It’s Time to Explore the Wines of Croatia

The Wine of the Week: Plavina

by Annette Tomei

2016 Ivica Pilizota Plavina, Dalmatia, Croatia

Wine tasting is a wonderful way for the armchair traveler to experience the world. This week, it’s time to explore the wines of Croatia. Croatia is located across the Adriatic Sea from Italy. Like its neighbor, it also has a long (over 2,000 years), rich history of winemaking. Unfortunately, war and unrest in the region in the mid-late 20th century hindered the development of an export market.

Curiously, it was the popularity of Zinfandel wines that paved the way for Croatian wines into the international marketplace. In his search for the origins of the Zinfandel grape, Napa Valley winemaker Mike Grgich returned to his own roots in Dalmatia, Croatia; roots he shared with the American grape. The grape Crljenak Kastelanski may never achieve the level of popularity of its offshoots, Primitivo and Zinfandel. However, after its discovery, it was only a matter of time until Croatian wines found their way into the wine glasses around the world.

About this Wine

Plavina is a dark, thick skinned grape that is a distant relative of Zinfandel and Primitivo. This wine has a deep garnet color. Aromatically, it offers a great balance of bright red berries and the earthiness of dark soil. On the palate: lively acidity and bursts of bright yet earthy pomegranate and cranberry, a hint of mushroom, and a whiff of smokiness on the finish.

This is a food loving wine. It is medium bodied (13% ABV) with soft tannins and well-balanced acidity. At the table, it is equally at home with cured meats and olives as it is with roast meats or earthy vegetables like beets and winter squash. I enjoyed it with smokey roasted eggplant flavored with the rich spice of harissa tempered with the cool tanginess of labneh (a thick mediterranean yogurt).

The Verdict

I love tasting wines I’ve never heard of before, like the wines of Croatia. The best opportunities come when I dine in restaurants specializing in regional cuisine where the wine list is created with as much love as the menu. My first taste of this Croatian wine was in exactly such circumstances. (Thanks to an eager and knowledgable server!) I was rewarded with a new addition to my regular rotation that happily fits into my budget at an average price of $15/bottle.

Time to get out there and get your wine passport stamped from some deliciously unique new (or old) regions!

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