In the center of Orahovica, far from the eyes of visitors, there is a massive green gate. Almost invisible under the green vegetation, they require an equally massive key held by the chief oenologist of PP Orahovica, Luka Radiček. The door to the wine cellar opens, where some of the best Slavonian wines mature in the shade and darkness. This basement was built by Martin pl. Nagy back in 1894. Enjoying and getting to know PP Orahovica's wines were done in the main cellar, which is located at the very entrance to this Slavonian town at the foot of Papuk. We were delighted with the offer of this winery, which spread the word about Orahovica throughout Croatia.
PP Orahovica cultivates 175 hectares of vineyards, with another 20 hectares from where the grapes are purchased. The main variety is Graševina, the most essential Slavonian wine sort, which accounts for over 50% of vineyards. Along with Graševina, the main products are Silvanac and Frankovka. For the winery PP Orahovica, Silvanac is a specialty, which is grown in the micro-locality of Orahovica and nowhere else in the region. Frankovka was domesticated on the northern slopes of Papuk and is also a feature of this terroir.
Annually, about one million and three hundred thousand kilos of grapes, or about one million liters of wine, are produced here. It makes PP Orahovica among the ten largest wineries, and Luka reveals to us that they like to call themselves "big among the small and small among the big." The harvest starts with Pinot Gris as the earliest variety, followed by Chardonnay and Sauvignon, and everything happens at the end of August. For years, it has been moving very early in the harvest, a consequence of climate change. The tastes of the market must also adapt to this, where wines with high alcohol and low acids are no longer sought after, but vice versa. That is why the wines in PP Orahovica are fresh, light, and drinkable, but there is also an assortment of stronger and serious wines.
In addition to three presses that hold 50 tons of grapes, in the yard of the winery, you can see tanks for maceration of red wines, although one can also do cold maceration for Sauvignon and Pinot Gris. There are tall tanks in the cellar where the whole wine story is created, some in older tanks, some in new tanks acquired in 2011, and premium wines mature. The entire fermentation and temperature are controlled, and in addition to this cellar, part of the wine also matures in wooden barrels in the old city wine cellar.
Every year, Luka uses his excellent oenological knowledge to try something new with a smaller amount of wine. If this game succeeds, a new product may come to life. You can definitely see the influence of the harvest year, so the wines from 2021 are lighter and fresher due to the cold autumn. These wines are in demand today and can be drunk even in the summer heat. As PP Orahovica strives to offer more and more wine to restaurateurs, wines that can be drunk in slightly larger quantities are needed. High temperatures in 2022 do not precisely promise such wines, but those with higher alcohol.
Our wine story in PP Orahovica began with Rose Martin Albus 2021, made from Frankovka. The wine was awarded bronze at Decanter 2022, among the five best-rated Roses from Croatia. Rose has a delicate color that is obtained after a short and cold maceration, and it can be seen on terrace tables from Easter onwards. It is a real refreshment in summer; it has a seductive fruity taste and a slight smell of wild strawberry. "The finish of this rosé is unusual, and instead of a strong end, there is softness and creaminess," says Luka, and this is precisely why this rosé has become a favorite in restaurants, as it can be well paired with appetizers or lighter fish dishes.
Martin Albus is a wine line that was launched in 2021 to make wine specifically for the hospitality industry. This unique line is extremely important for creating good connections between producers and restaurateurs who will not have to come up with reasons why they pour supermarket wines in leading restaurants. Contrary to many opinions, Martin Albus is not a given name, nor is he related to Albus Dumbledore. These are actually two locations of the vineyard. Martin is 20 hectares of Silvanc and Frankovka, a young plantation coming into full harvest these years. Albus is a much smaller location of 5 hectares, where Sauvignon, Pinot Sivi, and Graševina are planted. PP Orahovica intends to increasingly abandon the basic wine offer (which used to be called quality wine) and turn to the premium offer, i.e., top quality wines. Playing with styles and layering is precisely Luka's job, who will get a bigger space for oenological adventures next year.
Premium Graševina 2021 from the Albus position received excellent responses from the market and won the Golden Award of the Graševina Festival in Kutjevo. Although it is not part of the Martin Albus line, Luka believes it has great potential so that restaurateurs may get Graševina as an exclusive offer in their restaurants. Large amounts of Graševina vineyards are being cleared, and Luka thinks that in a few years, we will see the replanting of this number one continental variety. It is used to create base wines, premium wines, to predicate wines, so Graševina is a highly valued and adaptable variety. In addition, the Croatian Graševina gives excellent results in the international field as well. This Graševina is floral and fruity, somewhat creamy, with a pleasant freshness and harmonious impression.
The most famous wine of PP Orahovica is certainly Silvanac zeleni. The pride of all positions and the best expression of Orahovica, in general, received the prestigious designation of Original Croatian. In the past, this wine won many awards at Decanter, Interwine, and other well-known wine evaluations. At the Concours Mondial in Brussels, Silvanac 2021 received a silver award in 2022, which shows how vital Silvanac is to Orahovica. It is a bit more aromatic and mature than Graševina, nicely structured, velvety in taste, and with the aroma of ripe green apple, with a pleasant 13-13.5% alcohol content. The history of Silvanac in Croatia begins precisely in PP Orahovica. The variety was experimentally planted here in the late seventies of the 20th century because Orahovica resembled the conditions in Germany and Austria. During the former Yugoslavia, premium wines were unimportant, so the development of Silvanac as a premium wine can be traced from the 1990s and especially from the 2000s. It is a wine that can be found in every better restaurant in Croatia.
Silvanac Martin Albus is already a much more serious wine with more robust and layered characteristics. Stylistically wholly different from its famous ancestor, this wine is not dominated by an aromatic scent but by layered flavors. The first fresh taste quickly turns into firmness and richness of fruit flavors (green apple, peach, citrus). For the first time, part of this Silvanac was put into wooden barrels, and a lot is expected from this wine. In 2021, Silvanac took home the bronze award at Decanter, where it stood out with its fruity and floral aromas and actually confirmed how much Silvanac and Orahovica match and love each other.
Pinot Gris Martin Albus 2021 enchants with a hint of orange, although far less than many hyped Pinots, as a result of a short cold maceration. As Pinot Gris is appreciated above all for its aroma, this one does not lag behind those expectations either, especially in the fruity aromas of apricot. It is characterized by a complex body that plays with all the senses. This harmony and layering make Pinot Gris a valued wine on the table, with various dishes or for pure enjoyment.
Sauvignon, a variety with a hundred faces, is a fresh and aromatic wine. It is specific to Slavonia that elderberry and tropical fruit aromas are strongly noticeable. Although Martin Albus Sauvignon is inevitable in the range of aromatic wines, Orahovica does not want to create significant competition with the best producers of Sauvignon in Croatia, namely those on Međimurje. It does not mean that this excellent crisp taste cannot be enjoyed with seafood and light dishes! PP Orahovica also prepares Grand Cuvee, which will change its composition every year and thus be a surprise for true wine lovers. The varieties will always be from the Martin Albus site. We visited those locations that delight both with their natural surroundings and the traces of expert hands tending to the vineyard.
In the end, we tried another wine characteristic of Orahovica: Frankovka 2017. This wine has a beautiful cherry aroma, so it does not need the predominant taste of the wooden barrel in which it matures. It has a deep red color and an enticing fragrance. "Frankovka is perhaps the most neglected variety in Croatia because it was once a common opinion that it was a variety for mass wines. In fact, it is an enriching variety for top-quality wines and can be improved further at Frankovka", says Luka. The wine is elegant, without accentuated tannins and beautifully rounded.
Enjoying PP Orahovica wines is a unique experience, an adventure of aromatic flavors and aromas from a micro-locality that can be classified as one of the best locations in Croatia. Luka Radiček inherits the work of generations of oenologists who created new brands and tried to promote varieties such as Silvanc and Frankovka, along with the inevitable Graševina, the queen of Slavonian vineyards. All this is poured into drops of premium wine that must be tasted!