wine can be achieved. The wonderful smell of maraschino is quickly lost and after the third month, it cannot be retained. Trifun Poljak explains to us that one vine must bring at most a kilo to a kilo and a half of grapes in order to maintain quality, and through this rigour, the Poljak winery has become so successful! Otherwise, Maraština will have too much acid and too little sugar.
"Maraština is an old variety from the Zadar hinterland and it has potential, but I am quite sceptical about other renewed varieties," says Poljak, believing that these are hardy varieties and not those from which you can get top-quality wine such as Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot or other world-famous wines. Local wines have always been made in large quantities and without much possibility of controlling sugar. Our host does not tell us that these wines are not good, but they have their upper limit of quality: "It's okay to revive the tradition, it's nice and commendable, but it's hard for these wines to compete with world-renowned wines."
At Poljak's, another old-fashioned thing is planned: complete manual separation of grapes that will be kneaded with the feet. This will avoid any trace of bitter and astringent taste in the wine. And otherwise, every grape is well inspected before going into production, which is extremely rare today. Cabernet Sauvignon with a ruby dark red colour is one of the most popular top wines of Dalmatia, and it did especially well in the Benkovac-Stankovac vineyards. Trifun Poljak did not bypass it either. The strong fruity aromas of the berry enchant with all its characteristics. At first, it seems that the wine was lying in a barrel, but Poljak reveals to us that he does not use barrique because he does not want the uniformity of the wine. Nevertheless, the maintained fruitiness and harmony of taste are a testament to a well-done oenological study as well as the skill of the winemaker himself. Because of this wine, Poljak also received international awards!
"It is rare that any wine region in Europe has such a good position for red wines", praises northern Dalmatia this winemaker. All of Poljak's vineyards are on the rocky ground around Benkovac. He revealed to us why stone is so important in wine production. The stone is placed next to the vines to keep the sun's warmth overnight. The vine feeds on its sugar overnight to beat the cold, but if it already has a well-heated stone then the vine does not lose as much of its sugar. That is why Poljak does not buy grapes from vineyards in the lowlands, where there is too much moisture. The Benkovac area is great both because of the rocky soil and because of the smaller salt that the bora can bring.
The most awarded Poljak's wine is Cuvee, which is a combination of Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Syrah. We taste the 2016 harvest, with 16.4 per cent alcohol, and immediately discover the refined aromas of berries and Mediterranean herbs. Deep ruby red colour, this wine is also characterized by a dense texture. Cuvee 2015, which we try immediately after his "descendant", is a champion wine with 15.8 per cent alcohol. Even more distinctive qualities, this wine won the Grand Prix at the 11th Festival of Central and Northern Dalmatia Vinfest Benkovac 2020. It is truly an exceptional wine that every true wine lover will enjoy!
Trifun also took us to a small school of wine tasting. It reminds us how any sense can be useful for proper wine tasting. It is first used around to check the colour and clarity of the wine. Dark colours are a sign of good red wine of this region. Then the wine is turned and once or twice the wine is smelled and we think about what the smell reminds us of. Finally, the wine is tasted, but so that a little air is drawn in and a sip is left in the mouth for a few seconds. This is an easy and fun exercise that will soon exude completely new scents and flavours.
Poljak's wines are sold mostly to yachtsmen and wine lovers and in five or six top restaurants in Zadar and the surrounding area. Such wines are a rarity, both in small quantities and at a high price, so his clientele is still selected. However, Poljak is convinced that the price is never a problem for foreign guests, but they also expect high quality for that price. In addition to the tried and tested wines, Syrah and Merlot are also produced in the Poljak cellar, and when we ask him which wine is his beloved one, he answers: "These are my kids, I don't know which ones I would choose as the best, because they are all top quality!" and Trifun rightly sees Dalmatia as a place of exclusive wines for the whole world.
Krešimirova obala 105, Zadar - 23000, HR
+ 385 (0)98 9732909
Fotografije: Vina Poljak i Taste of Adriatic